Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard


The Good, Bad & Ugly of Being a Published Author

Many of us who write exist for the moment when we first hold in our hand an actual finished product—a novel, a volume of poetry, or some other so-very-long-in-the-making creation of our imagination. That moment means that we can finally call ourselves not just a “writer” but a “published author.” This upgraded designation, if you want to consider it that, most definitely represents a sea change. It means that your work is out there, waiting for someone to discover it. Being published opens up the possibility that your written thoughts and feelings, so lovingly crafted, might actually mean something to someone other than yourself.

That’s good.

Of course, if you’re not prepared to undertake the necessary marketing blitz, your book could easily languish on the pages of Amazon without a single “hit.”

And that would be bad.

But let me be more specific (and a bit whimsical) about some of what constitutes— in my experience so far— the good, the bad, and the ugly of being a published author.

THE GOOD

Bragging rights. If you keep a journal or commit thoughts to paper from time to time in a reasonably organized manner, you certainly might feel justified in calling yourself a writer. No one is likely to contradict you. But when the inevitable question “Is it published?” comes along, being able to offer a resounding “Yes!” can be very gratifying. Yes, you are an author! (Caveat: It’s often best to change the subject at this point, in case your questioner wants to know if there is any possibility you might actually make a living at it.)

Funky fashion accessories. Here’s something good you might not have thought about. Perhaps you’ve been keeping that artsy little beret in your top drawer for years, feeling it was too pretentious to actually wear in public. Well, a published author need not be shy about such things. You are entitled to look the part, even to add a long, flowing silk scarf in a color such as chartreuse or mango. And, of course, large and very dark sunglasses are a must-have accessory, especially for the newly published author anticipating his or her first onslaught of frenzied fans.

Immortality. I saved the best for last. Even if your book is not selected for inclusion in the next time capsule, there is at least a remote possibility that it might exist on the Cloud forever—and therefore, in the abstract, so would you.

THE BAD

Other people’s priorities. If you know that someone has purchased your book—a friend or acquaintance— you expect them to read it promptly, right? You anticipate an email within the week saying how fabulous the book is and what a brilliant writer you are. Two weeks pass, and then a month. It may be tough to accept, but reading your book usually is not at the very top of anyone’s list of priorities. Life gets in the way. And so you worry, and that can be bad.

No time to write. What got you here in the first place was that you loved to write. But guess what. Between checking your social media sites, your sales charts, and your reviews on Amazon and Goodreads twenty-plus times a day, not to mention creating blogs, giving readings and preparing talks—well, how much time is left to work on your next book?

Possible financial ruin. This is serious stuff. Unless you are James Patterson or some other high profile writer whom publishers are convinced can pump out best-selling novels faster than premium gas, you will have to spend money—if not to publish your book, at least to promote it. The break-even figure may exceed your annual budget for inkjet replacement cartridges—and maybe the mortgage.

THE UGLY

A mistake in your book. This is among the worst things that can happen to a published author—and it always does. You get a call or an email from a friend who is in the middle of reading your book and has found some egregious error. It doesn’t matter if it was your fault or the fault of the person who entered your corrections (no, that change was supposed to be made only on page 39). The mistake is there, and people have seen it. Maybe they think you meant to write it that way and that you’re just stupid. Fortunately, it’s not like the old days when you might have had 5000 tainted books in a warehouse or lining the walls of your garage. You can fix it, and all the books going forward will be perfect. But still, mistakes are truly “ugly” for an author.

Begging for reviews. Sometimes you feel as if you should be standing in the parking lot of Whole Foods, holding a sign that says “Desperate. Need Amazon reviews. Please help.” When people say they have read your book and loved it, it feels slightly obnoxious to immediately ask them to go online and write a review. Haven’t they already done enough simply to have plowed through 300-some pages of your novel without deciding they have something better to do? But you must ask for reviews. It matters.

Thinking it doesn’t matter. Very occasionally you may get to thinking, despite how great your book is, what does it really matter? There are millions of books that have been written, millions more to come. Your efforts are analogous to a speck of sand, a drop in the ocean. The futile attempt of an inconsequential being to bring order and meaning to an otherwise chaotic existence. (Sigh.) It’s all right.

Just keep writing.

I complain once in a while about spending so much time on social media for the purpose of promoting my books (I never had a Facebook page until becoming an author). The truth is that I actually have enjoyed hooking up with old friends and making many new ones. It’s great to share thoughts with avid readers and fellow writers. I’ve met so many through Facebook and Goodreads and terrific blogs run by people who really care about books and bringing readers and authors together. So I’d have to say, even considering the bad and the ugly, becoming a published author is a very good thing.

I give it five stars.

 

Buy my historical mystery/suspense novel, The Beauty Doctor!

 

In the spring of 1907, Abigail Platford finds herself unexpectedly adrift in New York City. Penniless and full of self-doubt, she has abandoned her dream of someday attending medical school and becoming a doctor like her late father. Instead, she takes a minor position in the office of Dr. Franklin Rome, hoping at least to maintain contact with the world of medicine that fascinates her. She soon learns that the handsome and sophisticated Dr. Rome is one of a rare new breed of so-called beauty doctors who chisel noses, pin back ears, trim eyelids and inject wrinkles with paraffin. At first skeptical, she begins to open her mind, and then her heart, to Dr. Rome. But when his partnership with an eccentric collector of human oddities raises troubling questions, Abigail becomes ensnared in a web of treachery that challenges her most cherished beliefs about a doctor’s sacred duty and threatens to destroy all she loves.

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4 thoughts on “The Good, Bad & Ugly of Being a Published Author”

  1. Marcia Fine says:

    Loved your newsletter. It expresses so much of what writing is all about…waiting!

    1. Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard says:

      Thanks, Marcia. I was afraid some of my fellow writers might find this particular piece slightly sacrilegious, because we do take our writing seriously. But it’s good, sometimes, to have a little fun.

  2. Joan white says:

    Elizabeth, I have just finished reading your book. I am not a literary critic, but I am a reader and I must tell you how very much I enjoyed your book It read very easily and I couldn’t wait to get back to it! I found the characters interesting and I an anxious to read the sequel. You can’t leave your audience waiting to see what happens to Abigail! Thank you for a delightful read.

    1. Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard says:

      Joan, thank you so much for your kind words about THE BEAUTY DOCTOR! I actually had not considered a sequel, but I will consider your suggestion. My next novel, TEMPTATION RAG, has a whole new cast of characters that I hope readers will find engaging as well. Thanks again for letting me know that you enjoyed the book!

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