5 Attitudes Toward Publishing You Should Avoid

PhotobucketSometimes writers express sentiments that make me want to issue a red-flag warning: STOP. You are about to hurt yourself. Here are five of the biggest ones.

1. If I can’t get a deal soon, I’m self-publishing.

Why are you in a rush? Does your book have an expiration date? Even if your book is timely, should you invest in a book project that has a very short life span? Will you be able to get attention on your own? Is a book the best format for something that’s incredibly timely?

If you’re the type of person who is initially interested in traditional publishing, are you sure that self-publishing will satisfy you? Are you hoping to use self-publishing as a way to attract a traditional deal? If so, be careful. Self-publishing is a full-time job if you intend to build a readership. Are you ready to take on that full-time job of marketing yourself? Do you know who you’re marketing to? Do you know how to market to them?

I worry for authors whose back-up plan is self-publishing. I worry they will be disappointed if they are not genuinely committed to it.

2. I just want to get my book published.

This is the sister attitude to No. 1. It leads to all kinds of bad decisions, such as:

  • Signing with any agent
  • Signing a bad contract
  • Falling for scams
  • Becoming bitter
  • Partnering with a less-than-ideal publisher or service company
  • Focusing on book publication when another medium would be better

Believe me, you don’t just want to get your book published. Aside from the incredible amount of work for minimal monetary gain, many authors experience  post-launch depression. It’s that sudden realization that, even though your book now exists, nobody knows except for you. Even experienced and seasoned authors with good marketing and publicity plans can get discouraged, even angry, at the lack of attention. When most books land on the shelves, they rarely make an audible sound.

Before you call me a terrible cynic, I should clarify that I don’t think publishing a book is meaningless or without reward. However, my thinking aligns with that of Clay Shirky, who said, “In a world where publishing is effortless, the decision to publish something isn’t terribly momentous.” We live in a world of information abundance, not scarcity.

So make sure that you have a deeper and lasting purpose associated with your desire to get a book published. Make sure it’s part of a larger career path and contribution to the world. Don’t focus on just one book.

3. Quality is subjective, and I don’t need a professional editor.

I’ve already written about this to some extent. But it bears repeating.

An editor is not a family member, a friend, an English major, or your writing group buddy. An editor is someone with professional training whose only responsibility is to ensure you produce the best book possible.

A lot of cutting corners now goes on, and it doesn’t make a good impression on either your readers or your future potential publishing partners. Yes, it’s true that all publishers and content providers are guilty of putting out stuff that’s horribly average, even poor. But let’s not strive to be like them.

I know what your next question is: How do I find a reputable, credible, professional editor? How do you get your hands on the real deal?

I admit it’s a challenge. I’ve offered critical feedback to dozens of authors who protested that their work had been professionally edited, but clearly it hadn’t been. Whoever they hired was not really a professional. There are “editors” out there doing more harm than good, who don’t have appropriate experience.

If you want to find reputable help, start with the directories at Publishers Marketplace. Make sure the editor you hire can give you referrals and point to published works or authors they’ve edited. Another clue: Any solid editor will likely have a waiting list, and they won’t take on any kind of work that comes their way. They’re selective.

4. I just need someone to really pay attention.

Your work is so unique, right? It’s never been done before. Most importantly, it has your heart and soul in it. Your parents, kids, and friends all love it.

Not only that, there isn’t yet any competition for your work—nothing like it on the shelves—even though every man, woman, and child on the planet are the target audience for your work.

You’ve been told to write this story by everyone you know. You’ve been told it deserves publication. The only problem is, you can’t get anyone in the industry to pay attention to you. If only someone would pay attention, you’d have it made. Right?

Everyone thinks they’re the exception to the rule, and if only their work could get distribution across all major retailers, bestsellerdom would be theirs.

Unfortunately, this type of thinking only leads to one place: It’s always someone else’s fault that you or your work isn’t hitting the milestones you’d like.

5. [x] isn’t relevant any more.

What is X? Take your pick.

