P is for Patience

The idea of patience in publishing is a double-edged sword. It requires patience to publish traditionally, and it requires patience to successfully self-publish. Note that I say successfully self-publish, while traditional publishing requires patience no matter what the outcome.

When publishing traditionally, it is necessary to have patience to wend your way through the labyrinth of hurdles you will encounter: how to write the book, get an agent, see the book sold (patience, patience), and wait for it to come out, all while still maintaining your online platform and hopefully writing your next book. I recently had a client who, while giving a presentation, was asked, “How long did it take you to get an agent?” His response: “Lucky 151.” He had compiled a list of appropriate agents, and had submitted his query to 150 agents before receiving a response. Now that’s patience.

But it paid off. His book was released in October by an imprint of Penguin Random House that specializes in mystery, and he received great pre-publication reviews. He has made the finalist round of several awards around the country, and even carried home many of them. He is, of course, having a ball, but he also approached this methodically and carefully. He knew he needed help; he had a day job that he didn’t want to give up, and he couldn’t navigate all the way himself.

There are many other stories of the travails of successful authors. The internet is replete with rejection letters of famous authors. One letter to Dr. Seuss read, in part, “Too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.” What do these best-selling authors have in common? They didn’t give up. Some of them actually went ahead and self-published (you have to imagine, out of utter frustration). Beatrix Potter was one of these. We wouldn’t have The Tale of Peter Rabbit if she had given up.

Now, as to self-publishing, this also requires patience, in order to do it successfully. It is my belief that in order to be a successful self-published author, you must follow the blueprint of the traditional publishing houses. This can be very difficult, especially since many people who self-publish do so explicitly because they do not want to wade through the morass of the traditional publishing maze, taking the year or more that it typically takes to do so.

This is why self-published books often aren’t available as advance copies, why they don’t have firm release dates, and why there are now often not even print runs. With print-on-demand (POD), you may save yourself from having boxes of books stacked up in your garage. But not having a release date or a print run also leaves you with less of a commitment, and this is transparent to the media.

I know, there are self-published authors out there who have done well without following the usual timeline of traditional publishing: advance copies out six to three months ahead of publication, reviews in all the major industry pre-pub journals (Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, et al), a media campaign that ensures the largest portion of interviews and appearances the month of the book’s release. It’s possible to be successful if you have a great platform and method of distribution.

But while self-publishing may soon overtake traditional publishing in pure numbers, it will take longer for the entrenched media to adjust their methods. I, as much as anyone, would love to see some new innovative way to capture readers’ attention. As we all know, though, it does not take just one big hit, but many, many drips over a condensed period of time to stick in the minds of readers. And this, again, takes patience.

I’m not saying that everyone should publish traditionally, but I am saying that they should take a cue from the traditional publishing world to get the attention of media. And then, the beauty is that you can do things quicker, even with the advance copies. And you retain all of your artistic control. Often, it comes down to what you want to spend your time doing.

There is a great big world of readers out there. You can reach them if you take the time to learn how. Amanda Hocking had a built-in audience, selling her stories online (admittedly poorly copyedited), until she decided that she wanted to spend more time writing than answering emails. Now she’s with St. Martin’s Press, so she can focus on what she does best. Seriously, though, read the interview down to the bottom: that’s the key.

The only difference between a writer and an author is time. And the only difference between a successful author and an unsuccessful author is equal parts patience and tenacity.

2 thoughts on “P is for Patience”

  1. Haha, yes! That’s the tenacity part that I mention in the last paragraph. Equal parts. Thanks!

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