New subscribers, I promise we will get to how to write proposals and stuff like that posts very soon, but things are bonkers in the world, if you haven’t noticed, and I want to talk today about some loftier ideas, than, like will you get rejected if you put Dear Kate instead of Dear Ms. McKean. (The answer there is no, you won’t get rejected for something like that.)
I hope you have plans for 2021. I mean, I hope you have writing and submission and publishing goals that you hope to achieve this year. Big or small, I think goals are helpful for keeping organized and motivated and I recommend making small ones you can frequently tick off a list. Wrote a page? TICK! Made a spreadsheet? TICK! You get the idea.
But, I’m not here to tell you how to set your own goals. Today I’m here to tell you that whatever you expect to happen, and however you expect it to happen—it’s probably not going to happen the way you think it will. I’m not saying it’s NOT going to happen at all. I bet you will still finish your book, send out your queries, match with the right agent, but the way you think it will happen will probably not happen.
Why? Because nothing does, amiright? I’m trying not to be defeatist. I mean, I really don’t actually believe that we will be in this plague-and-crumbling-democracy hellhole forever. I can’t believe that. It’s just, given how the last year has gone, I am opening myself up to letting go and letting the universe tell me how it’s going to be. Working to do what I can, but letting go of my expectations of how it will happen.
I can only take care of what I can take care of: reading, writing, editing, researching. This is true for you, too. Do your reading. Do your writing and editing. Research your genre and comps and agents and publishers as much as you can (this newsletter is a start!). But let go of what happens next. If it’s been two weeks since you queried anyone and you’ve gotten no nibbles, that does not mean all is lost. (Two weeks is nothing.) Has an agent been sitting on your work way too long (coughcouldn’t be mecough) that doesn’t mean you’ve lost every chance with them. Has your novel been out on sub a long time? Maybe there’s still good news lurking somewhere out there.
This goes for published books, too. No starred reviews doesn’t mean your book is a failure. Expecting to hit the bestseller list? If you don’t, not all is lost. Feel like you’re doing the bulk of your own marketing? Well, that’s true all the time. It doesn’t mean your publisher has forgotten you. I’m not saying you should roll over if someone makes a mistake in the course of your publication process—but it doesn’t mean more than someone made a mistake. I think we’re all so lost and filled with uncertainty, that we want to see any change or movement as evidence of how it’s all going to go. I mean, I personally have been pulling a lot of tarot cards lately. Do your best to put things into a larger context. Have you ever declined to buy a book because it didn’t get a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly? Lol, no.
Be open to what happens instead of focused on what didn’t happen. You can control very little of the publishing process after you’re done with the editorial side of making your book. Not completely out of control, but you can’t control the public’s perception, or how many copies Amazon orders, or if someone reviews it or not. You CAN control how you react to it all, weathering it or letting it consume you, and you can control YOUR writing, reading, editing (mostly) and personal promotion. These are good things. Focus on those things, and not if, say, your publisher with 300 followers on Twitter retweets your stuff or not.
I think a lot of advice to writers is fight fight fight fight for what you need and what you want and what you think you deserve. I think that’s true for many parts of the publishing process. Fight for time and space to write. Fight for what you’re trying to say. Fight to be heard. But there’s a point where the book is out of your hands, both when you’re querying and when you’ve been published, when you can’t fight to achieve your goals because you can’t control other people’s reaction to your book. When you convince yourself that something must happen a certain way or all is lost, well, you’re probably going to end up feeling all is lost. There are many ways to write and publish a book. Work on what you can do with your own hands, and let the rest of it happen the way it’s going to happen. You just might end up surprised.
People refusing to wear masks while the Capitol was under siege have likely spread COVID to our elected officials. Don’t be an asshole like these people and spread it around your own communities. Jfc.
Kate, this is so spot on. If 2020 taught us anything, right?! Eva and I had 2020 plans to write our book proposal; but it turned out we didn't even have control of that, since we both found ourselves serving as full-time teachers (really, remote school tech support). Nonetheless, she managed to extract some important lessons from it, proving your point! (With loving mention of Beastober.) https://www.thelifeiwant.co/blog/2020/12/15/what-the-pandemic-taught-me
Good reminder that the "new normal" hasn't yet been defined, and will be anything but "normal". Thanks.