The Publishing Type

I don’t know if this is true for your business, but in medicine, there are definitely types. Recently, I was sitting at the nurse’s station with several of my co-workers when this discussion came up. It is easy to tell if a nurse is going to make it in the ER within the first few shifts of their orientation. There is a certain attitude, work ethic, and demeanor that are likely consistent among ER nurses across the country.

Several experiences have led me to believe that there may also be a publishing type and I’m curious to know what others think. I’ve been quite surprised at some authorly discussions of late and wondered how there could even be controversy… yet, there is. What follows are qualities I think a writer needs to possess in order to seek publication. Notice, I didn’t say write. Anyone, literally, can put pen to paper and write. This is taking your hope, your dream, to the next level.

  1. Must love to read. This discussion has been raging over at a marketing loop of authors I follow. Several have complained that there are actual people who think they can craft a novel but hate reading. I find this problematic on several levels. First, I think writing is born from an enjoyment of reading. Your pulse has pounded at an author’s musings and you wonder if you could pull off such a feat. You’ll need to read extensively in the genre you hope to publish in if for no other reason than to know what’s being published. Reading in other genres will help your writing grow. Next, will be reading agent/editor’s submission guidelines. Really, the reading list is extensive.
  2. Must be able to multitask. Consider the following if you’re blessed enough to get a multi-book contract. Researching your next series, writing one book, and editing one (or more) novels at one time. Add to that blogging at several sites and developing your marketing strategy for your novel when it is released. Oh, and then there is likely your family, church and full-time job to add into the mix. What else should be on this list?
  3. Be able to organize. See #2.
  4. Must be able to follow direction. Agents and editors lament often about getting material they just don’t need or didn’t request. This is a waste of their time and you don’t want to be the thorn in their heel. If they ask for a one page synopsis—that’s what they actually mean and it’s not open for your interpretation. It’s not a challenge from them to you to get them to change their mind. The ability to do this will aid a lot in your developing a well-respected, professional reputation.
  5. You know how much more you need to learn. A continual love for learning is definitely a must if pursuing publication. I know I had a minor heart attack when my agent asked me for a book proposal. What is that?!? Recently, I was having coffee with a good friend of mine who is also a writer and we were talking about the current state of our relative manuscripts. Needless to say, we both wanted to shred them at the time. I said to her, “You know, the more I write, the more I know how much more I need to learn.” Do you feel this way? Did you feel that way after your first book was published? I think I buy more books now on the writing craft than ever before.

What are your thoughts? What qualities do you see in those who have successfully navigated the publishing road? Which would you take off my list?

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44 thoughts on “The Publishing Type

  1. I agree with every item on your list, Jordyn, especially the last one. Being teachable is key. I would also add a willingness to wait. We wait before publication, but the waiting doesn’t end once we sign a contract. Patience is required of published authors as well as pre-published.

  2. I agree with all of them. At the same time, I am proof there is a loophole. Admittedly, I’m an anomoly; but I am published, and I hate to read.

      • Jordyn,
        A perilous endeavor to request a writer tell you more 🙂 Thanks for being brave! My disdain for reading began in 2nd grade. We moved from Ohio to Florida the summer between 1st and 2nd grade. Schools in Florida were ahead, so that was a bit of a struggle. In 2nd grade this school assigned one book report a week, in addition to other homework. In addition to being a slow reader (with remarkable comprehension – forty years ago anyway!), I also am not adept at paraphrasing, which made writing a report on a second grade book tricky. To this day, reading has never been an enjoyable activity for me, only a labor to acquire necessary information. A motivating factor for homeschooling our children. I want them to love to read.

        Ironically, I married an avid reader. He reads for relaxation – puts him to sleep! Reading wires my brain, because I can’t turn the editor off. I’ve always had a natural ability when it comes to grammar. So, when I read a book, I pick up the errors that slipped through the proofreaders and editors. I want to fix it but I can’t. Drives me crazy!

        So, I love to edit; but I hate to read for any other purpose. Everyone who knows I write assumes I read. They are shocked when they discover differently. It is a stereotype for a reason: by and large it is true!

