Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Getting Published Isn't A Big Deal (But Don't Let Your Readers Know)

Let me recount a conversation I've have a few hundred times since I became an author. It goes something like this:

Random Person: "Wow, you're a published writer?"
Me: "That is why I have 'author' listed on my business card."
Random Person: "I mean, I guess that makes sense, but wow... that's such an accomplishment!"

No... really, it isn't.
This is the part where I have to act all self-effacing, in order to make a good impression on a potential reader. However, after the two or three-hundredth time I've had this discussion, I just want to grab the person by their (occasionally virtual) shoulders, and shake them till their teeth rattle. Possibly while shouting, "do you have any idea how truly unimpressive simply 'being published' is?"

Blowing Away The Smoke

As I observed in Things You Should Never Say To An Author, and the follow-up More Things You Should Never Say To An Author, the general public doesn't know a whole lot about how books are published. There's this assumption that authors are like wild animals, and that through some bizarre, creative Darwinism, only the truly talented will be able to walk bloody and triumphant through the arches of publication. After which, they usually assume, come rock star fame and fortune.

Are you not entertained?!
Unfortunately, though, the general public doesn't know the difference between, "I was one of the five new authors that Random House picked this year," and "I'm one of the 900 poor schmucks that this really disreputable place published this year." As an author, I've been on both ends of the spectrum. I've had some work published by places I was really excited to be featured by (like my story The Irregulars, published by Paizo), and there have also been some places I'd really rather not talk about. So I won't.

Those of us who are already working in the field know this, but I want to say it for all the newer writers, and non-writers who don't know any better. Getting published is not impressive. Anyone can get published. Anyone. Without question.

Here are some things that are impressive. How many books you've sold/ebooks have been downloaded. How many reviews your book has on Amazon or Goodreads. How many awards/nominations for awards your book has received. How many Top X lists your book has been on. Those are things that show your book is a stand-out, and they are things you can brag about. Just being published isn't a big deal, because anyone can go to a tiny publisher who will literally publish any manuscript which comes their way, and claim the title of published author.

The Caveat

The only time being published is impressive is when you got into a select group. As I mentioned, anyone can get published. Even if self-publishing was not a sophisticated option that lots of authors use to reach a huge audience, which it is, most publications aren't that impressive. Then there are the elite companies and books that really do stand above the others. Projects that not just anyone can walk into, and get their name on. Those are things you should be proud of.

You'll have to bleed through two or three of these.
For example, if you are published by a very selective (and highly regarded) company, then that's a big deal. If you have a piece of your work included in a prestigious "best of" collection, and you find yourself shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the big names in your genre, that's a big deal. You don't talk to these companies, or submit to these books... they come to you. Sort of like how no one gets to join the Skull and Bones Society; you have to be invited.

That is a mark of prestige. Anyone can get published, but not just anyone can get published by this company.

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1 comment:

  1. You mean fame and fortune won’t automatically come with my first published book?! Damn! I haven’t been this demoralized I found out Madonna really wasn’t a virgin. Brutally (and necessarily) honest as always, Neal! Thanks!