Our Pages

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How to Succeed in the Ever-Changing Publishing Industry

How do you succeed in this publishing business, anyhow?

Depending on who you ask, the day of the week, the phase of the moon, what new things Amazon just launched an hour ago, what the newest iProduct on the market is, and how strong the wind is blowing, you could end up with about 42,000 different answers.

Some will tell you that your social media presence is the life-or-death part of the equation. Public image is essential. Post often enough, but not too often, about the right things and never the wrong things, and cast your nets widely. Trouble is that no one can come to a consensus on what the right and wrong way to do these things might be.

Others will say you should read every book out there on writing craft, learn all of the rules, and follow them to a T. Only then will you ever write a publishable book. Then there are those who flout the rules at every turn, and yet sell thousands or even millions of books.

There's yet another group who scream at the top of their lungs that contests are the way to succeed. Gain recognition through all of your contest wins! Shout from the tops of the roofs, "I am the king of the world! I'm a finalist in the This Had Better Work, Or Else Because My Bank Account is in the Negative Contest!" They've got their naysayers, too, who say that contest scores are pointless and contest judges likely don't have the first clue about writing, let alone about judging, so what's the point? It's a waste of money.

There are those who will toil away for years, writing manuscript after manuscript, submitting them over and over again to agents and editors...all the while never getting any closer to securing either. Another group will throw a bunch of words on the page, declare it a masterpiece, and after receiving their first rejection, will publish it in any and every avenue available to them.

Most of us fall somewhere in the middle of those extremes, though. So for the rest of us, what are the keys to success? How do we know what to pursue, what direction to go in, when the landscape of publishing is changing faster than we can blink?

I think the keys I've found, at least for me and my personal gauge of success, are persistence, knowledge, and patience. I refuse to let any of the extremists convince me that their way is the only way, and instead persist in my current path. I do everything I can to continue learning--taking courses, reading books, going to conferences and seminars, reading good books (and analyzing what I read), and most of all, continuing to write. And I do my best to stay patient. I don't know what major changes are going to take place in the publishing world tomorrow or next week or next year. I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing, and try not to panic whenever the announcement comes. After all, if I'm well-informed enough, the sky won't be falling. It'll just be a little rain.

What are your keys to succeeding in the publishing industry?


  1. Wow, this is a subject I struggle with alot. How do I define success for me... I'd like to say I am a success right now. Of course, this is hard when all I hear is how many sales so-and-so have made or see all the great reviews another person has accumulated. It's difficult to realize that maybe those things are their ideas of success.

    For me, being able to write the stories I want and how I want, finding a publisher who understand what I'm about and constantly learning so I can apply that knowledge to the next book is pretty successful in my book.

    My keys to continue to succeed? Learning is the number one thing. I'll never know it all, but at least I know I still need to learn :-) The other thing I try really hard to remember? Enjoy the now. Sometimes I catch myself working so hard at a goal in the future, I forget to enjoy what I've got going on right now.

    Thanks for the post Catherine :-)

  2. Sandra, you're a writer I've looked up to for years, for seeing how you define success. One writer's success is not the same as the next. And so important, to not only continue learning, but to enjoy what you've got here and now. If you're not enjoying what you do, then why are you doing it? Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Excellent post and advice, Catherine! I love the line "it'll just rain a little." I can withstand a little rain. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Catherine,

    Great topic. I think the first thing is to define what success means to you. Secondly, evaluate other areas of your life where you've been successful and what it took to get there then apply those same skills.

    A few life skills that have paid off for me in other areas are persistence even in the face of opposition, a desire to learn and grow, practice, and flexibility. If one door closes, look around for another one.

    Oh! And never burn any bridges. I used to have an office person who was not nice to me when I started out in my career. A few years later I was her boss. I'm sure that was awkward for her. ;) And then there was an office assistant I was nice to who later became a manager of another department and hired me for a job I loved. I had no idea she was studing management.

  5. Great post, Catherine! I think, for me, success means not giving into your fears. My biggest fear is failure, but if I try to take small steps and concentrate on what's in front of me, I can keep moving forward. Someone smart told me that once. ;)

  6. Thanks for stopping by, Suzie. And yeah, we can all handle a little rain. None of us are going to melt from it. :)

    Oh, Samantha. GREAT point about not burning bridges. I've seen so many aspiring writers lash out against either other writers or agents/editors, and I have to just shake my head. It'll come back to bite them in the butt, someday.

    Olivia, I love how you look at success. And I have a feeling you're going to be facing one of your fears soon, but not letting it conquer you. :)

  7. Awesome post, Catherine. I really have nothing to add except that I agree with you on all front. I'm sure that doesn't surprise anyone. ;)