On Publishing, Unicorns, and Being Enough

by Abby on March 23, 2012

Just Be EnoughEvery once in a while, I’ll come across something that seems like it was written for me. That was the case when I discovered Just.Be.Enough., a website dedicated to empowering and inspiring women by sharing “the voices, the stories, the truths of many,” as it says in their mission statement.

I’ve been a freelance writer for more than 15 years. Almost no other profession I know of — besides possibly acting — is characterized by as much rejection. It’s not only par for the course, it’s the norm. The J.K. Rowlings and the Tina Feys are few and far between. Magazine ad budgets are shrinking, the traditional book publishing industry is in a state of flux.

What this means is that it’s very, very easy for writers to start to believe that they don’t measure up. That they’re not good enough. I know, because this is something I’ve struggled with my whole career. And yet, in spite of (or because of?) the disappointing experience I had trying to pitch a nonfiction book a few years ago, I have decided that I AM good enough. I am enough, period. “Success” just doesn’t look quite the way I once pictured it.

Please click on over to Just.Be.Enough. to read my guest post, “The Journey to Getting Published.” Then come on back here, because you won’t want to miss the good stuff below.

I had another “this was written for me” experience when I encountered writer Jeff Goins’ blog. In this post, he urges us to “write something dangerous.” When you start to write for yourself, not for popularity or prestige, he says, something strange and wonderful happens: More people pay attention. It sounds counterintuitive, but I have definitely found this to be true in my own writing.

In the publishing world, there’s this mythology that surrounds literary agents. How do you find one? How do you approach them? How do you seal the deal? It’s the subject of endless Q&A’s in industry journals and panel discussions at conferences.

Writers are usually very vague and serious about how they got their agent. It must be like spotting a unicorn in the wild: people are loathe to admit to it, lest they become the subject of intense scrutiny and skepticism or worse, inspire legions of wannabe unicorn-spotters to stampede after them and spook the magical beast.

Then there’s Pauline Campos – serious writing talent combined with equal parts self-deprecation, humor, and an extremely low tolerance for b.s. Her “How I Got My Agent” tells it like it REALLY is, and I thank her for that.

And in this post, “Are You There, Blogosphere? It’s Me, Elizabeth” writer Elizabeth Flora Ross talks about being a “nobody” in the publishing industry, and what she decided to do about it. Spoiler alert: it’s working. She now blogs for Soleil Moon Frye’s website, moonfrye.com, and is working on publishing her book, Cease Fire: A Call to End the War Between Women.

So, yeah. Getting a traditional book deal may be tougher than ever, but thanks to blogs, social media, and writers like these keeping it real, publishing success doesn’t have to be as rare as a unicorn sighting. And maybe, just maybe, being ourselves is enough to achieve it.


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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

angie March 23, 2012 at 7:37 am

Good job Abby! I love how YOU tell it like it really is. I’ve been feeling a little dangerous lately and it is encouraging when people respond.


Abby March 23, 2012 at 8:16 am

Thanks, Angie, that means a lot. 🙂


Ali/Alessa March 23, 2012 at 8:48 am

Wow, Abby. What a spectacular article. It really spoke to me because I wrote a nonfiction and received the same rejections (basically euphemisms for “nobody wants to read about a nobody”).

And I loved your ebook. Can’t wait for the sequel.


Abby March 23, 2012 at 10:29 am

Thanks, Ali! I didn’t know that. What’s your book about?
BTW, I was just thinking about you yesterday & noticing you hadn’t been by lately. Glad you’re back!


Ali/Alessa March 23, 2012 at 2:17 pm

My nonfiction was a collection of my poems, which were written over… oh, about fifteen years, with a troubling and passionate story to tie them all together. A memoir, I suppose. Anyway, publishers responded with “no one will read this,” tactfully written, of course.

I’m always here… I’ve subscribed to your blog through Google Reader. As soon as you post something, it notifies me. I’ve just been in bad spirits lately and didn’t want to take it out on your blog. I do love all your posts, though.


Brock Heasley March 23, 2012 at 11:44 am

I love Pauline’s post, so thanks for sharing it. She has a great story.

Abby, you could not be more right about success not looking the way we picture it. Especially in this business, there’s just no one way to get there. Working hard and writing, writing, writing is, at the end of the day, the only thing we can do.


jetts31 March 23, 2012 at 11:58 am

This is why Madonna was able to remain relevant and successful for so long. Or any other artist/performer who is willing to change, take chances, and adapt, because success is too.
Thanks for the article. Thanks for all the information. Publishing has been on my mind for a while.


Elizabeth Flora Ross March 23, 2012 at 1:55 pm

What a great post! I’m so honored you chose to include me in it Thank you so much, Abby.


Lisa Lord March 23, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Every time I open Google Reader, my body tenses and my stomach clenches because it is chock a block with unread posts, all of which probably contain advice, directives, a million more links and generally too much information for me to keep up with. But yours is the one blog that I look forward to just like my morning coffee. You always entertain and offer something to think about in a way that speaks to me and lightens my day. And with four kids in the house, my day always needs it.


Abby March 23, 2012 at 4:39 pm

That’s the best compliment ever, Lisa, thank you!! And I know exactly what you mean – that’s how I usually feel when I check my email!


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