Five Myths of Publishing

The 30-plus journals on my bookshelf prove that I’ve had a passion for writing since I was a little girl. And after my first son was born, I began prayerfully crafting and submitting book proposals. Up until that point, I had been a prolific freelance writer, but [here’s a reality check] it took me five years and about fifty rejections before I got my first contract.

Now, after ten-plus years as an author in the Christian book industry (Christian Booksellers Association), I can see how much I’ve grown as a writer, and as a person of faith.

I’ll be transparent here: before I became an author with a traditional publisher, I believed several myths, which are common to aspiring writers. I want to share, and debunk, them here. [Note: I don’t write fiction, and I haven’t tried self-publishing, so my statements will be coming from a traditionally published non-fiction author’s perspective.]

1. If I find an agent, I’ll get a book deal. I’ve had several agents, and all of them had their strengths. However, in all but two of my contracts, I already had an offer when I approached the agent. I’m sorry to report that signing with an agent–though it’s something to be celebrated–is not a golden ticket to Book Deal Land.

2. If I don’t have an agent, I won’t get a book deal. What leads to book deals? Great ideas, stellar proposals, strong platforms, and authentic relationships with editors. Small and mid-size publishers are ALWAYS looking for new talent, so write like crazy; be teachable; meet editors at conferences; and speak or do other things to increase your visibility.

3. If my book is good enough, I won’t have to market it. How I wish this were true! Unless you name starts with “Bill” and ends with “Graham,” you’ll need to participate in your publisher’s marketing and publicity plan. You may be asked to guest-blog, send out review copies, write op-eds, speak, and/or appear as a guest on radio and television shows–in both traditional and online media. There are ways to market yourself without selling your soul–or upchucking. I promise! (My advice? Pray; BE YOURSELF; find mentors in the industry; and talk to your editor, agent, or fellow authors about creative ways to fight stage fright and shyness.)

4. If I follow a certain marketing plan, my book will be a bestseller. People make big money selling this lie and creating plans you can follow in order to get your book on certain lists. But those plans are expensive, time-consuming, and not-at-all foolproof. To be honest, the book I did the least marketing on (because it was a work-for-hire) sold many, many times better than the tomes I did extensive marketing and promotion on.

So what’s true in this “house of mirrors” called publishing?

Great writers WILL get published–in some form. Readers want to buy amazing books, which they can read and tell their friends about. Publishers long to find one-of-a-kind ideas, brought to life by seasoned, unique and professional writers.

And, most important of all, if the Creator has given you a talent for writing, He wants to use that gift to encourage others. There are so many ways to be published now. The whole world has changed over the last few years, and publishing is evolving at warp-speed. So hone your craft; seek His face; and ask Him what He wants to teach you on the journey.

You might just be surprised–and pleased–by what you learn.

About the author: Communications expert, mom, wife and chocoholic Dena Dyer is a contributor to over twenty anthologies and the author of six books, with a seventh (25 Christmas Blessings) coming out in September from Barbour Publishing. Visit her blog/site, “Mother Inferior,” to find out more about her books, family, and faith.

22 Replies to “Five Myths of Publishing”

  1. Wow, thanks, Dena, for the practical, down to earth and encouraging words. Wait – you can upgrade to the bestseller plan?? Why did no one tell me this??

    I expecially needed to hear this just now:

    “And, most important of all, if the Creator has given you a talent for writing, He wants to use that gift to encourage others. There are so many ways to be published now. The whole world has changed over the last few years, and publishing is evolving at warp-speed. So hone your craft; seek His face; and ask Him what He wants to teach you on the journey.”

    This has been the mainstay of my prayers lately. Thanks for the reminder that He may have more in mind for us than getting our work published. He may want to teach us something. Something much, much bigger than publishing. Something far more beautiful and eternal. It’s just so dadgum easy to get caught up in that warp-speed frenzy sometimes, and it’s not even that much fun.

    1. Funny, how we can encourage someone in an area but forget to apply it to ourselves.

      I had a couple approach me about writing their story. Their focus was on publishing. I told them I couldn’t guarantee them a publishing deal, but beyond that, truly whether or not their story ever got published wasn’t the question. They were jumping the gun.

      I asked them if they felt God directing them to write their story. They said, “YES!” For now, that was all they needed to know. They needed to be obedient to His voice and write what He told them to write, trusting that if the day came to publish, He would go before them. I encouraged them to consider that what God had for them in the journey of writing their story could very well surpass every expectation they had about publishing.

      But, as I go about my own writing endeavors, it is so easy for me to focus on the bottom line of publishing and getting paid, forgetting completely about the journey. Thanks, Dena and Camille, for reminding me to stay focused on the journey.

      1. I know what you mean–sometimes I read what I’ve written and think, “I should heed my own advice.” LOL–guess that’s the human side of us.

        Thanks for taking time to read and give your feedback. I really appreciate it!

    2. It is easy to get caught in the frenzy, Camille. I’m glad the words spoke to your heart, and feel humbled that God used my difficult times and lessons learned to encourage you. Keep the faith–and not to be trite, but I truly believe HE is the plan. πŸ™‚ When we pursue Him, He WILL use us…just maybe not the way we would think. And those ways are often better (and wilder!) than what we can imagine.

  2. Dena, awesome words of wisdom here. As one just starting down the traditional publishing path, your list hits the top myths. Wow…30 journals. Impressive!

    1. Donna, thanks for your kind words. πŸ™‚ And yes, I have a lot of journals. It’s fun to read the ones from middle school, especially–with my crush of the week!

    1. Robyn, the fifth myth is that published writers don’t need a proofreader/editor. I changed the blog post when I uploaded it to this site, and then forgot to change the title. Ack! πŸ™‚ Thanks for noticing–that means you were paying attention.

  3. I appreciate that you are honest with us, while at the same time encouraging and optimistic. And I love the part about marketing being possible without selling your soul or upchucking — that made me laugh.

    Thank you!

    1. Michelle, I’m so glad I made you laugh. I think the publishing world (and all the heartache that goes with it) is too serious sometimes. πŸ™‚ Good to see you here!

  4. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. You have been such an encouragement to me. I am just starting on this whole publishing thing so I love getting advice from all of those who have gone on before me. I loved it.

    Glenda Parker

    1. Glenda, wow. That encourages ME. πŸ™‚ Thanks for the feedback. I had so many people who helped me as I was getting started, so I love to “pay it forward.” I pray God richly blesses you as you seek Him on the writing journey.

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