Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Are you ready for publication?


by teen writer Abigail Hartman

Abigail Hartman is a Christian, which she hopes colors everything else about her; she also just happens to be a sixteen-year-old writer of historical fiction and fantasy, a homeschool almost-graduate, and author of the historical novel The Soldier’s Cross.  On her blog, Scribbles and Ink Stains, she posts about writing, literature, and the odd cup of tea. 




If you asked every writer you ever met whether or not they want to be published, I would venture to say that the answer for the vast majority would be yes.  It isn't why we write, of course; we write because we're writers, because we love the art of story-crafting, because we can't not.  And there are some writers who are satisfied with that and don't mind the thought of never showing their work to another pair of eyes as long as they live.  For the most part, however, writers cherish the thought of publication, perhaps to earn a living, perhaps for the sake of presenting to the public stories into which they have poured so much of themselves.


This part of the creative process is natural, and, with the rise and increased success of the self-publishing process, perhaps easier than it has ever been before.  With programs like Amazon's CreateSpace, getting a novel out to readers is now little more than a click (or ten) away.  Young writers no longer have to wait for agents and editors to take notice; we can launch out into the world of published novels on our own.

The subject has been hashed out and beaten to a pulp in numerous articles in the past few years, so I'm not going to delve into the pros and cons of self-publishing.  My point is publication itself, and especially publication as it relates to teen writers.  Some of us have been writing for a good number of years, editing for a few less, and we're now either tinkering with or actively seeking publication - sweating over query letters, getting the scoop on advances, the whole shebang.  Our work is ready to face the world!

But are we?

Pessimistic, I know, but I'll say now that I am not one who believes teenagers are incapable of writing good novels, or of getting them published even if they could write them.  On the contrary, I believe that teens, especially well-read and dedicated teens, are as capable of producing fresh, well-written works as their seniors; the issue is not with teenagers' capabilities, but with the low expectations generally placed on them. Those ought not be allowed to handicap us.

And yet I believe the question still holds for every young writer thinking about publication, whether on their own or through traditional means: is it the right time?  Your story may be ready, but are you?  We should never rush blindly into things; the cost should always be counted in advance, so that we may then take the plow and move forward without looking back.  As you start to mull over publication, gathering facts about the process, remember to take these things into account:

1. Do I realize what this will entail?  As I've studied the details of publication, have I also gleaned information on what it requires of the author?  Or do I still treat it as a daydream?

2. Is this a good time to be putting this in motion?  Am I willing to sacrifice time and energy, not only to finding a publisher, but to marketing and all the finer points as well?

3. Am I emotionally ready for this?  Have I, or can I, learn to take bad reviews and negative feedback professionally?  (Work on that plastic smile!)

4. Is this what I want to do?  To be cliche, is my heart and soul in it?  If writing is merely a hobby, perhaps self-publishing is a better option; but seeking traditional publication demands dedication.

If these seem overwhelming...it's probably a good thing.  On some days they seem overwhelming to me, and I'm sure the same is true of many other authors.  But that last question is really the clincher, and if your answer is yes, then the others can be conquered through wisdom and perseverance.  After prayer and thought you may find that now is not the right time to take this step; but it's certainly better to discover that sooner than later, and if this is your vocation, then the step will come in due course.  So be ambitious, aim high, and apply wisdom as you do so.  That is a recipe for godly success.





36 comments:

  1. I'm editing my first novel right now, and cant wait to send a query letter. I'm totally freaking out, but I think both of 'us' are ready;)

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    1. I know the feeling - I'm just getting ready to start the same process for my WIP. Congratulations on this next big step, and I hope it goes well!

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  2. Abigail, how sweet it is to find you on GTW this morning. I enjoy your blog, your writing style, and I thoroughly enjoyed this post. You approached this subject with great grace and wisdom and I just love this: "We write because we're writers, because we love the art of story-crafting, because we can't not." Too true, too true.

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    1. That's sweet of you, Rachelle, and I'm glad you enjoyed it so much. Regarding my comment about why we write - I think that ought to characterize people, especially believers, in whatever they do: that our work becomes an expression of who and what we are. It's a goal, at any rate!

