As an editorial intern at Henery Press, I enjoyed the unique opportunity to get an inside look at the publishing industry. I learned that, in fact, editors are not cyborgs. Also, writers should edit their first pages ruthlessly before submitting for publication. And I realized that while social media is important, it has a tendency to take over. Writers must deliberately create time and find motivation to write.
Yes, working in publishing gave me a new lens through which to view the writing world. This even affected my experience at the annual DFW Writer’s Conference, because I processed everything on two levels. Being a spy writer is a lot of work, I tell you.
So let’s get to it. Here are four things that nobody in publishing will tell you:
Publishers are TERRIFIED. From big-name bookstores and New York publishers down to small press and indie authors, massive transition in the publishing industry has everyone on edge. The bottom line? Publishing is a gamble. A big one, for everyone involved. That’s why most agents and editors are looking for the next (perceived) quick, easy sell and authors who already have a platform.
There is NO MAGIC FORMULA. Oh, sure… many websites and books claim to have found the perfect publishing paradigm for today’s market. But the industry changes lightning fast, and what works for one writer/publisher/editor/zombie/vampire/YA series might not work for another. Don’t waste time trying to copy or purchase someone else’s “proven” success formula in writing or publishing. Study the options, pick one, and throw your full commitment behind it. If that doesn’t work, try another one. As Henery editor Kendel Lynn said in her interview for Jungle Red Writers, “My biggest lesson I’ve learned: do what’s right for you and the rest will follow.”
PERSONALITY COUNTS. The key here is to know yourself, and use your strengths while compensating for your weaknesses. Thinking about self-pubbing? You better have a personality geared toward sales and marketing, or the funds to hire a publicist. Want to go traditional? Be prepared to network, promote publically, and develop an online persona that readers actually want in their FB and Twitter feeds. These are the rules of the publishing game, like it or not.
Good WRITING is SUBJECTIVE. Editors usually create publishing houses based on their preferences in books. This makes sense, right? A cozy mystery publisher like Henery that focuses exclusively on fiction isn’t going to consider a submission for a calculus textbook. But even within the same genre, writing preferences abound. Some editors like visual descriptions. Others don’t. Some prefer witty characters over plot. Others want plot-driven action. Editors have pet-peeves and hang-ups. As a writer, you ABSOLUTELY CANNOT CONTROL these things. Hone the craft. Never stop learning. But don’t take it personally when one editor/agent/publisher/critic/zombie/vampire/cyborg doesn’t like your work. Just move on to the next one.
And keep writing. (But shhhhhh… persistence is the biggest secret of all.)