        As for what I publish…I’ve been blessed to write for a number of local and national publications, in print and online. I worked in medicine for 12 years. I had an injury that took me out of the clinic, then a buyout that took me out of management. At the time of the buyout, we had just had our second baby and decided it was time for me to stay home. That’s when God rekindled my love for writing, a passion I’d forgotten existed! As He opens doors, I walk through. He orchestrated a relationship with a couple who writes marriage books. It was a right time, right place God moment. They knew they needed more help than what their editor at the publisher could give. It was an amazing project where I got to “do my thing”, sort of a cross between editing and ghostwriting. I also have that same relationship with a writer who puts out an ongoing devotional. Aside from a few ongoing writing gigs, my current big project is ghostwriting a leadership fable.

        I’m enjoying the information gleaned from your blog post and the comments that follow. What a wonderful group of fellow writers here! Looking forward to reading more from you, growing and learning with everyone here!

      • A perilous endeavor to request a writer tell you more… I loved that line.

        Your journey as a young person sounds a lot like my oldest daughter who is now age 9 and in third grade. She has really struggled with reading but has amazing comprehension– particularly for fiction. I know that having to do a book report/wk would totally stress her out and squash her love of reading. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened.

        I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog. There are a lot of great people here ready and willing to share their knowledge.

        Many blessings to you….

  3. Determination.

    I actually recently blogged about this quality in “My top 10 tips for fiction writers”. I think that determination to push, and push — and push — is what you need if you have all the above qualities.

    We probably all know people who can write better than us, but what sets us apart is the mindset of “I will not stop until I publish [enter title here].”

  4. You nailed it, Jordyn! Great post! When I was starting out, I found the most difficult of your points for me was “able to take directions”. I also found that if I wanted to survive I’d better learn to do just that and learn fast!!
    One of the questions I always ask writers when I present at a conference or workshop is “what books do you read.” I’m always amazed at how many times I hear, “Well I really don’t read that much…” AAARRRGGGHHHHH…..

    • Sue,

      I just cannot understand this. I think reading also helps to plant story structure in your mind. I know several great writing instructors– James Scott Bell being one– who literally says take your favorite six books and analyze them to help you learn story structure.

      I’m guessing that would be torture for a non-reader.

      • Jordyn and Sue,

        In a response to Jordyn above, I just left my story of how I became a non-reader. But this post reminded me of something relevant. I have a WONDERFUL writing group that I attend. Most of what I’ve taken them to critique has been article format, usually on workplace issues. I began ghostwriting a leadership fable, and I was having to write dialogue and setting and eek! Over the years I have been attending this writers group, I have heard some amazing writing and listened to gifted critique. My first attempt at the fable was pitiful, barren may be a more appropriate description. One of the members understood what I was trying to do and recommended a book that was similar. It wasn’t about leadership, but it was a fable. I got the book and read it. I wasn’t reading for pleasure, I was reading to learn. I was paying attention to how the author set a scene, how he introduced characters and described them, how he crafted dialogue. I realized the value in the exercise and read parts of three more books. They were each a bit different and allowed me to hone different aspects of my writing.

        Even though I’m a non-reader, having a specific purpose makes reading palatable. I do enjoy learning. My preferred method isn’t reading, but I’ll do it if I have to 🙂

  5. Every one of your points resonates with me, but especially the one about reading. I think so much of how I write comes from many many years of reading various authors, especially in the historical fiction genre. Our brains take in the how as we read others’ words, and that’s a marvelous thing. Then, when we sit down to craft our novels, a voice emerges that is uniquely our own. Oh, it has been forged by a thousand things we’ve read, but out of those reads emerges our unique style.

  6. Perfect post, Jordyn! And of course, I love ALL your posts because they relate to nursing or medicine, which is my other great passion in life, too. I think you’re spot on! I’m a house supervisor & adult med/surg charge . . . what’s that say about my publishing-type? There ought to be a nurse that matches up to every kind of writer, sorta like they match up all the Starbucks drinks with personalities, lol!

    • Amy, are you working 3 twelves/wk? How are you doing that with the writing? I’m considering increasing my hours and just curious how other’s handle it. Especially another RN.

      How did I miss getting to talk with you about nursing in September?

  7. 100% agree,,, and there are definitely types for all careers. I used to be a teacher and I always knew which teachers would be running to the principal during the first week of school based on the first day.