  • X = traditional publishers
  • X = bestseller lists
  • X = print books
  • X = agents
  • X = mass media
  • X = blogs
  • X = e-mail

I can guarantee that X is probably relevant to someone and still has an impact if you know where to look. Unfortunately, the Web is a place where people get attention for making bold claims. Plus, complex ideas are not easily Tweeted, Facebooked, or Instagrammed. Social media encourages a reductivist approach. (I am guilty of this like anyone else.)

The lesson here? Allow me to quote Nietzsche: “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”

Photo courtesy Flickr’s Pen Waggener


About Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman has more than 15 years of experience in the book and magazine publishing industry, with expertise in digital media and the future of authorship. This fall, she's proud to be offering two creative nonfiction courses from experienced university writing professorsFind out more.


  1. says

    All of this is true. I am happy to wait and bide my time and continuously redraft the book I am trying to get published and send it to publishers with good reputations. If it’s not good enough then that’s that. Eventually, I’ll move on and try a new novel, and once I get some success, maybe I can go back and see what had been doing wrong in the beginning, and make it right. I am totally hearing all of what you have to say here. And I agree!

  2. says

    Thanks for your solid, sensible advice. Self-publishing remains a viable option, but writers should read your post before diving into that pool. Thanks again. Your posts are always on target.

  3. says

    Wonderful, Jane! Dare I admit that reading this post was like have an impromptu (and necessary) therapy session. It’s far too easy to get caught-up in the current madness for IMMEDIACY and having everything the heart desires finished and in our hands before the sun goes down. Thank you for so effectively talking us down from the cliff before someone falls and gets hurt.

  4. says

    Very thoughtful, Jane. But it leaves me wondering what attitudes toward publishing you think an author SHOULD adhere to nowadays? That question, too, is loaded with ifs, ands and buts!!

    • says

      LOL! Probably 3 things:

      1. Think beyond the book. It is not the beginning, middle, or end.

      2. Partner with a publisher/agent; do not depend on them.

      3. There is no one right path.

  5. says

    I appreciate this post as sometimes a shark frenzy of ideas out there on publishing fast and furious attack me. Your post is a voice of reason to encourage endurance that I needed at this time.

  6. says

    Thanks, Jane, for these reminders. I find myself guilty of wanting to be the hare instead of the tortoise at times. But I’ve accomplished so much in the past year, I don’t want to screw it up now!

  7. says

    Some nice pitfalls to avoid Jane

    I suppose patience is the key here. It can be so hard though because everyone wants it now now now

    Sound advice though and is the ideal post for everyone to look at when they’re rushing along care free, down in the dumps, or facing many questions going forward

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

  8. says

    Great article. I think the hardest part about being receptive to these wise words is the impatience people have. Today’s world is ‘now’ centered – FB, twitter, even cell phones. People call, post, and text and expect an answer ‘now’. But waiting isn’t a bad thing. However, it doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the answer you want. I can only assume that’s why so many are giving the self-pub thing a shot.

  9. says

    Jane, Admittedly I’m commenting from the standpoint of someone whose books are conventionally published, but I couldn’t possibly agree with you more. Self-publication should be undertaken after serious consideration and lots of preparation, including professionals for editing and cover art–and it’s still not a panacea. Thanks for sharing.

  10. says

    You certainly make good points and maybe the authors really should consider changing their attitudes if they share some of the views listed. It’s possible I performed a quick check list, making sure I share none of those. Phew, I think I’m safe.

  11. Louise Hughes says

    I found the bit about self-publishing because you can’t find an agent very interesting. I recently joined the Writers & Artists website, and the attitude there seems to very much about promoting a “new model” of publishing, whereby agents are less of a priority and self-publishing is the way to go to get yourself noticed. Very few people seem to be committed to looking for agents (they give up within a week), and as someone who’s patiently pursuing that route, I worry if my attitude is wrong. I also wonder if they realise that self-publishing successfully is going to take just as much patience and effort as searching for an agent.

    I therefore found this article a little more reassuring. It reinforced by determination to seek out that elusive agent.

    • says

      Wow! Giving up in the space of a week?