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  3. Excellent post, Abigail. You were, as always, very encouraging, but, as always, very realistic. I don't think we realized how much being published would demand of us, but our hearts and souls are in the business, and so, while we weren't prepared, we were ready. But it is better to know what you are getting into, so I think this post, from a young writer looking back, will be helpful to others who haven't taken those steps yet. Thank you!

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    1. I know we didn't realize it! So I hope this general idea will be both sobering and encouraging. It's good to know what you're getting into; but at the same time, if you know what you want and you're willing to work toward that goal, knowing the difficulties should never deter you.

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  4. Abigail, thank you for this post! Unfortunately, I think it will be a long time before I'm ready for publication. I have several beginnings of novels written, but I haven't been able to finish one. I've been trying with all my heart to finish my WIP, but I can't seem to get there--actually, I've barely written 30 pages, and I have no idea what to add. Did you come across this when writing? Do you have any suggestions?

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    1. I think this is something many writers struggle with: reaching the finishing line of a story. I know that for several years after I first began writing, I couldn't finish anything. I remember that I wrote a good bit...and yet I never seemed to get closer to the end! So I, and I'm sure most writers out there, understand where you're coming from.

      There's a great post on this subject in the GTW archives. Stephanie brings up the necessity for perseverance, and the fact that one's writing isn't going to be a constant stream of passion and brilliance. Sometimes, it's just work. But I think her most insightful remark comes toward the end when she encourages writers not to stress themselves out. We're all pretty young writers, which means we've got time to write for ourselves, to "dabble" and to increase our skill before we bother about things like grinding to the end of any one story, or publishing. It's not only permissible, but good to give yourself time to write purely for your own enjoyment.

      These are my two suggestions, then, as gleaned from Stephanie's own post. If you're just beginning to spread your wings, then allow yourself some grace; write other stories, collect ideas. If you are committed to finishing this story, recognize that it isn't going to be fun all the way through and that you'll absolutely have to push yourself. Either way, as Stephanie said, don't stress yourself! (And believe me, I'm a past master at stressing.)

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    2. Wow. I think you said that much better than I did, Abigail!

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  5. A really good post! so true. . . Btw, when will the next prompt writing contest be? I really enjoy those! :)

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    1. Thanks for asking, Ashley. It'll probably be another couple weeks :( I'm hard at work on the NextGen contest right now, and then I'll be leaving town for a week, so it's just not possible to have one at the moment. I'm glad you enjoy them!

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    2. that's okay! I'll just have to wait for the next one! :)

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  6. What about those of us who are considering self publishing even though writing is most certainly not a hobby? Do you think that a serious writer should bypass self publishing?Could it be viewed as good practice?

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    1. Actually, Anne-girl, another reader just asked a similar question over at my blog. It's a difficult thing to answer, really; there are so many arguments to address. Success (as measured in sales, etc.) is, I would say, harder to attain via self-publishing than through traditional means. This is simply because publishing houses, editors, and agents have a greater ability to get a book out there to the public. However, there are quite a number of examples of self-published authors who have done very well - Christopher Paolini, for example, is now a best-selling novelist. It's just that these authors must go to great lengths in order to attain such results.

      In the context of this post, I think that with self-publishing, as with traditional publishing, you have to know if you're ready to take that step. If you are, then either method may be used, depending on your personality and what you desire from publication. I hope that helps!

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    2. Anne-girl I love your user name :)

      I think also it depends on motivations. Sometimes I see people use self-publishing as a way to "bypass" the heartache involved in traditional publishing or to speed things along. Also, I see people who want to do things their way, who seem convinced that editors are only going to mess up their writing.

      I'm no expert on the industry, but I think the question of whether it's the right move for a writer depends on the writer's motivations and long-term goals.

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    3. Sorry, I just had to say, I love your username :D

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    4. Thanks for answering my question!

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  7. This was amazing Abigail, thank you! I think God has used you and some of Syephanie post recently to reaffirm what has been on my mind :). I want to be published and to pursue writing with abandon but there IS more to it than my desires. I've been doing a lot thinking about things, feel like I know the answer even though it makes me unhappy in this moment, and then see this here on GTW that totally affirms that it's alright. Thanks to all the GTW writers

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    1. One of the things I enjoy most about GTW is the variety of subjects addressed - anything from plot structure to royalties. And it's always nice when the day's post addresses something you've been pondering; I'm glad this article was one of those for you!