  8. Whew, I met the list! Although, I think it applies to almost any career. Even in pharmaceutical research I must read, multitask, organize, follow directions (the FDA is very picky about that one), and continually learn. We can often tell within days who has the mindset to do research. Skills I can teach; personality drives success. Thanks for the reminder that it applies to my writing just as it does to anything else.

    Guess I better get to work on my platform! Talk about having a great deal to learn…

      • I wrote a historical fiction, and am working on a dystopian YA for NaNo. Interestingly I’ve read mostly dystopian, fantasy, and paranormal YA, especially recently (I read whatever my children do so I can discuss it with them), but have a much easier time writing historical because that’s what I grew up reading. Unfortunately, it also means I have no idea what the current historicals on the market are like. Back to #1 and #5!

  9. I think you’ve nailed some essentials, Jordan. I also agree with the additions so far on our list.

    I would also add that for a person to make it in the publishing business he/she has to be have thick skin. Whether it’s from a critique partner, editor, or reviewer, an author has to be able to listen to criticism with an objective ear. Difficult for sure, but necessary to survive. Your work will never get better if you don’t listen to what others say. Of course, you also have to have the self-confidence to weed through the comments, saving only those that will truly help and letting the rest go.

    As for the first item on your list – I would’ve never considered taking up writing if I hadn’t been a life-long reader. To me, a writer who doesn’t like to read is like a chef that doesn’t like to eat. Where would they find their passion to create? The non-fiction world might be different if an expert has vital information to share with others. But for fiction? I can’t imagine it.

    • I agree, Karen. Having thick skin is a must! I love what you say about having discernment regarding critique and I think that is a hard skill to develop.

      When I first started writing, I’d constantly have people critique. Problem was, I felt like I needed to please everyone and I never moved past the first 30,000 words.

      Now, I wait until the first draft is finished before I get other’s opinions. Having now written a couple of full length novels, I find myself saying more, “That’s a good point, I can incoorporate that.” and at other times saying, “I am the author. I can’t do that because it would not be best for the book.”

      It’s a hard skill and I’m still learning it. Because, of course, I want everyone to love my book!!

      • Good point about discernment in receiving critique. It is important to differentiate comments that will make our message/story more clear versus those that will change our voice.

        When I give critiques I try very hard to be mindful of separating the technical aspects of writing from the author’s voice. I don’t want to advise authors to change who they are (critique their voices). I want to help them become the best “them” they can be (critique the writing)!

  10. Jordyn, great thoughts to ponder! I guess there are “types” in all industries, but I’d never given it much thought. Number 5 on your list is so very key. I love listening to other author’s wisdom about the craft of writing, the diligence of marketing, and the pursuit of their called dream. I’ll never know it all, and I’m glad. It keeps me pursuing tirelessly…

  11. Jordyn- very interesting post! I appreciate your thoughts.

    I would add this though. The multitasking has taken a new form and intensity in the last five years because of social media. While a multitasking criterion for writers may be true now, it hasn’t always been true. The personality type for writers is changing as a result of the new requirements of social media. And that may deprive us of some of the best writers.

    • Rosslyn,
      An astute observation. The multitasking of writing I can handle. The social media aspect quickly becomes overwhelming and can easily slip into a time vacuum, sidetracked in nonproductive actions. Social media has taken multitasking and time management to a new level.

      • This is something I hadn’t considered and it is interesting to think about how this is effecting those that aren’t techno savvy or just plain don’t want to pursue social media. I can understand the want for privacy and just writing…

        Very interesting point.

  12. Great post. I sometimes have to take a step back and stare at all the multi-tasking. I feel so much pulling for my attention that is writing related (especially social media) but not getting the job done–but you’re right. It’s all a part of being serious about publishing in this age.

  13. Karen is so right about the thick skin – it’s part of being able to learn! Others touched on patience and determination, but I think the word is perseverence, the ability to keep going no matter what (how disappointed you are to see all those redlines, how much you need to rework, how many rejections) until you reach your goal of being published. I think “The Publishing Type” is not really an accurate description here since it implies actively publishing rather than getting to be published, traditionally at that. So many are actively publishing themselves, which is a horse of a different color. “The Successfully Published Type” would work, I think, for all published types. #4 would include following printer specs for indies.