      Here’s an anecdote: I met author Darrelyn Saloom in December 2008. At the time, she was co-authoring a memoir with boxer Deirdre Gogarty. She secured a publishing deal in December 2011.

      Here’s another: I was e-mailed by author Al Katkowsky about his iPhone app and self-pub book, QUESTION OF THE DAY. He was hoping for a speaking slot at the Writer’s Digest Conference to discuss his indie experience. That was in 2009. It wasn’t until fall 2011 that he finally saw the book traditionally published (which was his original goal).

      Both of these folks: hard working, patient, and persistent.

      It takes time. This is not an overnight process.

      • Louise Hughes says

        Seriously. The post asking if anyone could suggest agents for their genre was followed within a week by a post announcing they had self-published the book (I suggested several ways of identifying agents by looking for authors writing in that genre and finding out who their agents were). Everyone else is now following suit. Several are now asking for suggests on how to promote their book because sales are so low. Its very odd.

        I think its because once they’ve written the book, there’s a need to get it out there immediately, and taking even more time over it is too much.

  12. says

    Nowadays, it’s not either/or. That is, unless you sign a contract with a traditional publisher which bans you from self-publishing in the interim. If that’s the case, you’ve made a big mistake.

    Also, it’s wise to keep in mind, whichever path you choose, sitting back and letting someone else do publicity won’t work, unless you’ve hired someone to do that. Publishing houses do not offer that much publicity unless you’re a big name.

    I’ve chosen self-publishing because of the time factor. I’m not getting any younger and don’t have time to waste waiting for approval of a manuscript, then waiting for the book to get published, which could all take up to two years.

    To self-publish a quality product in my thriller, Forever Young: Blessing or Curse, I hired a great freelance editor, Helen Ginger, and also a cover art designer, Stephen Walker. They were worth every penny.

    From the objective reviews I’ve received, I achieved my goal.

    Morgan Mandel

    • says

      Sheesh, Morgan, you’re younger than I am! Makes me wonder, sometimes…

      I agree with you that it’s not either/or. Going the direct-to-reader route has its place, and so does “traditional” (hate the term — anyone come up with a better one?) print publishing. Going direct does not by itself mark you out as an impatient person. Going the print path does not in itself mark you as a better writer. I wish we could get away from this black/white dichotomy and realize that not everyone can — or should — take one path.

  13. says

    Jane, I think this is a GREAT checklist for 95% of the people who come to this site. (Okay, I pulled that number out of nowhere.) But something I’ve been faced with very recently is realizing that not everyone has the same goals towards their writing and publication that I do. For example, a friend of mine really DOES “just want to be published.” He just wants his book in print. He does not want a career out of it (he already has a full-time job he loves) and does not want literary acclaim or fans or an advance or to become a surprise indie hit. He genuinely just wants his name on a book that people can buy from Amazon and get shipped to them — at no expense to himself. So for him, a POD or vanity press makes sense.

    It was very difficult for me to give him advice — not b/c I was judging his goals, but b/c they were so foreign to my own. Now that I understand, though, I feel… enlightened. My horizons opened. Not only are there multiple paths to publication, there are multiples reasons for it in the first place, which lead to multiple “types” of publication. And they are ALL okay.

    Anyway, I really appreciated you sharing your thoughts, so I was just sharing mine in return. :)

    For me, the hardest part is patience. But after 1 year and 3 months, I finished my first draft this week. And I’m determined to do right by it, no matter how long that takes.

    • says

      You make an excellent point. I speak to everyone in this publishing game as a career, or as a life-long pursuit—meaning just 1 book for mostly friends/family isn’t the point.

  14. says

    Let’s add number 6, which is to edit the novel to include whatever’s supposedly hot at the moment, i.e. vampires or zombies, just because it’s hot!

  15. says

    As a (soon-to-be) self-published author myself, I have to agree about how important #1 is. If you don’t really want to be self-published (if it’s just a second choice) it won’t make you happy. You’ll begin to resent it. Then that resentment will poison your work and the way you promote yourself, and it will suck the joy from the whole experience.

