October 20, 2019

Top 5 Getting-Published Myths that Defeat Authors

Only the Good Die Young, Billy Joel

Only the Good Die Young, Billy Joel

Authors should monitor posts by A.C. Crispin, Victoria Strauss, and Richard White to Writer Beware(r)who’s main job is to expose scams and shady deals foisted upon unsuspecting authors.

Yet they also question author thinking that makes aspiring authors susceptible and defeatist.

In Strauss’s post (coupled with links to prior blogs), I count 5 key myths about getting published that most defeat authors.

1. You have to know someone.

Or, you have to perform some deviant (sex) act to get published.

>>Talk with first-time published authors. It’s simply not true (but search Crispin’s prior blogs for fascinating explorations). Many first-time published authors will rave about their support network or how their friends encouraged them. Yet, few had an uncle who is a literary agent or vice president of something important at a major publishing house.

2. Getting published is a crap shoot.

You could win the lottery more easily is the thinking.

>>What lies underneath this belief is the assumption that all proposals, all manuscripts are really pretty much the same in quality–anyone of them could be published with equal results by the publisher.

The fact is–and I have monitored slush piles at 3 different publishers for 20 years–not much of it is presented as publishable. Writer Beware(r) estimates that 10% of what is submitted is in publishable form. I would put it lower, more like 7%. That is the reason I formed My Literary Coach, in order to help authors improve their proposals so that they can secure an agent or nonfiction publisher’s editor.

3. The publishing industry doesn’t want new authors.

Some author in 1999 yelled, “I’m in, close the door,” and few new authors have been admitted since then. Well, maybe it was some other year, but somebody yelled, and the door was closed.

>>This connects with the myth that follows and seems to have a ring of truth about it. After all, like at the exclusive clubs, only celebrities, even reality-show stars, seem to have access without standing in line.

The amount of risk that agents and publishers are willing to take does fluctuate. But having a manuscript and proposal ready to go puts you in competition with a smaller number. The industry always reserves a few spots for new authors in the hopes that they will breakout. Their mid-list authors will likely only do okay.

4. You must have a platform before you can get published.

>>For nonfiction authors, this is not a myth; having a following can make your proposal stand head and shoulders above others. But it’s not the first thing used in evaluating your offering.

If you are fiction author, you get even more grace. Presently, a well-written story still trumps having 500 Facebook fans or a list of emails from a speaking tour. (But this seems to be changing.)

5. Good books get shunned, poorly marketed, and put out of print early.

>>This myth actually isn’t in the post, but in my mind follows from the other items. And it surely is one that I have heard a lot. As Billy Joel sang, “Only the good die young.”

Envy here is turned into a virtue that reinforces the other myths. The author who refuses to stoop to friendliness with power brokers stands on principles. Not only is that author’s work as good as every other one circulating, its lack of publication demonstrates its superiority.

In sum, the righteousness of the author’s production is validated by its lack of success. Does that make sense to you? It doesn’t to me. Time for a major re-think.

(Note: My original post gathered a number of helpful reader comments, which I wish I could have imported here.) See one literary agent’s post, titled, “All Those Bad Books!”

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