On the Road Again

I’d like to take a moment here to wax philosophical on the idea of The Road to Publication.

Depending on how long and deep you dig into the over-flowing informational pool on “What to expect when you try to publish a book,” you’ve probably come across all kinds of stories, and have been told to expect radically different things. Early on in my search for information (as a young and eager student who still believed there was an exact process for achieving anything), I kept hearing horror stories about authors who were asked to make radical changes to their manuscripts, or who were given hideous book covers, or had neglectful literary agents.

That’s not a story that ever goes away in the field of “how I got published.” It’s a huge and driving force behind the self-publishing movement, and something I fully support not wanting to deal with (if you’re also ready to deal with the other aspects of self-publishing like cover design, formatting, marketing, getting the attention of book bloggers and readers, etc.).

But, then again, with the blogging boom making the stalking of debut authors so much easier, I also hear beautiful stories about authors, agents, and editors working together in harmony, like mice and birds and fairy godmothers creating the perfect night at the ball for the author, Cinderella. I hear about publishers actually letting authors help to design their book covers (when did this start?), and editors becoming fast friends with their authors, and everyone dancing together at some massive magical dance party in an enchanted publishing palace in New York City (or something along those lines).  

The truth is, we can never know how it will happen to us, and it doesn’t do us any good to try to predict it. These stories we hear about how it’s done and how to get there? They’re all as good as gossip. And what do we know about gossip? The only thing it’s good for is trouble (and maybe entertainment), and certainly not basing our career goals, personal standards, or expectations on.

Our experiences will not be theirs. The only thing we can do, as writers, is write the best story that we can, even if it doesn’t follow many of the various formulas and checklists that we’ve been told are necessary. We must follow our instincts, and take every bit of advice, every ounce of feedback, and every push or sway with a grain salt. 

One writer’s path will never be the same as any other writer’s path. That’s not meant to be daunting–you’re not striking out alone. It’s meant to be liberating. The only thing you can take away from all of the contradictory gossip about how to “make it” as a novel writer is that your journey will be unique.

So have hope. Take chances. Do it the way you feel best suits you and your career goals. Only never be dissuaded by one person’s rejection, one persons experience, or one person’s opinion.

Best of luck to you all.