Getting Published Part 1: What surprises debut authors the most about the publishing industry?



Getting published.  The thought of it makes a writer’s mind go into a state of euphoria with dollar signs dancing in all directions. When I first became published, I had no idea what was in store.  I went with an e-publisher and my journey didn’t turn out quite the way I expected.  I could count total sales on one hand.  But, times were different back then.  It’s much easier to get published today than it’s ever been thanks to the self-publishing boom, but it’s not without its trials and tribulations. You grow and learn and that’s what it’s all about.  You make mistakes.  You learn the ropes.  You succeed. 

We asked writers who went on to become published authors what was it about the process that surprised them more than anything else?  Their answers might surprise you or even help you prepare yourself for the long road ahead if you are trying to make your writing dreams come true.  Here’s what they had to say.

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“What surprised me the most? That it happened. My first book endured a lot of rejections because of the subject matter. There aren’t too many lines you can’t cross when it comes to art and publishing, but apparently, I found one.”

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“I think the biggest surprise was having a publisher say yes. There were a lot of rejected query letters before I contacted Scribe, and I was very close to self-publishing when they stepped in. I never really got dispirited, but I began to think that established agents and publishers had no interest in a debut novelist, so I had to read that final acceptance e-mail a few times before it sunk in.”

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“I was surprised at how much of the editing they (the publisher) handled themselves. I expected several rounds of line edits, I got only two and some very good suggestions from their editor.”

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“The length of time between submitting the manuscript and distribution was excruciatingly long. I hoped the process would be more streamlined but working with a publisher is very involved and time consuming.”

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“When you write a book, you have this fantasy that you simply send it off to a publisher, and that it’s printed and sent out to bookstores and money and fame result. Of course, I’m exaggerating. But only slightly. We all, I think, have a little of that illusion in our minds as we’re sweating away at a manuscript. In fact, the real work starts once you’ve written your book. Then you have to sell it. And once it’s published, you have to promote it. It’s rewarding work but it’s challenging. And it is a surprising amount of work.”

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“Writing a book is exhilarating. Sales and marketing is frustrating, because it’s so difficult for an Indie author to get their books in front of their audience. Mainstream books stores don’t exactly welcome Indie authors, and if you do get in, you’re essentially paying them to carry your book. That leaves on-line marketing and social media and blogging and—well you get it. As exhausting as being an Indie author sounds, you can do it too.”

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“Luckily, I knew a great deal about publishing and marketing before putting up my first novel. I guess what surprised me the most was how welcoming the market was for my book. Reviewers, whether the writer is self-published or traditional, want to review good books. Readers want interesting characters and stories—and read without checking to see if the book comes from one of the Big Five. Many bookstores, especially my favorite, the small and unfranchised, are very supportive.”

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“Learning how the book industry works and discovering all that independently published talent out there was a wonderful surprise for me. I learned that through the process of publishing this book myself. Some of the Indie books I have read are among the best I have read in recent years.”

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“Yes, the amount of work that goes on around the book that has nothing to do with actually writing e.g. endless time and effort in promoting, selling and social media. I knew little about FB, Twitter, Good Reads, Amazon Author Pages, etc. Thanks to the magnificent Marketing Director at my publisher I can now say that I am very well versed… for example I have more than 1600 FB fans and friends!”

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“What surprised me is how my book became viral! It was really fast and in a week I had a million readers.”

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“I have written forever.  It surprised me when my first academic book and articles on eighteenth-century German literature were published, because no one wanted my fiction.  I have heard it said that an academic knows who her audience is—small as it may be—but it is more complicated when you write fiction.  When I discovered self-publishing after retirement, I was on my way.”

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“You would think that coming up with a story worthy of writing a book would be the hardest part. For me that is where I found the most joy, the creative side, letting the story sweep you up and take you for an unexpected ride. It wasn’t till I had finished the book and started to edit it that I realized the real work was in the details. Without a publisher all of the fine tuning is up to you and hopefully you are lucky enough to have a group of friends that are willing to roll up their own sleeves and help you trudge through it. 

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The things that you have to worry can quickly become overwhelming,there are so many choices that you have to make from cover to font style that can make you go prematurely grey. It’s enough to make any sane person want to give up and just throw in the towel. This is the point that it’s once again important to pick yourself up and keep going. The finishing stages right before publishing are a lot like the last hill climb at the end of a marathon, you have two choices. You can give up because you are tired and worn down, or you can remind yourself that all the hard work you have put in till this point will just be thrown away if you don’t will yourself up that final hill.”

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“Short answer? Everything. I had been writing for ten years, with three completed unsold novels and numerous false dawns. To just have a real agent, who sold my book to a real publisher who gave me real money for it was astonishing. Then it sold so well. The absolute high point for me were the wonderful reviewers and readers who acted as cheerleaders for my work. There is nastiness aimed at reviewers by some authors and vice versa. Sadly, that tends to get all the publicity. What doesn’t get the publicity are the lovely people who read novels, who love them and then tell the world with hugely enthusiastic reviews. That was my experience and it was the biggest compliment my writing could ever get. I owe so very, very much to every single one of them.”

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“Getting your book out there is hard, hard work.  When you are a first time, self-published author, there is no such thing as an overnight success.”

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The last comment sums it up.  Getting your book published is hard work, but it’s all part of the publishing game.  What was it that surprised you when you first became published? 


Dorothy is founder of Pump Up Your Book, an innovative public relations agency specializing in online book publicity and social media promotion for authors. Visit us at www.pumpupyourbook.com





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