Facing the Harsh Truths About Publishing

Sat Jul 23 2016

I guess I was in a really grumpy mood last week when I wrote about a bunch of harsh truths in the publishing industry. I stand by all of it. The publishing industry really is harder than people expect, and doesn't suffer fools gladly.

Still, I admit the article was kind of a downer.

The good news is that you can do something about most of those harsh truths. None of them are completely under your control (or they wouldn't be harsh truths in the first place), but you're not exactly powerless against them either.

So what can you do?

Fame and Riches

Two of the harsh truths related to the ubiquitous fantasy of publishing being some kind of one-way escalator to fame and riches by your book becoming the next big thing.

I'm not going to say that there's some sure-fire formula for getting rich in publishing. There isn't. But there are things you can do to increase your publishing income:

Doing all that might not make you rich, but it certainly shifts the odds in that direction.

There is no magic door

There isn't any single magic door to publishing success, but that doesn't mean there aren't any doors. Here two great doors anybody can walk through:

Those won't be the only doors you'll have to walk through, but they'll get you started. And every door you pass eases the way for the next door.

Publishers and agents don't need you

As I talked about last week, the vast supply of writers compared to the much smaller supply of agents and publishers means that the mere fact that you are a writer doesn't make you special. They don't need you just because you're a writer.

What they need are good writers. Writers whose work is professional, and whose attitude towards the work is professional.

Becoming a skilled, professional attitude is 100% within your control.

Publishing is slow

You can't make other people work any faster than they're going to. Agents and publishers are going to take however long they take to do what they need to do, and you can't speed any of that up by pestering them, e-mailing them every other day for updates, et cetera.

What you can do is make sure that the list of "what they need to do" is as short as possible.

The closer you can make your manuscript to print-ready by the time the agent submits it to the publisher, the shorter the overall publishing process will be.


Publishing isn't hopeless. It's just work. And just like in any profession, success translates into doing your work the best you possibly can.

Treat the craft of writing seriously. Treat the craft of storytelling seriously. Treat the business of publishing seriously. Educate yourself about all of those things; there is a wealth of information available for free on the internet, to tell you everything you could possibly want to know.

Elizabeth S. Craig's Writer's Knowledge Base is an astonishingly vast resource, and a great place to start.

This article only plays at the surface of the endlessly deep pool of publishing tips. Please share some of yours in the comments!