Drown or swim in a saturated book market

We spend months, years, writing a book of dazzling brilliance. We might be the only ones who think so, but hey, it was so hard, such a long process, such a fun process, such a tortured, frenetic, creative, maddening, exhilarating process, that only something splendid could emerge. You know, like a baby, who every mother knows is THE BABY of all babies born to date and to follow. The computer screen and keys are covered with sweat and tears, in some cases blood (well, what do you expect, working fingers to the bone day and night, week after week?). We wipe off the spatter, lug the laptop off to a computer nerd and stoically accept that we’ve driven the thing to chronic fatigue. We let it rest for a couple of hours and get ready to send THE BABY out to agents, trusting that one of the 300 we target will be bright enough to recognize, if not salute, our genius.

Then we wait.

And wait.

Suddenly, out of the blue, after we’ve gnawed our fingernails down to the cuticles, something from someone agent-sounding lands in our inbox. We stare at it for anything from a second to several hours, afraid. Very afraid. We can’t even remember the agent’s name because we sent out so many queries, but something rings a bell when we spot the words Meh Literary Agency.

Finally, because we’re fearless and let’s face it, a little crazy to be doing any of this in the first place, we click on the thing and…

CLANGGGGG (or thudddd), we read and absorb the dreaded Thanks but no thanks. And our pitter-pattering hearts plummet.

We run to Amazon to find a self-help book, scramble to download as many versions of The Secret as we can find, revisit our vision board to reinforce our positive beliefs and positive thinking and positive images of success and abundance…

and start all over again. Truth is, we’ve just gone through a rite of passage. Some of us have received so many rejections, we’re pathetically grateful that Cujo still wags his tail when we come home.

“What’s it all about?” we wail. “Is it a marketing thing? My query? My synopsis? My novel? No, it’s HER. SHE’s just too dumb to see my potential. And who needs traditional publishers anyway? Half the time they don’t know what they’re doing either.” Tears splash. “No, it’s ME. I’m worthless. That’s the problem. Nothing has ever worked for me in my whole entire life.” And as we design a brochure advertising our dog walking services, we mutter, “Screw everybody. I’m going to self publish.”

Back we go to Amazon, and with fire and zest, throw our baby head first into what might otherwise be known as the Bermuda Triangle.

To our horror, we discover that 84 million other writers are doing the same thing.

So here are a few tips to prevent you from drowning in the publishing industry:

Take up pottery. Or knitting.

I was enchanted to learn that a woman in Canada can spin Cujo’s hair into yarn, from which she knits anything: sweaters, beanies, teapot holders. Just keep brushing the dog, or start a small business that’s similarly innovative.

Stop writing.


NO! No? Hmmm…there’s obviously a writer in there somewhere, if you feel so strongly about it.

Write, but stop caring whether anyone reads.

If you can get someone to read your book without rolling his eyes or stopping after page 2, do so, but otherwise just print it out and make a papier mache hanging plant.

That’s right. I don’t have any suggestions that you haven’t already considered:

Make sure your manuscript is in the best shape it can possibly be before submitting it anywhere. If you self publish, get a great cover, get a book trailer, get a publicist, stop writing so you can spend all your time marketing. And from then on, HUSTLE HUSTLE HUSTLE.

We all have to do it. There are few shortcuts and even fewer life jackets. The only real suggestion I can offer from the heart is, make it about the work. Nourish your soul by expressing yourself and telling your stories. Make it about giving something to a reader that s/he will want to go to bed with every night. That will save you from drowning.

Up next from Jenn… The Unreliable Narrator


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