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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

What is it really like to be published?

Before I was published, I woke up, drank coffee, got the kids off to school, went to work, wrote whenever and wherever I got the chance.

Now that I'm published, won an award, hit a couple best-sellers list, I wake up, drink coffee, get the kids off to school, go to work and write whenever and wherever I get the chance.

Okay, it's a very similar life, yes, but there are some differences:

When I give writing advice, people don't automatically discard what I have to say in lieu of another writer who happens to be published.

My family no longer refers to my desire to get published as a pipe dream.

Time spent daydreaming is now considered by others to be actual work (before publication I was just being lazy.)

I don't feel embarassed when I propose to teach at a writers conference, because I've been validated by the publishing world. Opinions are very contagious.

Before I was published, I didn't get a whole lot of fan mail, with the exception of some kind soul who would tell me I encouraged them at a writer's conference, or here on Novel Journey. Now, I get letters and emails on a pretty consistent basis, many of which are so uplifting, they find a place in my sunshine folder. (The folder I keep to read on days I feel like a miserable hack.)

My ditzyness is no longer viewed as an automatic discount of intelligence, because, come on, how stupid can you really be to write a novel and get it published? (Rhetorical, please don't answer).

But with these perks, come some stressors. I no longer can just write, I have to sell books, do book signings, answer the same question a hundred times in interviews.

I don't just deal with critiques from friends that no one but me will see, when I am critiqued, it is public and there's nothing I can do about the so-called suggestions because the book is out. Editing over. Those critics can rip me apart publicly on sites like Amazon and book blogs, and I can't so much as comment without looking like sour grapes.

People assume that I have money. I still work as a nurse full-time, and my salary is more than six times what I made as a writer last year. This year will be better, but I'm pretty sure I'll still make more as a nurse. Probably way more.

I got on an elevator the other night and a nurse said to me, "Why are you still here? I thought you'd be living it up in NYC, travelling to Euorpe or something."

Um.... no. I'm still buying store brand cereal and watching every dime.

The pressure is also higher. When I turned in Dry as Rain last year, I was asked for a major rewrite. Before I was published when someone told me my manuscript had a fatal flaw, I just set it aside and started something new. Now, I don't have that option. I had to make the book work, knowing that whatever I wrote, good or mediocre, would be on the shelves in a year, defining me as a writer and directing the rest of my career.

Before you're published, numbers are only important when you're talking about the platform you're building. Now, they still matter there, but also the number of books you sell directly results in whether or not you get another contract and how much you get paid.

Sometimes a great book will only sell a few thousand copies, even when you've done everything you can to help promote it. Publishing is a roulette wheel in many ways.

I just worked three twelve-hour night shifts as a nurse, and have two days off. I'm sick. Before I was published, I would have let myself have those two days to rest before going back to work. Now, I can't because my second book is due tonight at midnight. After I take the dog to the vet, drop my son off at school, pick up some groceries for dinner, I'll spend the day reading through my manuscript with the pressure that these very words, will be out on shelves and in critics hands soon, tomorrow, I go back to work as a nurse.

Being published is wonderful, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Actually, it exceeds my dreams, just not in the way I thought it would. I'm not rich or famous, and I'm certainly not living it up in Europe or NYC, but I am content knowing that my words are touching people in ways I never imagined.


  1. Thank you for your honesty into your real world of being a published author. May you continue to write from the heart, with purpose and passion, and never lose your love to write and to speak to people through your pages.

  2. From the middle of the creek I can see both sides, Gina. I freelance for magazines but write novels for myself (so far). I'm sure most non-industry people have no concept of the life of a writer, but non-published writers probably have pretty unrealistic ideals, too. Contract commitments change the perspective. Last week I wrote a guest post on the topic of what novelling 'success' means and whether it really matters, because I think there are some writers who will find it hard to cope with the changed expectations that come with publication. It takes self-discipline to survive... that, and a lot of prayer. ;)

    BTW, I loved Crossing Oceans. Beautiful, poignant story and wonderful characters.

  3. Wow, this information and advice is invaluable. I've never thought about the actual, day life changes that being published will engender. Its so good to see actual experience though. Thank you for this.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  4. And your last sentence is the one that's eternal, Gina. Touching lives is what it's all about. We put our hearts into our stories, knowing there are truths woven into the fabric of entertainment. God knows who they are for.

  5. Great post, Gina. And so true! Thanks for sharing your insights. Keep 'em coming!

  6. I so appreciate this candid and insightful account. Thank you, Gina.

  7. Oh, Sally, email me when you can!

    Thanks everyone. :)

  8. After my children's books were published, any royalties that came were quickly used for non-glamorous items of necessity. That was the 1980's.

    The books have been re-issued. Now it will be put back into my author platform to market the books.

  9. Thanks for your honesty, Gina. What a great post - I'll be tweeting it.

  10. What a wonderful post, Gina! And Crossing Oceans sounds wonderful, as well. What an intriguing premise. I look forward to reading it.

  11. As an author who has self-published and now has two contracts with a traditional publisher, I really appreciated this post. It helps me see that no matter how many numbers I sell, some things will always remain the same. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  12. Michelle sent me over to read your post. I love the Sunshine Folder. What a lovely idea, as are you. :)

  13. Wow! What a great post! My latest novel is scheduled for release in July and I often reflect on how this will, if at all, change my life. I too am a mother with two small children - writing is my other full time job. Thanks so much for sharing your insights. They are very helpful! :)

  14. Gina, Great post--a heads-up for the yet-to-be published and a "yeah, me too" for those of us whose work has been published but whom fame and fortune seem to have missed. Thanks for sharing (and bless you for working those 12 hours shifts; there are some doctors who appreciate nurses).

  15. I'm just starting to feel this myself.

    One thing that's really hard for me is that people expect things from me before I meet them--it's not a blank slate anymore. In many ways, I've already been judged.

    That's intimidating for me.

  16. Fantastic post. As a published novelist and memoirist, and as a 911 dispatcher who still works 4 12-18 hour shifts a week, THIS IS EXACTLY RIGHT. This is it. I'm not in my penthouse in NYC, but I did go to Hawaii a couple of weeks ago. For three days (my weekend). And we stayed in a $50/night room. Dispatching pays more than writing, but the writing is my heart. (I even write before work, at 4am, because I have to, and because I need to. I know you get it.)

    Great post, thank you so much.


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