Welcome to Anonymous Author, the column of advice from published authors who have been through the highs and lows and everything in between.
Today’s column tackles three topics. Allies in publishing; how to be successful in publishing; and the confluence of entertainment and art — and what it means for your career.
One of the wonderful things about this column is that when I least expect it, I learn something new. The theme here is very clear — value yourself. Value your art. Remember that no one is doing you a favor. Something that everyone — even published authors — need to be reminded of.
As this article is entirely by one author, I’ve removed the “quotation” system of past articles and presented it as a single column. Deep thanks to the author who provided all this insight. This author is and incredibly thoughtful, wise and generous soul who (as the title suggests) wishes to remain anonymous. We hope their advice helps you on your journey.
YOU NEED A COMRADE
Just one. If you find two, great. If you find a group of writers you vibe with, great. But to make it through the endless lows and stresses and pain that this industry brings, you need one partner in arms. Someone who can support you, and motivate you, and listen to your rants, and sit by your side while you cry. You will be the same support for this person. You will get each other through a lot of shit. And you will also celebrate together! There are wins on this road! There are highs! This is still your dream. But you’re in a business that doesn’t care about you or your work, and it can feel really lonely. So having one person who cares about you, your work, your career, and your happiness as much as you do is essential to not be broken by all of this.
This is the one person you can tell everything to. The one person who’ll never judge you or call you ungrateful. YOU CANNOT TRUST MOST OF THE PEOPLE YOU WILL MEET IN THIS BUSINESS. So find that one person you CAN trust, and be that trustworthy person for them.
YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR OWN SUCCESS
There’s this article called THE EMPATHY GAP — PUBLISHING IS HARD by a literary agent that every writer needs to read before beginning their publishing journey. The agent explains that publishing is a business that unfortunately doesn’t care about you or your dreams. It sounds harsh, but it’s true. All they want is to make money.
Publishing is also a system that doesn’t really innovate. You’re expected to fit into the mold/the factory, as oppose to have the process and system organically stem from creation.
This sounds bad, but it means that you are responsible for your own success. Whether your publisher gave you $500,000 dollars or $5,000, it’s still up to you to secure the success you want. You have to be harsher on yourself than your editor. You have to think about and do your own marketing. You have to fight until you’re happy with the cover. You have to be really black and white about what support you’re getting, and fill in the gaps.
I’ve seen authors of all calibers pull themselves up to success, but THEY have been the ones to pull themselves up. Not their agents, not their editors, not their publishers.
It can seem daunting, but if you trust yourself, if you’re willing to fight for yourself, you can get there.
EDUCATE YOURSELF ON THE BUSINESS AND MAKE. THEM. PAY.
Entertainment = Art + Capitalism.
Congrats. You’re in the entertainment industry now! Think of every 1950s movie you’ve seen about a rock and roll artist getting screwed by their label, and apply that scenario to you. You’re making art. You’re dedicated to your dream. But your publisher is making money. Money is their primary concern, not your art. Not the quality of your book. Not your physical or emotional health. Nothing. No matter what, when they look at you, they’re looking at $$$$.
So EDUCATE YOURSELF ON THE BUSINESS. Just like you invested in becoming a better writer, invest in this industry. Look at the people who have careers that you want to emulate. Find out who represents them. Study what they do. And above all else, value yourself.
The best advice I got when deciding between publishers was “MAKE. THEM. PAY.” You feel timid about all of this because it’s your dream. You would do this for free. You’re just grateful to someone for giving you a chance. And that’s beautiful, but that’s not business.
Investing in you is business. You deserve money. Money is good. Money pays for food and housing. Put on your Slytherin hat. Think of what you want and then add interest.
It’s Sabaa again! Thanks for reading and as I get my feet in the new CoVid-19 era, I hope I’ll have more columns for you soon. If you have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments. I can ask authors direct questions, or search through what they have offered me for an answer. Stay safe, don’t touch your face and wash those paws!