Janet Sumner Johnson
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The Learning Curve of Publishing

Oct 26, 2015 Uncategorized 3 comments

It’s no secret that I’ve been on this ride of wanting to be
published for a long time. And the longer you are in something, the more you
learn about it. Bit by bit you gather information and before long you are no
longer a newbie.

By the time I found my agent, I was quite expert at drafting
query letters. I knew the best places to track the query letters I sent to
agents (querytracker.net in case anyone was wondering). I knew what writing conferences
I liked best. I knew what to expect timing wise, and I was the one answering
questions for those newbies who had just joined the fray.

Now that I’m on the next step of the publishing journey, I
am horrified to discover that I have to start over as a newbie. Only this time,
the learning curve is much, MUCH steeper since there is an actual deadline for
things (oh the forgotten joy of not having a deadline!).

My head is spinning as
I try to figure out marketing, and how to get my name out there and get on
panels and accepted as a presenter at conferences. And let’s not forget school
visits, and swag, and websites. Writing tag lines. Writing author bios. Writing discussion questions. Figuring out author pictures and poses. And of course navigating the world of
communicating with my publisher and editor and all the people involved there
(who are fortunately very lovely people!).

The things is, I’d read so many blog posts from debut
authors as they navigated the publishing world, and I’d learned so much about school
visits and marketing, etc. And I had notes from conference presentations on
such topics. I felt so prepared. I was SO ready for the next step! I just knew
I would make it through with ease.

So I’m left scratching my head about what went wrong.
And the only thing I can come up with is that having a book
published is a bit like becoming a parent for the first time. You can read all
kinds of books to prepare yourself. People will tell you all kinds of truths
and horror stories about “what it’s really like.” But it doesn’t matter.
The only thing that really helps you understand what it’s like to be a parent
is to actually BE A PARENT. And then suddenly you get it!
Not that it’s suddenly easy or that you suddenly know everything.
But you get it. You get how hard and
complicated and unpredictable it all is. And all you can do is your best. You
keep trying every day, and you learn new things. Sometimes it feels like you’ll never be as
good as those other parents you see at PTA meetings and stuff, and sometimes it
feels like you’re failing miserably.
But you aren’t.
Because HEY! You’re doing
it! And none of that other stuff matters. What matters is that you’re trying.
Because despite what Yoda says, there really is such a
(And yes, this is absolutely what I tell myself when I’m feeling overwhelmed by it all . . . which is at least once a month . . . okay, weekly . . . fine! I meant daily. DAILY. Okay?? Satisfied?!) 😉

3 Responses to “The Learning Curve of Publishing”

  1. You are so right. Just like in parenting, every person's experience is going to be different. In fact, with every child and with every book the experience is going to be different.

    So much depends on factors outside of your control, and sometimes it doesn't make much sense.

    There's a school willing to pay me to fly halfway across the country for a one-day school visit, but my local school district won't acknowledge that I exist. I've been invited to two conferences and when I said, "Yes! Please send me more information!" I never heard from them again. (They apparently changed their minds and got someone more famous/local/connected?) One of my books was picked up by Scholastic. The book prior to that one was not.

    All you can do is keep a positive attitude, try everything, and learn from experience.

  2. Yeah, I think writing and the publishing industry are two of those things one can only learn through active involvement.

    All the best with getting everything done!

  3. Hi Janet – good luck with it all .. as Dianne mentions the positive attitude is essential isn't it. And we do only learn from experience and pick up the parts we need to include in the next round … being prescient as to what might be happening, or might be needed – and then learning if one's own ideas aren't quite right.

    Cheers Hilary

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