Thursday, September 15, 2011

That Publishing Urge

Writers crave to see their words in print. Even the most humble writer must admit that while he adores penning his stories, it's quite a remarkable moment to see results from that solitude and struggle advance into the public's eye. I think that's why self-publishing is the stupendous success it is.

I'm going to dare to say it, though. Self-publishing, e-book or paper, has satisfied many a chronic case of instant gratification. Call me arrogant or pompous, but I'm the one who reads the emails from poor writers who start their pleas with:

"I wish I'd done my research..."
"I didn't realize that a self-publishing company doesn't..."
"My self-publishing company didn't promote me like I thought..."
"I published my book, but how do I tell people about it?"

or these...

"I spent $2,000 to publish and don't know what to do..."
"I need a grant to self-publish..."
"This publisher offered to pay half if I kicked in $4,000..."

The urge to publish is powerful. Our words, our byline. Then we have the ability to say "I published a book," and proclaim ourselves authors. Many times, that feelings fades quickly, especially with few sales.

I have a suggestion, and it just might scratch that itch of yours. Publish in small ways before diving into a book.

You have more means to publication than book publishers. Markets, contests and even some grants can lead you to bylines as you learn how to write, grow in your abilities to edit, and become wiser in the publishing world.

Establish short term, middle term, and long term goals. Every business has them. Every artist should. What do you hope to accomplish in a month, six months, a year, two years, maybe as much as five? Somehow, looking downstream and making yourself write down responsibilities and goals can make you stop and think. - and act differently.

In a month you can't publish a book. At least you shouldn't dream of it, in case it's crossed your mind. But you can pitch to magazines and serious blogs. You can compete in a contest. You can answer a job offer to write copy.

In six months, you can publish in more markets, while approaching that goal of completing a first, raw draft of a fantasy novel or memoir.

In a year, you can seriously edit that manuscript while counting the money you earned and the number of clips you filed in your freelance portfolio.

And guess what happens?

1. You make a writing income.
2. You earn bylines and clips.
3. You develop credibility.
4. You create the beginnings of a platform.
5. You soothe that urge to publish.

Your book should be your masterpiece, not your opening act. Once it's published, it's out there. Even if you don't sell a hundred copies, some used book seller will post it as available on Amazon, enabling anyone to find your premature effort in a Google search.

Create a column, a blog. Write for magazines, newspapers. Take a part-time or full-time job as a writer. Enter contests and apply for grants. Surprisingly, many writers think those routes are harder to master than writing a book when it seriously ought to be the other way around.

I wrote this piece for my newsletter. I wasn't surprised to receive this response, and I was proud of her for speaking up:

I read the editorial you wrote in your newsletter about waiting before self publishing a manuscript. I couldn’t agree more!I have a manuscript which is not published yet. This manuscript is one written from my heart a few years ago. It is an expository piece about prayer. But writing was new to me at the time it was written. 

After completing it, I like all new writers, wanted to see it in print, but I did not know how. I ventured to my first writer’s conference where I learned about self publishing vs royalty publishing. I also learned how to submit short pieces for publication. 

This began a whole new adventure for me and now only two years later, I have a growing resume with published pieces in magazines, anthologies, devotional magazines, and homeschool curriculum. As I am writing this, I have an article out in the current issue of one national magazine, another coming out in a different magazine next month and just received confirmation this morning of yet another which will be published in December. I also have devotions in the Fall and Winter issues of one devotional guide, spring of another and an assignment for a group of seven devotions in the fall 2012 issue of yet another.

But my manuscript still is not published. This past spring, I submitted it to the “Women of Faith / Westbow” contest (a national contest) where it was named one of 30 finalists out of over 750 submissions...but it is still not published. And I am so glad! I read it now and I find so many mistakes and places where I repeat myself. Many times I could have made my point in much fewer words, a reality I would not have known if I'd published when it was first written. 

I hope to someday have my manuscript published–and I may yet self publish. But I will be forever glad I waited as I learned more about writing through experience (and many editor’s red pens.)
Harriet Michael
My current article can be found at

Yes, Harriet. That's exactly what I meant. Now, take those new experiences and all that knowledge and dare to apply them to your manuscript. I'm proud of you!   ~Hope

No comments: