Yes, You Can Successfully Publish Your Book
April 19, 2022 § 9 Comments
By Dinty W. Moore
Writing a book is hard enough, but for many what follows is a path to publication fraught with anxiety and concern, and for too many writers, a depressing sense of being powerless.
All that hard work, and then what? Agony and frustration?
It shouldn’t be that way, and it doesn’t have to be. Yes, the market is highly competitive, and various publishing industry practices contribute to those feelings of isolation and hopelessness, yet success is more within our grasp than some of us realize.
What is needed, is clear-headedness.
Having mentored writers all these many years, I am regularly asked variations on:
- How do I get an agent?
- Do I really need to get an agent?
- Why are agents so difficult to reach?
- Should I go with a small press?
- What about self-publishing?
All of these are good questions, and it is important to note that there are no one-size-fits-all answers to any of them.
What writers need to realize, I think, is that what happens with your book once it is written and edited is up to you, in your control. You have worked hard on your project, put in the hours, offered up the blood, sweat, and honesty, made family or work sacrifices, toiled to learn craft and polish every page, and when done, the question you SHOULD be asking yourself is:
What will make me feel that all this hard work was worth it?
The important word in that sentence is “me,” meaning, of course, you, the author. It is not up to the agents, not up to the publishing establishment, not up to some negative voice in your head, it is up to you.
If you are a writer who will not feel fulfilled without the validation of a major New York City publishing house, if you will not feel proud of yourself for the time and effort and sacrifice, then yes, you will need to suffer the slings and arrows of finding an agent, the initial rejection, reaching out to more agents, more rejection, finding an agent, and eventually the exciting but sometimes excruciating process of waiting to see if your agent can make a big sale. If that is what you need to feel validated, then that is what you need. But the decision is up to you.
If, however, publishing with a smaller publishing house, maybe a regional publisher, maybe a University Press, will make you feel as if all the work you put into your book was worth it, than that going this route is certainly success by my definition and should be by yours. Small presses have numerous advantages over their bigger rivals, especially the attention they give to individual books.
And there is no shame in self-publishing. If holding a book in your hand, written by you, carefully edited, professionally produced, showing it to your friends, selling at events, makes you proud, makes you feel as if all the hard work put in was time well spent, then that certainly is success as well.
Don’t let others dictate to you what “success” means in book publishing. Decide for yourself what makes it worth your while–and then celebrate your efforts.
Allison K Williams, a fantastic writing coach and author of Seven Drafts: Self-Edit Like a Pro From Blank Page to Book, and I will be offering a virtual Publishing and Craft Intensive next month to discuss these ideas and much more. We hope that you can join us to refine your craft, connect with fellow writers, generate new work, and explore the various paths to publishing. Details and a daily schedule breakdown can be found here:
We would love to see you there to discuss our writing, our writerly community, and a writer’s many publishing options.
More resources on the various paths to publishing:
Dinty W. Moore is author of the memoirs Between Panic & Desire and To Hell With It, and the writing guides Crafting the Personal Essay and The Mindful Writer, among other books. He has published essays and stories in Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, Georgia Review, Kenyon Review, Creative Nonfiction, and elsewhere. He edits Brevity magazine.