  14. Love this post, Jordyn — every quality you list is spot-on (I would imagine…I am not published so I am just guessing!). I would also add perseverance — because I’m not published I can honestly say that this road to publishing takes incentive, ambition, drive, courage and plain old perseverance (I think I just added five more qualities!). I’ve wanted to give up more than once, but something drives me to keep pushing (maybe I should simply call this stubborness!!).

  15. I think you covered this really well here, but I would add as either one extra point or part of your last point that an author needs to love talking about his/her books and ideas. You need to be passionate about it, even if you’re an introvert. I tend to be shy, but I’ve had to learn over the years that it isn’t bragging to simply tell someone that I wrote a book and to explain what it’s about. I’m sure extroverts have the opposite problem!

    • This is a very interesting point you make, Ed. When I was in “talks” with my agent before he signed me… he asked me, “What do you like about this book?” That was a little odd to me. Of course, I said, “I love this story. I love Lilly and what she’s had to overcome.”

      Later.. I listened to a talk he gave about the decision to take on authors and in that talk he said, “The writer must be passionate about their work!” Then that question made a lot of sense for me. It’s true, isn’t it? If you can’t sell it, how can an agent get behind it?

  16. I just sat with a newbie writer this morning. He’s gone from “I’m having fun writing a story” to “I want to know if this can get published.”
    This is just a little of what I told him: Now you hunker down and learn the craft–go to workshops, conferences, read blogs, etc. He’s beginning to realize what he doesn’t know. And I think you’re on the mark, Jordyn: The longer you’re in the writing world, the more you realize how much you have to learn. No saying “I’ve arrived!”

    • This is a bit of, which comes first, the chicken or egg, sparked by Beth’s comment, “He’s gone from ‘I’m having fun writing a story’ to ‘I want to know if this can be published.” Here’s my train of thought:

      Jordyn said, “What follows are qualities I think a writer needs to possess in order to seek publication. Notice, I didn’t say write. Anyone, literally, can put pen to paper and write.”

      An individual who seeks publication is not necessarily a writer. As Jordyn said, “Anyone, literally, can put pen to paper and write.” But, as I read Beth’s post, it occurred to me that the ability to write does not make one a writer. A writer writes because it is inside them and they will burst if they don’t let it out. There are some writers who dream of being published, but for others it may be enough to pass their stories down to family.

      I have no doubt there are published authors whose primary goal from the outset was publication. I do not believe they can automatically be categorized as writers.

      Part of me didn’t want to post this, feeling like it was splitting hairs. But the other part of me won. The part that thinks this might help someone realize which side of the fence they are on. This is in no way a judgemental differentiation. It is fine to aspire to publication but not have the burning desire to write. Ghostwriters are pleased as punch these people exist!

      For someone who is struggling with publication, what a gift to be able to recognize where you fall on the “able to write – want to be published – writer” continuum. Then you can lay down any false illusion that you are something you are not. This will allow you to realistically assess your own skill set and enlist the help of others who can help you achieve your dreams – all guilt free because you aren’t trying to be someone you weren’t created to be! How wonderful to experience this freedom for ourselves. What a blessing if we can help someone else who is struggling with this identity crisis.

  17. Great post! I would add that writers also need to be able to embrace change with all that is happening in the publishing world. It’s not always easy but essential to keeping up with the latest on the publishing horizon!

  18. “You know, the more I write, the more I know how much more I need to learn.”

    This definitely resonates with me. Writing never feels easier and may even feel more difficult, even though I get better at it – very different than most skills. I think it’s because there’s always a new issue to tackle. When I started out I was just happy to be able to write a coherent story. As I grew in confidence with the basic mechanics, so didn’t have to think about them so hard, I always found something else to challenge me. Reading writing advice always give me more new things to consider as I write. So there’s always something new to learn, but the good thing being, that gives me ways to make better stories with more depth and layers.

    Going through my first professional edit after my first sale might have been the best learning experience I ever had. I’d worked with critique partners before, which had prepared me a bit (I hate to imagine how tough it would be to someone without that experience) but still there were times the editing felt like being worked over with a rubber hose, then scrubbed down with a wire brush. But I came out of the other end of it intact, more knowledgeable, and with a big list of problems words to always comb my MS for before submission.

    • Becky, I’m going to keep your second paragraph in mind as I work through my publisher’s edits.

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