5 Publishing Myths That Need to Stop

Photo credit: Abee5 on Flickr
Every once in a while, I’ll hear someone make a blanket statement about writing or the publishing industry. Sometimes it’s a disillusioned writer, sometimes it’s someone trying to sound in the know to their unknowing friends, but one way or another there are some publishing myths floating around that I’d like to stuff into a plastic vat and dissolve in acid. At least, here.

So without further ado, here are five publishing myths that I personally think need to be destroyed:

  1. You can only get published if you have connections. If you believe this even for a second, I highly recommend you get a Twitter account and start following some agents ASAP. Agents find new authors through cold querying all the time—that is, writers they’ve never interacted with who submitted to their slush pile. Do connections sometimes help? Sure, I suppose, if you have any. But by and large, most writers starting out don’t have any, and it is absolutely not a requirement to finding success as a writer. 

  2. Self or traditional publishing is the only way to fame and riches. Repeat after me: there isn’t ONE correct answer for everyone. Self-publishing is not the right choice for everyone. Traditional publishing is not the right choice for everyone. Some people just want to see their book on the shelf when they walk into Barnes & Noble—and they’re not stupid for going the traditional route to meet that dream. Some people want to have much more control over the process and higher royalties—and they’re not stupid for going the self-publishing route to meet that dream.

    Honestly, there are so many methods and options out there for writers, and we should be celebrating those opportunities, regardless of whether or not you intend to use them.

    Also, if you’re looking for fame and riches, you’re in the wrong profession. Write because you love to write and because you want to create stories regardless of how much money you may or may not make. But don’t expect to get rich doing it, because while it does very occasionally happen, it’s certainly not the norm. 

  3. Anyone can write a book about a popular topic and become insta-rich. No.

    Whenever I hear someone say something along these lines, it’s an automatic sign to me that they know absolutely nothing about the publishing industry. Those so-called overnight success, hugely successful authors we hear so much about are about as rare as lottery winners—and they certainly didn’t find their success by jumping on a bandwagon (or overnight, for that matter).

    The thing that non-publishing people often don’t realize is that it takes years for a book to go from first draft to traditionally published. Even after a contract is signed and a book is officially going to be published, it often takes two (or even more) years before the book hits the shelf. So to imply that writers can look at what’s uber-popular, crank out a book like nothing and make millions is pretty erroneous on several counts. And that’s not even considering how difficult it is to write a polished book. So there’s that. 

  4. YA novels are inferior to Adult novels. This one will never cease to make me angry. Ever.

    I’m not saying that if you don’t like YA that something’s wrong with you, but what I am saying is that judging an entire category based off preconceptions or a single book that you heard about once (or hell, even a single book that you read and hated once) is wrong. YA authors have brought some of the most powerful, emotional, beautiful, exciting books I’ve ever read. And just because they’re written with teens in mind doesn’t mean that adults can’t enjoy them or that they’re somehow not worth as much as a book written for an adult audience. 

  5. Authors make so much money, it doesn’t matter if I illegally download their book for free. This is probably one of the few things that’ll make me rage more than the previous point. I wrote a whole post about why this is so beyond not true here, but the short version is this: most writers don’t make a lot of money to begin with, and pirating is the equivalent of taking money out of their paychecks. Money that they need for bills and food and everything else. So stop, ok? 

What do you think? Do you have any publishing myths you’d add to the list? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Writer @Ava_Jae shares 5 publishing myths she believes need to stop. Do you agree? (Click to tweet)  
"You can only get published if you have connections" and four other publishing myths that need to stop. (Click to tweet


David Fuller said...

The "you'll be rich and famous once you publish your book" idea is one people voice to show support or encourage you while you slog away at your WIP, but that fact that it is by and large untrue makes it hard to hear after awhile.

Heather said...

Number five reminds me of a blog post done by the author Avi, and how when he visits classrooms a lot of kids are surprised that he's not rich, even though he has published more books than I have fingers and toes to count them on.

It is good to know some of these are myths, though. Otherwise that would be concerning.

D. Holcomb said...

I love YA novels and read them all the time! So, Amen to number 4.

Here's a myth: if you're a published writer, it's proof that you're a gifted writer. Not necessarily. I've seen far too many published books cross my desk as a book buyer that have compelled me to call the publisher's rep and say, "huh?"

Ava Jae said...

You know, I did see some of this when I first started out, but lately I've been seeing a lot more honest accounting—midlist writers coming out and sharing their experience with pretty brutal (and brave, if you ask me) honesty, which I think has helped fight that myth. Which personally, I think is a good thing.

Ava Jae said...

Avi! Wow, what a great example. And yes...some of these were very concerning to me that people truly believed them. Which is why I wrote the post. :)

Ava Jae said...

Firstly, YA forever!

As for the myth...I'm kind of hesitant to say that I agree or disagree. I've certainly read books that I didn't particularly enjoy, and I've put down many books that didn't connect with me at all after sampling them, but I don't think I'd go as far as to say that the writer behind them was untalented or unskilled. Writing (along with just about any art) is so crazy subjective and just because I don't like a story doesn't mean someone else won't.

D. Holcomb said...

I agree...a story I don't connect with doesn't mean that the writer isn't skilled. I'm talking about bad sentence construction, poor grammar, a weak plot, one-dimensional characters, passive action, lack of conflict...I'm talking about a writer who hasn't honed their craft yet.

Ava Jae said...

Ah, ok. I can't say I've seen that that often, but it does happen. In which case I tend to think they were published too early, which is a shame.

RoweMatthew said...

People will always attack what they don't like or don't understand, that is just human nature. Unfortunately. Some of us rise above it. I think the connections myth is the most famous. It certainly helps to have connections. It cuts out the whole sending letters part, but it's no guarantee. Hopefully they would tell you your novel still stinks if it does.

Ava Jae said...

That's a good point about connections—I'm relatively sure that no amount of connections are going to get you published unless your book is actually polished enough to sell.

David Fuller said...

Yes -- I just meant this usually comes from people who are not writers or have no experience with publishing. I don't know why it bugs me so much! Maybe because I would like the myth to be true, but know it isn't :)
More transparency in the economics of publishing and how to make a career in it is a good thing -- there is a lot more info available about this now, I think, than there used to be.

Ava Jae said...

Ahhh, yes. Yes that is a misconception amongst people outside of the writing community. It's part of the reason, I suspect, many non-writers self-justify pirating books—they often figure the author is making enough money that it doesn't make a difference.

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