IS self-publishing the wave of the future? How DO you make a name for yourself in this biz? Who really decides what gets published and what doesn't? Do I need an agent? What do can a publicist actually do for a novelist? Do I sign with a small publisher, or hold out for a larger one? How can I know how long a publisher's sales reach is? Should I micro-blog every thought/emotion/idea/hope/failure/personal conversation I have? Should I read and respond to all the other writer's who are micro-blogging their every thought/emotion/idea/hope/failure/personal conversations? It's enough to make an author's eyes bug out.
As Latayne pointed out this week, it's easy to become overwhelmed and flirt with unplugging. Hers is a question I've struggled with on and off for years now. I don't have definitive answers (and different approaches work for different people), but I thought I'd share my perspective with you, and perhaps you'll find something of value for your own journey.
The ticking bomb for me wasn't so much the social networking piece (I've whittled it down to this blog and Facebook - tweeting on rare occasions), as it was the information overload about publishing, writing, publicity, marketing, self-promotion, and number watching. It's a time suck, but more than that, it's confusing to read all these blogs and website that say different things.
If you feel like I do, then read on. I've come up with a blessedly short list of tips to help us writers stay sane while we press on toward our goal. Maybe.
1) Understand the industry in general. A working understanding how publishing functions is different from analyzing every scrap of data about publishing that gets published on a blog or web site. Instead of fretting over the details (every writer's journey is different) strive to understand the major players, how they work, and how they work together.
2) Only worry about what you need to know right now. The publishing world is filled with important details - the good news is, you don't need to know all of them. If you're a beginning writer working on your first novel, you don't need to understand the often difficult dance of choosing a book cover. You need to focus on the process of becoming a better writer. If you are looking for an agent, then immerse yourself in the details of agents - (which, for fiction at least, means you have a completed, polished novel ready to go). Research hard, practice proposal writing, triple check you're querying a specific agent correctly. After you sign with an agent, then move to the next step on your journey.
3) Pay closer attention to your personal journey. Stop reading everything on earth about the publishing industry. I can go from calm to freaked out in the time it takes to read one article from the NY Times. It's better to pay close attention to what is happening to you and your work, then if you run around all over the blog-sphere reading general advice. (Uh, except for THIS blog, of course.)
4) Relax. Yes, the numbers are stacked against us. Yes, it's difficult to break into publishing. Yes, it's difficult to remain in publishing. Let's make peace with the truth. Then we can all take a deep breath and continue on our journeys. The fastest way to relax? Believe in yourself. Keep the vision in front of you and keep walking toward it - by writing, and writing, and writing some more.
I bid you good writing.