    #2 is very important too – if I might be so bold to add – ESPECIALLY for those who intend to self-publish. It’s so hard to see all your friends putting books out there before you, and it’s so, SO very easy just to throw your own on the pile. But it cheats your story (and your readers) not to give it the time and attention it deserves.

    The whole list is great!

    • says

      And in case my previous post sounded ambiguous, let me add that I am thrilled that I’m about to be an independent author. Believe it or not, some of us do NOT want a publishing contract, lol!

  16. says

    I love the Nietsche quotation!
    Of course, what he’s saying doesn’t make life easier. It would be nice if there were one right way to get published.

    I don’t really mean that. Flexibility is definitely better; but options can be confusing. Focus on the book proposal? Focus on pitching articles based on the book? Xerox my draft and leave it at the book exchange at the Porter Square T?

    So many choices.

  17. Vaughn Roycroft says

    Ah, the zen of… Nietzsche? Oh yeah. Spot on. Your posts are like potable water to this journeyman of the vastness of the post-gated pub desert. Thanks, Jane!

  18. says

    “Make sure that you have a deeper and lasting purpose associated with your desire to get a book published.” Amen. Writing is more than just getting something out there. And we should never expect the process of publishing a book well to be quicker and easier than the process of writing a book well.

  19. Jeff Yeager says

    Amen, Sister Jane.

    And I’d add a sixth: “If I write a good book, people will find it, tell their friends, and it’ll be a bestseller.” Oh, if only it worked like that! I think that mindset is why so many writers these days rush to self-publish. If I hear one my self-published writer say, “The cream always rises to the top. Write it an readers will come.”

  20. Ron Heimbecher says

    As usual, excellent advice. The questions at the beginning of point number one are probably overlooked by a vast majority of writers seeking to be authors. I wish, sometimes that I’d seen those questions a few years back. Y’know, back in those naive days. But I also think that I am in the right time, finally.

    Yes, “e” is a transitory universe, but some stories don’t need to live forever. As with the time honored concept of a story within a story, or the movie within a movie, we now live in a world where instantaneous is possible, where the medium not only carries the story, but is an active part of the story. It’s not that trad pubs don’t “get it” rather that they exist around the concept of forever. Their life blood is in the dreams of making an eternal mark.

    We, writers and those who aspire, are all storytellers. But sometimes we forget the story in pusuit of the mechanics. For all of us, genetic memory recalls a time when we stood before our families and tribes to literally tell our stories. Once told, gone. Never to be told exactly the same way again.

  21. says

    Great post, Jane. Everyone I talk with who says they want to write a book I tell the same thing. Writing’s the easy part. You can even self-publish. The hard part is selling the book.

    Most folks don’t realize the amount of work it takes to successfully market a book and get it in the hand of readers. Those who do understand the value of things like professional editing, design (especially the cover), and marketing. Getting the words on paper is tough, but not as tough as getting it into the hands of readers.

    Sure, I’ve self-published. However, the book that has the most sales is the one that’s targeted to a specific audience and has gotten the most marketing effort by myself. (It’s a technical book, ironically.) Fiction is extremely hard to sell because even though everyone thinks they have a unique story, they actually just have a variation on a theme. Getting someone to understand that, is key. You then need to learn how to target that variation to someone who will be seduced by the variation.

    I do plan to reach out to traditional publishers with my current WIP after multiple edits. I may wind up self-publishing again (not because I want to spend my life marketing but because I do want the story available, regardless), but fully intend to make more attempts to place this work than I have in the past.

    Why? Because I think that I do have something to offer the reading public and I do think I’ll need a traditional publisher to help me with the marketing effort.

  22. says

    Wonderful post–and highly necessary in these days of the mad rush to self-publish as a standalone and often market-driven goal.
    I tell my writing students the same thing (often to mixed reactions): Define your long-term writing goals and make each project fit within that larger and highly personalized context.

  23. says

    Wonderful advice — thanks. Unfortunately, even when you hold a mirror up to some people — you know, by sending them a link to this column with a note that says, “You should read this” — they won’t recognize themselves. Even so, I’m going to share this with my social networks! Thank you.

