Recently, I spoke at a conference in Massachusetts. My presentation was an hour long.For the other 47 hours I was there I mentored aspiring novelists. On the flight home, I wondered why I had bonded with so many of these amazingly talented, bright and interesting people in a way I never had at conferences before. It was because we shared something. In this brave new world of publishing, we all came naked to the table.
Obviously, I am not being literal. In some ways, a Lady Godiva moment would be preferable to that of the Emperorâ€™s New Clothes. Sitting down with an agent, editor or published author to bare your creative soul is incredibly daunting. The new writer faces rejection of their vision, their dream, and their talent.
Because I started writing on a dare, because I had not dreamed of being a novelist all my life, I didnâ€™t feel that creative vulnerability early in my career. It was only later, after I had published, after I flexed my writer’s voice, after I had touched someone who read my words, after I had seen books with my name covering a wall in a bookstore, when I saw my book on the USA Today best seller list that I craved what those writers did. It was also then that I was stripped bare in front of agents and editors who seemed to accept me as easily as they dismissed me; who thrilled at my successes and went on to someone else when there was a brighter star on the horizon. Because I was a businesswoman before I was a writer, I understood that publishing was a business, agents and editors had bottom lines and that fate, luck and fashion sometimes separated the bestseller from everyone else. It doesnâ€™t make the journey any easier to understand that.
Still, I could not complain. I was making a living as a writer. I was grateful and happy. Then things changed again. I became an indie author: self-published, creatively naked as a jaybird, down the chute after being up the ladder, back to square one.
No great publishing house lays claim to my work, there is no editor validating my vision, no sales force singing my praises to booksellers who will pile my books in a pyramid on a table. There is, in fact, no book to hold or sign.There are only the words I have written and saved to a file, a cover made of pixels and the upload to Amazon and Nook and Smashwords.Now, it’s me and the reader. I am a click away from praise or complaint.I have come naked to the table and I gotta say it is chilly in the chair.
I hope the writers I spoke with at the conference learned something from me. Hereâ€™s what I learned from them:
Published or not, we are brothers and sisters under the skin
Be courageous and present your work with pride
If you are asked for an opinion, give it knowing you have a responsibility to be honest
Our passion for the written word will keep us warm
Help a writer when you can, good things will return to you
So, a salute to the writers I met in Massachusetts. You were an incredibly creative and courageous group. My wish is that you will all be clothed in publication glory sooner than later.