1) No matter who you are or how brilliantly you write, someone somewhere won’t like it.
This is important to know not only for the submission process, where you =will= get rejections and will need to persevere, but for afterward, when your work is out there on the market to fend for itself with reviewers and readers alike. I have never had a project that every single publishing house has bid on, not even from my biggest best-sellers. Does this mean that the editors who passed have bad taste or some kind of super secret agenda? No. It means that it wasn’t to their taste or their needs at the time. Or they have something already on their list they consider too similar or they can’t get approval to beat the offer already on the table. Or … You see the point. Rejection isn’t personal. Likewise, with some exceptions, like those Amazon.com reviewers who slam books simply for not being available in Kindle form (something the authors have no control over), reviews aren’t personal. You and your very best friend may not agree on the movie you want to see or your feelings about the film you just viewed. You can’t expect uniformity from reviewers either. Every reader, whether reviewing for professional, personal, pleasure or class-assignment purposes, has his or her own tastes, preferences, hot buttons, blind spots, pet peeves, great loves…etc. You can’t please all of the people all of the time. A thick skin is a great asset for a writer.
2) Things take time.
Waaayyy, way more time than you think they should. Occasionally, offers come in overnight, your editor gets notes to you exactly when s/he says s/he will, the post office delivers everything on schedule, your book comes out in a matter of months, the stars align, the clouds part and the heavenly hosts sing paeans to your prowess. Um, yeah, I got carried away. You get my point. Publishing is a lot of hurry up and wait. Mentally add days or weeks onto when you’re told to expect an agent or editor to respond. I know I’ll often give writers dates by which I desperately hope to get back to them on their work, but then another author will ask me for a rush read, or there’ll be a dispute between a writer and her editor I have to read and resolve overnight, or I have to review and get out a contract before an author leaves for a backpacking tour through Europe…. Of course, things might come up for you as well – surgery, computer failure, a sick kid. In the event that the unforeseen rears its ugly head, let your agent or editor know so that schedules can be adjusted.
If you’re a new author, it may be that your publication date is farther out than you anticipated. Books being bought today are being scheduled for as far out as 2012. For the most part, 2011 is already booked. Plus, publishers have a lot more to do for an author new to their list than for someone they’ve been publishing for awhile. They have to introduce your work to their sales and marketing departments, discuss how to position the work so that it stands out in the field, in many cases work on developing your “brand.” If you’re an established author, chances are your books already hold a regular place in the publisher’s schedule, so your works will likely come out sooner rather than later.
3) Getting published is only the first step. Staying published and successful can be a full-time job.
Yup, writing, submitting and selling are only part of the package. Remember that there will also be editorial notes and revision, line editing, copyediting…all things you’ll have to stop writing on your WIP to do on the manuscript you’ve already sold when it comes back from the publisher. When you’re giving deadlines for future works, remember to plan for extra time for these extra steps. As every author knows, you’ll be looking over that novel you’ve sold until your eyes cross and you come to hate it. If you haven’t hit that point, you haven’t looked at it quite enough.
And that’s not all. Oh no! Books are not released in a vacuum. Or, if they are, no one notices. The publisher takes care of some things, of course, like creating the cover and back cover copy, getting advance reading copies out to reviewers, placing ads, getting the book into their catalog and getting that catalog out everywhere, etc. But there are some things you’ll need to do as well: develop a website and a web presence, use your own local or specialized contacts to get the word out on your novel, let your alumni newsletters, local papers and anyone else you can think of know about the release of your books. Possibly start a blog or volunteer to do guest blogs. There are a lot of things your publisher and their publicist can do for you, but no one can be you. No one else will quite have the same enthusiasm, understanding and insight for your work that you do. I kept track, and in the month that my debut young adult novel, VAMPED, released, I wrote over sixty-pages of promotion … guest blogs, press releases, etc. It definitely pays off.
Part II of this, of course, is that you shouldn’t let blogging, tweeting and the gratification of an instant audience keep you from writing your creative works. If you’re only writing to be heard, you can stand on a soapbox and accomplish the same thing. If you’re writing because you’re compelled by stories that can’t be contained, you need impulse control. You need to be able to step away from the phone and the internet and focus on what’s most important…the writing.