    Sandra Beckwith

  24. says

    While I respect that the world of self publishing is a growing medium and needs to be taken seriously, I am so very grateful for this article. You have described exactly why I don’t want to self publish. I’m relieved to hear an experienced professional lay it out like this.

    I’ve received wonderful praise from major publishers about my writing, but it hasn’t turned into a contract, yet. So I will keep working on my manuscript and the next one until I feel certain I’ve created the best work I can. There’s a lot of pressure out there to just “give up” and self publish. Thanks for reminding us that jumping ship isn’t necessarily the solution.

    Also, I spent 19 years working in advertising. I’m keenly aware of the importance of a marketing plan and that widgets don’t sell themselves. My friends who are serious writers and self publishers work full time getting their books out there. It is no easy task.

  25. says

    Well said. If we refuse to listen to the best minds in the business we’re cheating ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with self publishing, but seek advice, get critiques, edit, and whatever you do, hold yourself to a high standard.

  26. says

    Thank you, Jane. Sometimes I feel like the slowest writer alive, and it chafes. But I’ve seen friends — many of whom are better writers than I could ever hope to be — pay the price for hasty decisions or lack of self-knowledge. Maybe slow and stubborn has its advantages.

  27. says

    Re: Numero Uno.

    I agree with all others except this one. Granted, you worded it well. I self-published, my book succeeded beyond my wildest expectations and shot to the #1 highest-rated gay book on the entire Kindle.

    I was then offered a 3-book deal.

    I never expected it to happen. I had given up on “traditional” publishing, and was determined to work my butt off. And I did. And now I’m being traditionally published any way.

    If you’re ready to commit and work hard, I do believe that self-publishing (specifically KDP and PubIt and the new Apple iBook Author) is a perfect opportunity to get your name out there, start making money, and start getting attention.

    Granted, my self-publishing shot wasn’t crap. I hired editors, cover designers, formatters and paid for them. Luckily, due to the sales of the novel and short stories I published, I had paid back my entire investment within 2 months, and now I get nice-sized royalty checks from Amazon every month.


    • says

      Congratulations on your success! As you say, you worked hard and were committed—plus you put out a quality book. I’d say you were fully cognizant of what you about to do.

      That’s not the case with a lot of writers who are looking for immediate consolation and gratification.

  28. Randy Benoit says

    Hi Jane and thanks for the provocative subject! I think there are as many facets to the decisions encountered in publishing and marketing a book as there are authors. There are a myriad of advice givers out there who will tell us to choose this or that or do so and so which ultimately confuses an upcoming writer more than helping him/her. I think the best advice a writer can receive is to 1. – have realistic expectations of the possibility that you will not be published traditionally and if indie pubbed, may not sell much.
    2. – write with your voice and don’t be swayed by current fads. This is a sure way to end up with a work that lacks the creators spirit and reader acceptance will confirm that.
    3. – Be honest with yourself – your ability and your willingness to take advice and be critqued to make your writing it’s best.
    4. – Have no expectations of commercial success.
    5. Understand that it’s hard work whether trad and indie pubbed and you will be required to market yourself continuosly in all media possible. Trad publishers focus their marketing dollars on their winning authors. The rare breakout novel might get the same support but for most middle list and new authors, your marketing is essentially your responsibility.
    Lastly, whichever method or combination of methods of publishing you use, the readers – your clients – will determine the value of your work. The market still works even if flooded with many indie books that are below standard. So give it your best effort and don’t rush any part of the process and success will be yours even if it is only the great personal satisfaction of having completed a book. Publication and commercial success are the frosting on the cake after that.

    My two cents worth as being a writer in the throws of this process and having a brain freeze over everything one has to consider to get one’s book out there.

