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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Who You Know or Who You Are?

Publishing is often considered an “It’s who you know” industry. And it often works that way.

But in many ways it’s not “who you know” as much as “who you are.”

You think:

  • “I’m no one. I’m not published. I’m still adding to my (growing) file of rejections.”
  • Or, “I’m no one. My first book didn’t do well and I can’t even get my agent to return my calls.”
  • Or even, “Sure my series sold well, but I’m still waiting for that big break that will make me the next Jerry B. Jenkins.”
Whatever goal you have yet to accomplish, do you feel you’re constantly dodging the next obstacle? Maybe you see yourself as George Jetson, walking his dog on that moving sidewalk outside his space bungalow—walking, walking, walking—but never getting anywhere.

Maybe it’s who you are

Are you the kind of writer who:

  • Bristles when someone suggests edits you don’t like?
  • Doesn’t use standard manuscript formatting?
  • Never follows up when an editor requests your proposal—with changes?
  • Always asks for deadline extensions?
  • Pushes ahead of others to get the seat at the editor’s side at a conference meal? (Think of Kenneth Mars’ role [right] as Hugh Simon in the 1972 movie, What’s Up, Doc?)
  • Brings every conversation back to you and your project?
  • Believes you know it all, but no one sees your brilliance?
If you see any of these traits in yourself, can you see how you are sabotaging your career? What changes can you make to be the kind of writer editors want to work with?

Editors prefer writers who are partners in the process—writers who have a long-term vision not just for their own careers, but for where their work fits into the larger picture. Be that writer and you’ll come to know and be known by the right people.

Michael Ehret is the Editor-in-Chief for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. He has written for newspapers and other print and online outlets. He edited several nonfiction books, was the senior editor for a faith-based financial services and insurance organization, and is the ezine editor for American Christian Fiction Writers.


  1. Michael, everything you said is so true.

  2. We must think alike, Michael. I teach a series of workshops for new writers called "Writer WannaBe" based on a similar premise: who you are determines what you write.

    People can learn to write (as the CWG has proven). But factors such as integrity and an ability to build/maintain right relationships have a huge impact on one's career.

    Your post serves as a great reminder that I must keep examining myself to make sure I'm not only writing the words but being the person God's called me to be. Thanks.

  3. Lena and Marti,

    Thanks for the affirmation. My post comes from my own past experiences--and what I learned from them.

  4. What a great piece, Michael. It's pertinent to life in general, as well as to writing. As another great writer once said, 'It's not all about me.'


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