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  8. @abigail
    I read a bunch of excerpts from your wip, and it sounded awesome. I deffinately want to read it.

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    1. Why, thank you! I'm glad it piques your interest.

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  9. I really enjoyed reading this post, Abigail! It's important not to rush into anything, especially publication. Unfortunately, I think a lot of teens feel like they need to rush-- especially to become a published teenage author!

    How old were you when you got your book published? Did you learn anything specific from the publishing process?

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    1. There does seem to be quite a bit of rush among teen writers, indeed. Now, I do think it's great for young writers to challenge low expectations and have ambitions; Western culture today expects far too little of its younger generation. But we have to pace ourselves, too.

      I was fourteen when my book was published. I grew up with a sister five years older than I, and her writing helped me get a handle on my own; so about the time she was looking at publishers, I was getting ready to as well. Also, I know GTW contributor Rachel Coker is sixteen, and her debut novel released this year. And then there's Christopher Paolini, to use an earlier example. So this post is certainly not to say that young writers can't make good published authors!

      I've learned so much from the publishing process - or at least been taught so much. I think I'm still working on the learning bit! Perseverance and discipline; then there are the multitude of publishing-details that are discussed on this blog, many of which I didn't understand in the least when I jumped into this. It teaches one a great deal!

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  10. I have a WIP that I could edit, but I think I'm going to abandon it, as it's just not publication-worthy. However, I think I might be ready for publication in about a year, with my next novel. I definitely like that idea more, so . . . we'll see.

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    1. Sometimes it's best to let a story be purely for fun and not for publication; I've had to do that with several of my works. Whichever you choose, I hope the process goes smoothly!

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  11. Thanks for the post, Abigail! You soaked me with a wave of inspiration today! You're amazing - and so is your blog! Writing is a passion that I want to completely fulfil. Saying that, it's not as easy as I thought. You inspired me as you're only a few years older than me. With the help of all the writers of GTW and the great advice from others writers, like yourself, I know I'll pull through! Thanks again and thanks to Stephanie Morrill and co.! A true bunch of inspiring people! :)

    Writer_At_Heart

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    1. Aw, that's sweet of you! It's always nice to hear that my posts inspire other writers, and all the bloggers here at GTW are excellent at it. If writing is your passion, then I'm also quite sure that you'll "pull through." As long as we've got our hearts in it, and are willing to dedicate time and energy to it, I don't see a reason in the world why we shouldn't succeed!

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  12. Sometimes I forget how hard it would be to be a published author and i daydream about the glitz and glam lol. But I believe that when I am ready to finally start sending my manuscript I'll be ready... and I'll just know it. :)

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  13. And Abigail, are you actually professionally published or just self-published? I was looking at your book covers on your blog and I was just enchanted by them. They are so beautiful and captivating.

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    1. Oh, I'm pretty sure we all daydream about glitz and glam: what else are daydreams for? And then we come back to earth and actually get to work. Oh joy.

      I am traditionally published; my publisher is Ambassador Intl. However, all of the covers on my blog (other than that for The Soldier's Cross, which was done by the great team at Ambassador) were done by myself. They're pretty simple, but I enjoyed making them and I'm glad you like their look!

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    2. Exactly, what else are daydreams for? I love it... and I spend most of my time doing it haha. ;D

      That's wonderful, making book covers is actually one of my most favorite things to do sometimes. But I haven't created a whole lot recently because I have had no reason to besides just for fun; I used to be a part of this website where you could post your story with a book cover. It was quite fun. :)

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  14. Great post! Very encouraging and inspiring. Thank you Abigail!

    I had to ask myself the "should I publish NOW?" question a few years ago. I had to face the facts. Nope. Maybe the book is ready, but I'm not. And is super important, like you said, if you're a teen writer to actually BE ready yourself. Writing isn't just about the book. It's about us too.

    I know you must get this a lot...but...congrats on being published! :) It's huge. And I'd very much like to be there one day myself.

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  15. I really never thought about it till I read this. Thanks for the great insight!
    http://whoklmee.blogspot.com/

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