    Thank you, Randy

  29. Elle Mo says

    One of the most problematic attitudes about publishing that I see in writers is that they confuse writing and publishing. Writing is an art. Publishing is a business. Writing is mostly under your own control (though it may not feel that way if you’re blocked). Publishing used to be largely not under your control, but that has changed a great deal in recent years. A writer can easily get work printed with a professionally designed cover, sell that book on Amazon and B&N and other sites, schedule book tours, create an ebook, and nearly everything else a traditional publisher does.

    The big knock against self-publishing has always been that anyone can do it; as such there is no “gatekeeper” determining whether the work is really any good. But here’s the thing: most publishers care less about whether a work is good than they do about whether a work can SELL. That’s not to say that these are mutually exclusive categories — it has to be good in some way or other for people to buy it. Anyone who reads extensively — and not just the big books put out by Random House but everything, including work from small presses — knows that good writing comes in all forms.

    Increasingly authors are taking responsibility for publicizing and promoting their books, whether these books are published traditionally or self-published. If you think getting your book published traditionally means you can just sit back and let other people sell it, you are in for a whole lot of disappointment. My advice to writers is to focus on their writing, first and foremost, and then worry about how to disseminate it. And luckily you now have many choices in terms of how to disseminate your work, including self-publishing.

  30. says

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I think what I take away from this is that patience is really the number one thing as an author. We need to be patient in our writing, and patient during the publishing process. This is very hard to do as we all believe in our work and want to get it out there to share with the world. However, doing it right and not rushed is essential.

  31. says

    This is really good stuff. There’s a communication of a great sense of wisdom and patience in this blog post. You’ve pointed out a real breakdown in authors in our “everything is urgent” culture: wanting it and wanting it now (publication) without a real sense of process, honing, marketing, and the future. I also really love how you support traditional publishing in this! You’re almost saying, “Trust the process, and don’t try to circumvent it if you don’t know how.”

  32. says

    I hear a lot of writers saying traditional publishing is dead and self-publishing is the way to go. They don’t want the headaches of dealing with an editor, rewriting to make their book the best it can be, and most of all…waiting. I think the wait is really what kills writers’ motivation when it comes to every stage of the game: getting published in literary magazines, finding an agent, and getting a publisher. I don’t have anything against self-publishing if that’s really what a writer wants to do, but I don’t believe in using it as a last-ditch effort. Thanks, Jane :)

  33. says

    1&2. Only be in a rush to self-publish. Unless your uncle is a publisher, forget trying to wend your way through the slush piles & agents. To get there you’ll spend as much time marketing to them and their agents, and then they will still ask you: so do you have a platform? have you already been marketing? And request 50% off the top of your sales.

    3. Definitely get a good editor, a professional that’s fast. And you need to be professional about the book. It’s a thing – not you. If they suggest your story sucks, it’s not you that sucks, just that thing. It can be fixed. Find a way to slap a good cover on it while waiting for the edits.

    4. Distribution is available for the independent author .. it’s Kindle and Nook and your own Blog.

    5. Nothing is relevant any more except the Author is closer to the Reader. There is no foil between the Writer and consumers any more, no place to hide. But that also means you can know what readers want (they tell us) rather than some editor telling you the publishing house gave out the last year old data that said readers seem to want Baseball Stories, when readers have since moved to Zombie Tales. Don’t write to yesterday’s market.

    The latest advice from those in the trenches of independent publishing is to limit your time marketing, limit your time submitting to agents and legacy publishers, and maximize your time writing. The writing counts.

    I’ll be blogging some similar and relevant posts on my site http://jgordonsmith.com (under ‘electrified’), if you’re interested.

    • Ellis says

      No, agents do read their slush piles. This is why I have an agent, and by extension why my third novel is being published this month. You don’t need to know someone in publishing to get published. You don’t need to have a massive platform already in place. You just need to write a book that a publisher likes.

      Distribution: eBooks are great, but still only ~20% of the book market in the United States. If you don’t have print books in bookstores, you’re missing out on a lot of sales.

      “5. Nothing is relevant any more except the Author is closer to the Reader.”
      One could argue that nothing is relevant in film except the viewer and the guy who’s holding the camera, but that doesn’t mean I want to view home videos instead of studio productions.

