As you can see from the posts so far this week, becoming published falls into the category of “be careful what you wish for.” The “CALL” is the most fabulous moment of your life, but it also means that as a writer you’re in for some SERIOUS change. The biggest one: no more writing in that happy oblivion where you and maybe your critique group gets to decide what works and what doesn’t. Because now, you’ve got people!
Yes, you’re part of a team now that consists of your agent, your editor and any assistants she might have, the copyeditors, the marketing, art and publicity departments, the sales reps, accounting, the typesetter — that’s no means an exhaustive list but you get the point. There’s now a whole mob involved in the thing you used to do all alone in a corner of your house.
The weird thing is, as the author you’re both at the top and the bottom of the food chain.
At the top: because without you, the rest wouldn’t have a reason to exist. There would be no product to sell, edit, market, typeset, etc., no readers eagerly awaiting your next release, no revenue coming into the company. We are the creators - the heart and soul of the industry, and as for all those other people, they’re kind of like your entourage, taking care of business and seeing that things move along smoothly so you can keep creating. Nice, huh?
At the bottom: On the other hand, until you hit the bestseller lists and start selling in huge numbers, you pretty much have to do what your told. When your editor says revise, you don’t argue about why you really shouldn’t have to. If the powers that be decide your particular subgenre isn’t selling well, you’ll either be “encouraged” (enticed, compelled, ordered - you pick) to switch to something else or…well, let’s not go into the alternative. And when times are tough, unfortunately it’s often the authors who first feel the effects of downsizing (once again we’re faced with that unspeakable alternative).
But let’s stay optimistic. Like I said, you’ve got people! And what do those people want to do? Figure out how to make your books sell like hot cakes. You editor really isn’t trying to drive you batty; she asks for those revisions to bring out the full gleam of your artistic brilliance, and she’s there to provide an objective viewpoint when you’re too deep into the woods to see the trees. On a professional level, it’s an oddly intimate relationship. She’ll come to know your inner workings as a writer in a way that no one else ever will, because she won’t read your books once or twice, but three, four, maybe half a dozen times or more. She’ll learn all your habits — both good and bad. She’ll know when you’re giving your all and when you’re not. She’ll be your toughest critic and your biggest fan, and she can make you want to cry - both when she asks you to revise and then again when you thank her as you accept the award for the book she made you revise.
Uh oh, have I scared you? I didn’t mean to. Actually, I always wanted to work with a hands-on editor, and darned if my wish didn’t come true!
So whether you’re published or not, do you like a lot of feedback as you write, or are you that free spirit who likes to take to the open road on your own?