Well you aren’t alone.
One of the most fascinating parts of working in publishing is noticing the similar concerns creatives have toward their work.
I would go further and say, as creatives, we’re pretty good at self-sabotage!
By being too egocentric, well we know how that goes, we can be unaware of how we’re perceived and come across as a fat-head. On the other hand, not having enough confidence is equally damaging. How then, to walk the middle line when you’re an intense, passionate creative?
A few tricks that seem to work for our authors and talent include:
Get real. Don’t believe your work doesn’t need editing because you’re brilliant but equally don’t baulk and despair at edits. Edits are your friend. Every author and poet before you has massively benefited from editing. The process may hurt if you let it, or you could just let your ego go and take onboard what your edit is suggesting because they are on your side. Obviously they’re also human so they can make some suggestions you hate and that’s where you negotiate and grow together. It’s a process. And if you let it, it can improve your writing and your confidence without too much pain.
Fearing ‘being edited‘ is the most common concern people have. It causes them to self-publish over going through a publishing house, for fear of losing control of their product and voice. Understandable. But a good publisher will already know this and a good editor will too. A good editor isn’t BETTER than you are, far from it. A good editor probably couldn’t edit their own work worth a tinkers damn, but they can edit yours. The objectivity of editing work that is not your own is exactly why everyone (and I mean, everyone) needs an editor.
A good editor isn’t going to expunge your vision. They’re going to help you create exactly what you want but also the best that you’re capable of. You know how sometimes you’re reading a book and you think “What was the writer thinking?” It doesn’t invalidate the writer, they may be your favorite writer, but everyone has moments like this. Having an outside force in the shape of an editor resolves that loss of objectivity we all experience from time to time.
It boils down to this; sometimes your gut instinct isn’t right and someone’s going to point it out. We’ve all been there and we’ll be there again. It doesn’t mean you’re always wrong. But all of us get too close to something and when we do we literally can’t see what others can see. That’s where an editor is so invaluable. They’re one step-removed emotionally.
The same goes for a publisher. It’s not our goal to force our ideas upon you. As Editor-in-Chief Christine Ray has often said; we want nothing more than to see our authors flourish and go on to bigger publishing deals. We’re not precious like that and no publisher worth their salt should be. Our goal is to produce excellent books. That will ensure we stay in business and since reputation is everything, giving you the best book possible is the only way we succeed too. In other words, you and I have a vested interest in your success. So we’re all about making that happen.
Now your definition of success might be a little bit starry-eyed and we can’t blame you for that. I remember I thought my first book would sell so much I’d see it in every book store and go on tours across the country. And I’m not even that egocentric but yeah, I really thought that! I think it’s because we all have the Hallmark Channel idea of what publishing a book really means. We’re blissfully unawares of how many people publish, what the competition is like and how hard it is to be noticed in the sea of competing humanity. I know we all want to think we’re special and yeah, we are, kinda. But getting real again, let’s also be honest and recognize we’re one of 7 billion and many of those have also written a book.
Having realistic goals and notions of success helps us maintain the much needed balance necessary to endure the road to becoming a writer. It might not be your first book. It might not be a poetry book. It might not be your 5th book! But if you keep working away, and staying real about how much work that entails by way of self-promotion and networking; then your humble book may one day become a notable book. It’s worth trying because you lose nothing by trying and you gain everything if it happens.
So ask yourself … what do you want? And if that’s your goal then let nothing stop it. But along the way, remember a publishing house isn’t a golden ticket, there is only so much we can do (and believe me, we’ll do that and then some) and a lot of this will be on your shoulders too. Try to see success in steps. If you write a book – wow! You’ve written a book! If you get a publisher, great job, you have a publisher! If you publish your first book, you’ve published your first book! And so it goes on. All these steps, they may seem small but they inch toward your goal and moreover, can be the best part of being a writer. It’s the journey not the destination.
Poetry isn’t dead and people will read your book. But you have to enter the experience without rose-tinted glasses and that means working with your publishing team and editor like family, honing your product, getting it just right and then watching it take off and supporting it as it goes out there into the book-o-sphere. This is a collaborative effort, one better taken with others than alone and we’re experts at publishing gorgeous, unforgettable books and our greatest joy is seeing your vision become a reality.
Even one person reading what you wrote, in a beautiful book of your work, is a success. With all this comparing and contrasting, that’s worthwhile our all remembering. Stay humble grasshopper.