  34. Juanita Wilson says

    Thanks, Jane. This is a good reminder: “Self-publishing is a full-time job if you intend to build a readership. Are you ready to take on that full-time job of marketing yourself?” Answer: Aaaagh – I’d rather not!

  35. says

    I just read 47 comments and they’re rich. Thank you, WU for providing this venue for writerly, supportive exchanges. Smart people sharing ideas. It has enriched my morning and career pursuit. Lovely.

  36. says

    I wrote a brilliant and wittty and oh so full of genius comment yesterday, but it was eaten by the website gremlins, so I’ll just say today that this is a Right On Post!

  37. Christina says

    Jane, I agree with your points, but have a question about your comments about editors. I am just starting out as an editor and have recieved training through a publishing program. How is someone with my level of experience supposed to build up a history of working with authors if those authors are told to stick with a veteran editor?

    • says

      Christina, that’s a good question. You’re in a tough position. It would be helpful if you interned or otherwise freelanced with a recognizable firm, agency, or house before taking on individual clients. It will help give you experience and credibility.

    • says

      You could also post an advertisement for your services on places like Kindleboards, if you feel you have what it takes to improve books. Authors are paying hundreds to thousands of dollars for everything from proofreading to substantive edits. You’ll have to do sample pages or things like that to build trust with new clients in the community, but once you build up a portfolio of successful books, you should have a lot more leverage to do what you want to do (whether via internships or your own contract services).

  38. says

    This is all great advice. It’s interesting to me that most of this advice seems to be born out of impatience on the part of new writers. Given the time it takes to write something publishable, it seems somewhat humorous that patience is often enough a huge issue for us!

  39. says

    Hi Jane,

    I ran across Writer Unboxed via your personal website, and once I saw the title over there I knew I had to read the full article. So glad that I did too. You offered a lot of great tips. Many of which I’m sure would’ve crossed my mind after I finished writing my first book; which I’m currently working on now. You saved me from many future sleepless nights. :D Thanks for sharing such wonderful advice on the “No-No’s” of getting published. Great post!

  40. says

    I had queried 74 agents and publishers. I was so discouraged I wanted to self publish. To quote my daughter, who quoted someone else, she said, “Mom. Don’t quit before the miracle.” Less than a month later I got a publisher:)

  41. says

    A couple of things…I write and publish, to write again. Publishing has given me the confidence to write and publish more. Of seven authors in a writer’s group, I was the only one who self-published. In ten years two writers died and seven, after chasing commercial interest, quit writing.

  42. says

    I am an amateur writer at best. Ever since I was a kid I dreamed of being a writer. I know that in today’s world the reality is far from the dream. I belong to the website of Wattpad. Thousands of young people writing small stories from their heart. It is a great website. I have just recently finished my first book and will be making it into a series. Naturally the first thing I did after this completion was say, “Now I need to publish it”.
    You have really helped to open my eyes and make me see the truth. I have always thought that it would be hard but never fully realized just how hard. For right now, I am content to just be happy with what I have accomplished and to make those on that website happy as well. When I feel that the time comes to publish, I will make sure I do it right. I am very determined and very persistent so if I want it, I will make it happen. That being said, I have a very limited income and have always been on the poor side. I don’t think I would ever be able to even get my work edited. It seems a little daunting at the moment.
    With my goal to bring myself and others happiness, I am content with my current path. If you have any advice for me about how to edit it without spending $1200, I would appreciate it. Thanks again for this post : ).

  43. Greg says

    I am a writer. And, even though I have never truly made a financial living on writing, I still am a writer. Its in the DNA. Jane, the underlying point you make is so true. A writer writes, because they have to. They, like me, have too many ideas to fulfill in a lifetime. They just work to hone in an idea to for a single work. Others write because they have or think they have something to say about a topic or area they feel they know about. In other words, writers write and learn about subject matter for the writing. Others who write know their subject, then write about it. There is a strong difference and before anyone writes anything for publishing, I feel they should know where they stand in that reasoning. That is because if someone is writing a book about somthing they are an expert at, but are not famous or well known public figure, their audience is going to be narrow and their marketing is best spent finding that audience rather than an agent or traditional publisher. However, a writer may want to invest time the other direction because they want to write and the relationships they build with agents or the industry is an ongoing strategy for future projects.

