Pretend you’re someone fairly well known—enough that you have some fans, and even some fans bordering on the edge of scary. You’ve worked in your field for a Very Long Time, but you haven’t done so well in it lately, but that’s all right because your interests have taken a different turn.
Deep down, you’re a writer. And you’re not half bad; certainly a good chunk of those fans keep telling you so. They want to read more of your work and encourage you to take a step into the Big Bad World of Publishing.
So you do.
You self-publish and it’s fairly well received. A mainstream publisher takes notice and offers you a several-book deal based pretty much on that alone. They invest in your work—publishing your previously self-published title under their imprint—and then the book you’ve been working on for quite a while.
Everyone is thrilled for you. Your fans are excited. You’re bubbling over with OHMYGODTHISISHAPPENINGTOME!!!! Heck yeah, it’s a Very Special Thing.
And then reality sets in.
The publisher does not promote the book in the way you would like. It’s not selling as much as you think it should. They don’t understand that they’re giving it the kiss of death by marketing it the way they are. They’re ruining your work. It’s not selling anymore.
So you complain.
To everyone on the Internet who will listen, you complain.
They dropped the ball. They screwed up. They killed my book. I can’t get over the crushing disappointment.
Stop it. Be quiet. Quit whining and be grateful.
Here are a few of the harsh realities of publishing: writers rarely get to say how a book is marketed. Writers rarely gets to claim the genre in which it is published, or where it will be placed in a bookstore. Writers do not dictate the terms of publication once that contract is signed. Nor do they get free reign over editing. Nor over cover art. Nor over much of anything else.
Well, unless you’re Stephen King. I imagine he has quite a bit of clout.
There are more harsh realities. Most books have a 30-60 day shelf life. That’s it. If your book was out there longer, you’ve done better than most. Most writers don’t get much in the way of an advance, and often don’t seen a royalty statement with anything more than a big fat ZERO on it.
But, oh, you just got a negative royalty statement.
So? At least you got a royalty statement. Sitting out there, tapping away at computer keyboards all across the world, are hundreds of thousands of writers who would give up a few royalty checks simply to have the opportunity you’ve been handed by virtue of having A Name.
Don’t kid yourself. That is why you were offered the contract. You have A Name and come with built in sales. You write well but not that well.
A publisher took a chance and poured thousands of dollars into getting your book out there, and you’re paying them back by trash-talking them all over the Internet. They opened the door and allowed you to get your foot in, and you’re scraping the doogy doo that was stuck on your shoe all over their welcome mat. You never had to pay your dues as a writer, never suffered the volume of rejection slips that, if saved, would insulate your home, but by God, you deserve more.
You’ve made a mark online by trashing your previous employers, and now you’re doing it to the company that gave you a huge chance without you having to do much more than mention you’ve been working on a new book. They invested in you and you’re paying them back by telling everyone who will listen how they obviously don’t understand how to do the very thing that’s made them a huge success in a harsh industry.
Honestly…I respect your body of work. I enjoy your writing. But if I ever manage to take my company several levels higher, I will never work with you. I won’t pour my money into your talent, even though I know you could pull in real numbers. I will take the brand new writer with the passable idea over your Name with an idea that will sell for sure.
Because I’ve seen what you do when things don’t go the way you want them to. I’ve seen the writing, so to speak; you’ll bash my name and my company’s name to whomever will pay attention. Even though I have a couple of decades more in this game than you do, you’ll always think you know more and think you know best. You won’t honestly appreciate the opportunities afforded you.
When I think of how many truly talented writers out there would practically kill for what you had handed to you…
Try being grateful for it. Try being kind about it. Try deserving it.