Nothing is Normal (in the Publishing Industry)

Photo credit: - luz - on Flickr
I’ve often heard people say that anyone who talks about writing or the publishing industry in absolutes is most likely wrong. I think, beyond some obvious exceptions (i.e.: yes, you really do have to read, or, yes, you really do have to revise), this is usually true. Because the publishing industry? It’s weird, you guys.

Some writers publish traditionally. Some self-publish. Some do both.

Some writers won’t get an agent until they’ve written nine ten eleven fifteen books. Some writers get an agent with their first second third book.

Some writers go on sub and have an offer the next freaking morning (I know, contain your jealousy), others go on sub and have nothing but silence and rejections for over a year, then sell to a major publisher.

Some writers get a really small or nonexistent advance, other writers get multi-book deals with six plus figures.

Some writers publish a book a year (or less). Other writers publish six seven eight nine books in the span of twelve months.

Some writers self-publish and sell a few dozen or hundred copies. Other writers self-publish and become massive bestsellers and have traditional publishers approaching them to print their mega-successful book.

Some writers hit it big with their debut novel and end up a #1 NYT bestseller the same week their book debuts. Other writers mid-list with their debut and slowly build up their careers, one book at a time.

When it comes to the publishing industry, there isn’t a “usual.” This is a notoriously unpredictable career choice with a ridiculous range in possibilities.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is if you don’t get an agent with your fifth six seventh book, if you don’t get an immediate response when on submission, if you don’t get a huge advance or publish eight books a year, if you don’t sell as many copies of your book as you hoped, if you don’t hit it big with your debut, it’s okay. It really, truly, honestly is okay, and I promise there are a hundred writers out there in your shoes, or who had really similar experiences. You are okay, and you will be okay.

Sure, it can be a little disappointing when reality doesn’t match up with your wildest dreams. But know that just because things aren’t lining up the way you’d hoped right now doesn’t mean they never will. Know that you’re not alone, and things will work out, but right now you just have to (yes, here it comes) be patient and let things play out how they will.

This is a tough industry to be in, but there are many out there who are right alongside you. Just keep your eyes on your own paper and do what you do best: write.

Twitter-sized bites:
Writer @Ava_Jae says when it comes to the publishing industry, there isn't a "normal." What do you think? (Click to tweet)  
"This is a notoriously unpredictable career choice w/ a ridiculous range in possibilities." —@Ava_Jae on publishing. (Click to tweet)


Ana @ Butterflies of the Imagi said...

I agree that the publishing industry is so unpredictable, and that's why the only thing we writers can do is do our best and persevere. The unpredictability of the industry can both be a disappointment and a joy at once, but there's nothing to do but accept it and move on.

Sam Taylor said...

Thank you for this post. It is a great reminder that within this industry, everybody moves at different speeds, that there is no one way "right" way for success to appear ... and that sometimes a lot of luck and timing is involved, alongside all our hard work.

Kaitlin Hillerich said...

The unpredictability of publishing is one of the things that intimidates me. When I was getting my Education degree, I knew what to expect as a teacher. But as a hopeful author and now Creative Writing major, nothing is set and it's scary. There are so many different paths and outcomes...but in a way it's exciting too.

Linda Strawn said...

Hurray for me!!!

Ava Jae said...

Woot! :)

Ava Jae said...

I definitely agree that there are ups and downs to the unpredictable nature. On one hand, it can be a really nice surprise when you don't expect it (which is basically the best), but on the other hand, it can sometimes be maddening. As you said, though, there's really not much to be done about it, so best to try to focus our attentions elsewhere.

Thanks, Ana!

Ava Jae said...

You're so welcome, Sam! Luck and timing definitely play a relatively significant role (more significant, I think, than we'd sometimes prefer to admit) and I completely agree that everyone's journey moves along at a different speed. It's sometimes tough to accept, but it's the reality.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Sam!

Ava Jae said...

I definitely get that—it is so so difficult to try to plan things out ahead of time, because you really don't know what to expect and so much can happen over the span of a couple months (something that, as someone who likes to have things neatly planned out ahead of time, often infuriates me. lol). But I also agree that it can definitely be exciting, too. :)

Thanks for sharing, Kaitlin!

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