Before I was published people who told me what to expect in this business. Basically it was all negative. What surprised me was what I could control and I couldn’t.
1) Hearing again and again that “You’ll never get published so don’t even try.” That was the number one piece of advice. I really got to resent the advice to just enjoy writing for the writing and forget the business end. Well, of course I enjoy it! What surprised me was how accessible the business is if you listen, learn, and keep on keepin’ on. Never let the negative people get to you.
2) Publishers have a different calendar. This was a surprise. When they talk about reading your work, or putting your book in their catalog, they’re talking about months and sometimes years from now. Advice: Always have something else in the works.
3) Not everyone will like your book. This was a shock. I loved my book. My agent and editor did, too, so I assumed everyone would. My first review was from Kirkus and it was good. It wasn’t starred, but it was close. Then came Booklist, also a good one. But then came a negative review and it wasn’t just negative, it seemed designed to hurt me. Yes, of course I knew this could happen. I totally get that not everyone will like it, but being mean or careless publicly is above and beyond. When Buried won the Edgar Award, and made NYPL and ALA’s BBYA list, I felt better, but still… That review was so mean.
4) Published doesn’t necessarily mean publicized. I’d heard a lack of hooplah and party atmosphere might be the mood when Buried came out and that I would need to fill in the gaps and do book signings, workshops, school visits, and conferences. I did and was excited and happy to do so. What is surprising is how little assistance I got from The Big House to launch my book. I’m still surprised at how much I’m supposed to be doing. I don’t know how to work full time while being a mom, wife, friend, writer, and publisher of my book all at the same time. I’m doing what I can and that’s all I can do. I am from a big house, but I was published under an imprint and that’s the way they do things there. Which leads me to my next and last surprise:
5) Publishing is a business. Well, duh. But I find I have to remind myself again and again that the decisions made in the House regarding my book are mostly business related. I still love, love, love writing and will always make up stories. The business end is hard to keep separate from the creative end sometimes, but I do keep them separate because Writing is not a business. That’s the biggest surprise of all—that the writer has to handle BOTH sides.