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Four Great Lies About Publication

Often when I write, only misshapen vessels escape my fingers. Why? Because often I subcumb to fears.

Our fears can strangle and leave us blocked, unable to create. One of the great fears many writers have that blocks creativity is that we’ll never be published by a traditional publisher. Jennifer Crusie talks about this in her post, A Writer Without a Publisher Is Like a Fish Without a Bicycle.

Crusie says women were once fed four great lies. Writers, she says, are being fed four corresponding lies. And these lies can build unnecessary fears within us. What are these lies and how can we overcome them? Let’s look at my take on these lies Cruisie mentions in her article.

Lie #1: Being Published Makes Us “Real” Writers

The first lie women once were told was marriage made them “real” women. In the same way, today, Crusie says, writers are fed the lie that being published makes us “real” writers.

We are not to be ashamed that we are unpublished. Every single writer once stood in the same shoes. Were great writers less great before publication? I love reading biographies of writers. Many struggled to become published, and many never knew fame in their own lifetimes. Most wrote in relative obscurity. Yet, they were “real” writers.

We must proclaim the truth: Writers are real writers, whether published or unpublished.

Lie #2: We Must Change Our Writing to Wrangle a Publisher

The second lie for women, according to Crusie, was they had to change themselves to wrangle a husband. For writers, it’s we must change our writing to wrangle a publisher.

I think this is even more true if we are writing for the Christian market. (By the way, can a lie be more true?) Some Christian publishers expect certain things when they receive a manuscript. Writers can go crazy trying to meet those expectations.

This is the thing: We should be writing books that reflect who we are. As we write, we should not be trying to please a publisher, an agent, our critique partners, our spouses, our friends, or even our fans.

We should write with a dedication, with a narrow focus, aimed at the universal truth. Our fictional writing should convey more “truth” than nonfiction. When it does, it will resonate with all.

And this does not mean to be arrogant and unyielding to correction. Others may guide and correct our writing along the way, but, as we are in the process of writing, we should forget all else and focus on the story. Trying to please others while we are doing the actual writing will leave us confused and unfocused.

We must proclaim the truth: We will stay true to our vision.

Lie #3: Any Publication Is Better Than No Publication

“Any husband was better than no husband” was the third lie told to women. And, according to Crusie, the corollary for writers is “any publication is better than no publication.”

Let me expand this one to the lie: anyone buying my book is better than no one. Well, that might be true if we’re only interested in the monetary value of our book. If we think our book is of any integral worth—and hopefully we have done our best to make it so—it deserves not to be thrown at people willy nilly. That includes publishers. We should look for publishers who will be a good fit for our book, just as we need to look for readers who will value our book.

Spamming Facebook walls, sending unsolicited emails, pitching in bathrooms, and throwing ourselves at anyone and everyone makes us appear desperate.

An ugly sight.

I’ve got to say it. Don’t prostitute your manuscript or book.

We must proclaim the truth: We will treat our manuscript/book with the dignity it deserves and wait for the right publisher and readers.

Lie #4: Staying In a Bad Relationship With a Publisher Is Better Than No Relationship With a Publisher

And the last lie women were once told was even a bad marriage was better than no marriage. For writers it is staying in a bad relationship with a publisher is better than no relationship with a publisher.

And, again, this indicates what we think we and our books are worth. Are they worth being taken advantage of, ignored, or browbeaten by unscrupulous publishers? Before signing that contract, make sure your lawyer has gone over it with a fine-toothed comb. Do not lock yourself into an arrangement you will later regret.

If we find ourselves being taken advantage of by a publisher, our best bet is to hit the road and continue searching until we find someone who will treat us with respect. Sometimes that might mean ourselves. Today, it is easier than ever to self publish. And that might just be the route we need to take.

We must proclaim the truth: If we value our work and ourselves, we will refuse to stay in an unhealthy relationship with a publisher.

Because of our fears, we buy into these four lies. Let’s cast away our fears and proclaim the truth, to write fearlessly, thereby enabling us to overcome these lies and enjoy the dignity we deserve as writers.

# # #

Sheila Hollinghead is the author of  Thundersnow (In the Shadow of the Cedar) and Eternal Springs: 366 Daily Inspirations. She lives on a south Alabama farm with her husband of thirty-one years.

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3 comments on “Four Great Lies About Publication

  1. pastorgeorgemcvey
    May 31, 2012

    good article Sheila, all four are valid points. I must say the “don’t prostitute your manuscript” comment made me snort Pepsi out my nose. Thanks for sharing.

    • sheilahollinghead
      May 31, 2012

      Thanks! Sorry for the snorting thing. 🙂

  2. ceciliamariepulliam
    June 2, 2012

    Great post, Sheila! Thank you!

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This entry was posted on May 31, 2012 by in Guest Bloggers and tagged , , , .

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