Publishing Surprises: 11 Things I’ve Learned — A Guest Author Post By Mary Pearson
Before I was published, all I wanted was to BE published. That was it. Validation I wanted to know that someone out there in the universe—besides friends and family, who of course aren’t the least bit biased—someone who was a stranger, got my writing and maybe even loved it enough to make it into a book. When I got “the call” and heard an editor actually say those words, “I love your story and want to publish it” I thought I could have stopped right there. I got the validation I wanted. I felt like maybe I really was a writer. Publishing meant the doubt would vanish. (cough) And then the publishing process began. I learned:
- The business side.There are contracts to read. Long complicated contracts. And I had no agent. Now I do, god bless her, and she figures out all the jibberish, er, details.
- Revisions. With my first book I had already done so many on my own and then my editor wanted more. And a copyeditor got a crack at it too. My perfect story wasn’t so perfect. Now I relish revision. In fact, sometimes my editor has had to say to me, it’s time to let go. And in truth that is exactly what you do. A book is never done, and weeks and months later if I reread it, I’ll still see a sentence or many that I’d have written differently.
- Titles. Just because you love a title it doesn’t mean your publisher will. Finding the right one can be very much a team effort.
- Pub dates. With my first book I was a bit shocked when I was told it wouldn’t be published for two years. Two years? It was only a skinny little book! But it seems there’s these things called lists and seasons. My books generally move along faster now, but they still have to fit in a season that is right for the whole list.
- Covers. Maybe this surprised me more than anything. The author doesn’t always get a lot of say in the cover. My first cover had a character that didn’t match the one in my head at all.
- Author copies. The first time my box of author copies came, I was also a tad surprised by UPS. When they dumped the box on my porch that is exactly what they did. Dumped. There was no brass band. No confetti. Didn’t the UPS man know I had waited TWO years for these books? Even a catchy doorbell ring would have been appreciated. This was pre-twitter, pre-facebook, pre-cellphone camera so I couldn’t share my excitement with anyone until the kids got home from school. And then we danced and hugged the books.
- Publication day, ditto of above. Usually it is midweek and there’s still work stuff to get done, and there is no time to actually celebrate on that day. What’s up with that? But it’s a huge and monumental day, and now I try I savor it in some special way. It might just be a few quiet moments to reflect on all it took to bring this story to the point that I could hold it on my hands and see it on a shelf.
- Speaking of shelves. I didn’t back then, and still don’t always find my books in a bookstore. It’s a delight when I do see them, but I’ve learned not to expect it. There are a zillion books out there and only so much shelf space.
- Reviews. Oh boy. I had heard all the advice about developing a thick skin, but let’s face it, most writers are on the quiet sensitive side. I actually got some nice reviews with my first book, and only a couple of minor digs, but the digs took my breath away. I mean, they were out there. In public. Since then my skin has either gotten thicker or I’ve learned clever ways of avoiding the bad ones. Occasionally someone will actually send me their bad review, which I totally don’t get, but I’ve learned to just delete or ignore. All books are not for all readers. That’s okay. Savor the good reviews. Period.
- Readers! Oh my gosh. I knew I would have readers but I wasn’t really sure I would ever hear from any of them. I did! That’s one of the best things about being published, connecting with readers who went on the same journey with you and get it. Readers who write you emails and tweets and letters, sharing how some part of your story spoke to them. Whether a book has a large audience or small, readers are what make all the difference. When a book touches one person in some significant way, it makes you want to get back and do what writers do—write. We don’t just read to know we’re not alone, we write for the same reason, to know that someone else wonders or questions or hopes in the same way we do.
- Writing. As much as being published has been rewarding in so many ways, one thing I’ve learned by publishing is that I will always write even if I don’t publish. I am a writer. Publishing doesn’t make it so.
Mary E. Pearson is the author of bestselling, award-winning novels for teens.The Miles Between was named a Kirkus Best Book of the Year, and The Adoration of Jenna Fox was listed as a Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, an IRA Young Adult Choice, NYPL Stuff for the Teen Age, and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year. She is also the author of A Room on Lorelei Street, David v. God, and Scribbler of Dreams. Pearson studied art at Long Beach State University, and worked as an artist before earning her teaching credential at San Diego State University. She writes full-time from her home in Carlsbad, California, where she lives with her husband and two dogs. Her newest book is Kiss of Deceptioncoming July 15.