Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Why Do You Want to be Published?

It's a valid question.  A good one to start the year off with.

Trying to write a novel is a little like trying to lose a hundred pounds.  It's really hard work with no guarantee of success and certainly no guarantee you'll be happy with the outcome, but most of us take it for granted that it's obviously worth it.

But wanting to get your novel published is a little like wanting to be a fashion model.  It seems glamorous, but it's hard work, the competition is outrageous, it requires constant self-promotion, constant rejection, and only a tiny percentage can make a living at it.  Yet again, most of us take it for granted that it's obviously worth it.

So I ask again, why do you want to be published?  My personal philosophy of life is that happiness is the only goal. Be happy, make happy, spread happy. So for me, this question is a strategic one.  Will being published make me happy?  Or will it only make me happy if I can make money, or only if I get the validation of traditional hard-cover print publishing?  Do I need to read a hundred positive reviews from strangers, or just make my kids proud?  Is their pride in my publishing a book more valuable to me than their happiness in spending time with me?

You can see how the question matters.  How self-publishing might be the best answer for some, and how spending thousands on workshops, free-lance editors, and travel to pitch fests is reasonable for others.  Why after they get deals, some authors spend their entire advances and all their time promoting their book while others just keep writing.

This blogosphere is full of people telling each other what they should and shouldn't do, but it's all bullshit when ultimately, we all want different things in the end.  We need to understand our own motivations as well as we understand our characters'.

As for me, right now, I don't care that much about being published.  Sure, I've fantasized about telling people I'm a novelist at my high school reunion next year, but that's about as far as it goes.  Right now, I just want to create a novel I'm proud of for it's own attributes.  It's an odd realization, given how interested I am in the publishing industry, but there you have it.


  1. It's a good point that we all want something different.

    I'd like to write stories that other people want to read, but mostly I write for the fun of doing it. A bit like the arts and crafts I also like doing from time to time.

    I'm not aiming at a published novel - I really don't think my health will let me do anything that big, or maybe it's my attention span that stands in the way! I'd like to get short stories published though.

    I like hanging around with writers because they're fun to be with. So I'll stick to writing at least for now.

  2. fhh, I definitely have to agree with you there - I really like hanging with other writers!