The Luxury of Being Underpublished

O brave apprentice authors take heart: The grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the writing fence. As much as I’d love nothing more than to be a multipublished author, getting a dream contract isn’t going to solve all my problems. In fact, a publishing deal can herald the start of even bigger insecurities.

Don’t believe me? Have a peek over the pickets, where my published neighbours live.

1. A typical unpublished author might spend decades coming up with an original plot and lovable characters. They agonise over every syllable, erase excess adverbs or adjectives, wonder ad nauseam if the bad guy should be drawn and quartered or simply vanquished to a bleak parallel universe.

A typical author under contract might have a couple of months to deliver a polished manuscript. People other than immediate family and pets are depending on them. Any delays mean altering the timetable for marketing, artwork, printing and distribution. They worry they’ll never get another contract.

2. A typical unpublished author might enter a writing competition to help her write to a deadline.

A typical author with a two-book deal might submit their second novel to an editor. For various reasons, the manuscript isn’t up to scratch. The editor wants a complete revision. Turnaround time: two weeks. They worry they’ll never get another contract and that they’ll never write a book as brilliant as the first one.

3. A typical unpublished author might enter a writing competition [isn’t cut & paste fabulous?] to get unbiased feedback because, frankly, loved ones adore anything they write, even if it’s awful. Entrants are anonymous. Judges’ comments range from encouraging to indifferent to soul-destroying.

A typical author sees the bound product of their very own blood, sweat and ink released unto the public. The Internet becomes the Enemy as critics and readers flood Amazon with the verdict: Typical Author’s Book Sucks. They worry they’ll never get another contract, that they’ll never write a decent book let alone a brilliant one, that the most savage critic will find out where they live and personally throw rotten tomatoes at them.

I could go on and on.

At the 2006 Romance Writers of Australia conference, not-so-typical authors Trish Morey and Lillian Darcy spoke with nostalgia over their pre-published days. Although grateful for her published status, Morey lamented over not having more time to tweak and retweak her work. And we all gasped when Darcy confided she’d been published too soon. She would love to go back and rework her first book now that she’s a better, more experienced writer.

So dream of publication , by all means, but steel yourself against the sharp pinch of reality.

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