  44. says

    I don’t agree with number 1. “What’s the rush?” you ask. Well, I am 74 years old. During the six years I spent writing and looking for an agent, attending conferences…yes, several at Writer’s Digest events in New York, Cincinnati, Dayton and on line….and listening to horror stories from other writers, I decided to self-publish and am very happy that I did.

    I queried about 100 agents after taking webinars and reading and having my query letter approved by professionals. Receiving 60 rejections from interns to agents, secretaries and some agents, I decided that the rest either tossed my letter in the trash before or after reading it and/or the partial they had requested.

    I understand the difficulty an agent has selling a manuscript to a publisher. It takes years with any success at all. If it does sell, then come the changes….another 2 years at least. Then contracts and lawyers and finally 5 years later it may be out but by that time bookstores are gone and e books have become the way most people under 60 read books.

    Jane, I self-published with CreateSpace in July 2011. I’ve sold hundreds of books and am having a wonderful time doing it. I bought many of the services CreateSpace offered. Some were good, some not so good, but the copy editing service which was expensive, was the best and worth every penny. I loved the process of publishing.

    Creating a website: http://www.nosexinsainttropez.com was fun and with my “buy” button, I’ve sold a ton of books through Amazon, Kindle, Nook and Select-Auithors.com. I e mail every one I’ve ever known, facebook some of the same and/or others I’ve friended through friends and even twitter the same people and more. This was all your advice. I’ve found that facebook and twitter are not successful for me because most of my readers are women over 40….this varies, of course. E mail is my way but each e mail must have a gimmick and an offer that if the reader sends me the requested amount of money, I will send them a signed copy of my book.

    Book clubs are another way to sell a lot of books and after each presentation I get more offers. I’m booked up until July and am even going to Tucson,AZ. to do a book club. I’m trying to get a gig to have reading groups at Canyon Ranch,one of the top
    spas in the country.

    Think of it, I could still be trying to get an agent and not be having all this fun. I carry books in my car. Never know who I can bully into buying one. Besides, I don’t have a contract with a publisher or agent so I can charge as little or as much as I like.

    Now I am working on a prequel to which I plan to offer for free on line. Maybe some of those who download it will want to buy my book.
    The stigma about self-publish books still exists, but eventually it won’t. Well known authors will be known as those who have a staff writing stories for them. Meanwhile, I know there’s a movie in my story and I hope I live long enough to see Anne Hathaway play me.

  45. says

    Congratulations! Of course I want authors to enjoy themselves and be satisfied, like you are. Perhaps others (who are still deciding their path) can gauge from your comment whether they would be happy doing exactly what you’re doing.



  1. […] Five attitude toward publishing you should avoid Wise words from Jane Freidman on Writer Unboxed blog Quote: “Sometimes writers express sentiments that make me want to issue a red-flag warning: STOP. You are about to hurt yourself. Here are five of the biggest ones.” Just for laughs […]

  2. […] 6. Writer Unboxed: 5 Attitudes Toward Publishing You Should Avoid Excerpt: If you’re the type of person who is initially interested in traditional publishing, are you sure that self-publishing will satisfy you? Are you hoping to use self-publishing as a way to attract a traditional deal? If so, be careful. Self-publishing is a full-time job if you intend to build a readership. Are you ready to take on that full-time job of marketing yourself? Do you know who you’re marketing to? Do you know how to market to them? […]

  3. […] 6. Writer Unboxed: 5 Attitudes Toward Publishing You Should Avoid Excerpt: If you’re the type of person who is initially interested in traditional publishing, are you sure that self-publishing will satisfy you? Are you hoping to use self-publishing as a way to attract a traditional deal? If so, be careful. Self-publishing is a full-time job if you intend to build a readership. Are you ready to take on that full-time job of marketing yourself? Do you know who you’re marketing to? Do you know how to market to them? […]