Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Being Published - What Do You Want?

This week, my guest is EPPIE award winning author Liana Laverentz. Her topic: Why (or How) Do You Want to Be Published? She's got a special prize for one lucky commenter, so be sure to read on. Welcome, Liana

We all know why we write. We write because we can’t not write, or because we have a deep-rooted need to express ourselves in some way, and have for most of our lives. We have these stories running through our head and just won’t go away until we put them on paper—or at least into our computers. We have people who talk to us day and night until we give them a voice. But why do we want to be published?

The answer is a lot more complicated than you’d think. I’ve been writing for over twenty years, and have judged a lot of contests and critiqued a lot of chapters. Some were awful, some technically correct, but had no zing, and some…some were brilliant. You might think all writers want to get published. Not so. One that stands out in my memory was a woman who wrote beautifully, brilliantly…but had no interest in being published. Her husband was in the military and deployed for long periods of time, and she wrote to keep herself company while he was gone. When he came home, the writing was forgotten.

I’ve never been able to figure out whether being able to put her writing away like that was a blessing or a curse.

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Others want to be published so that they can see their name on a book and say—sometimes to a family of doubters and naysayers—“See? I did it!” Or they just want be able to call themselves a published author. They don’t care if they sell many copies, as long as they have enough for their family and circle of friends. Others want to be published just to see if they can do it. Once the challenge is met, they have no interest in publishing again. On to the next life goal on their list.

Does that mean that any of these writers stop writing? Not at all. But the lure of fame and fortune is not there for all of us. Some writers write in their spare time, their primary focus on home and hearth, seeing to the needs of their families. They’re perfectly happy publishing a book or short story here and there, adding to their collection of credentials.

Some writers publish with small presses just to be able to see their words in print. They have no desire to go the traditional publishing route. One reason I hear a lot is they want to write what they want to write. Maybe mix genres and find their own audiences. Others see small presses as stepping stones to being published traditionally, and find their successes smaller publishers give them hope and encouragement. Others are happy being ebook authors and don’t care if they ever get into print.

We’re all different. We’re all special. I attended a writer’s conference in January where Bestselling author Christina Dodd spoke about The Sidewalk of Success. We’re all on it. We can step away from it at any time, and many of us do. Some of us come back and some of us don’t. Some of us step off and on again regularly, needing to take a break when Life interferes. But the sidewalk is always there for us, and success means something different to every person on that sidewalk. Sometimes success is, finishing that first chapter, maybe finishing a synopsis and three chapters. Sometimes it’s entering a contest, just letting someone else see your work, much less winning that contest—but oh, what validation it is when you do!

Some writers enter contests and strive to win accolades that way, but never submit to publishers. Sometimes success is defined as sending out a query letter, or three, or ten. Sometimes it’s landing an agent. Sometimes the epitome of success is being offered a publishing contract. I have seen writers back away once the contract is offered, deciding they don’t want someone else reading their most personal thoughts after all.

Others step off the sidewalk once the book is released, and they realize how much promotion is involved. A lot of authors are introverts. We spend a lot of time alone, writing. We’re not comfortable promoting our books. We’re extremely uncomfortable at booksignings. At least I am. Others revel in it. We don’t believe in our books any less if we don’t want to do booksignings and workshops and lectures. They’re a lot of work. Some authors would rather spend the time writing their next book. The writing is what’s important, not the selling. Others live for the thrill of the day we can sit behind that table and sign our books for friends, family, and strangers alike. Others simply want to be able to attend a writer’s conference and wear that special “Published Author” designation, be it on their name badge or in the form of a ribbon or a pin.

Others aim for a publishing contract with a big house and seek to sell millions of books. Others aim for the national bestseller lists. Not once, not twice, but over and over again. Some are happy being at the top of the bestselling list at their publishing house—or just making the list.

There are as many levels to being published as there are to writing. You can be published in your own way, on your own terms, as in self-publishing, you can be published by a small house or in ebooks, you can be published by a small house but in hardback, or a big house and be happy as a midlist author, or you may need to go for the brass ring of national bestseller-dom to be happy.

All are equally valid measures of success, depending on your personality and goals. Which is it for you?

Liana Laverentz is the author of three contemporary romances, Eppie and NJRW Golden Leaf award-winner Thin Ice, Golden Leaf winner Jake’s Return, and Ashton’s Secret, a murder mystery romance now available on Amazon and due to be released by The Wild Rose Press on June 26. For more information, go to www.lianalaverentz.com. For a chance to win a free critique of your first 15 pages, leave a comment here telling us your goals! Liana will select a winner to be announced here Thursday morning, so be sure to check to see if you're the lucky one.


Heather Long said...

What a fantastic read. I agree, there are multiple levels of success and success is defined by the beholder. For me, my success is defined by never giving up and constantly striving to improve myself. It's how I landed my first two contracts and now I am looking for an agent, because I want to do it all, I am an e-published author, now I want to be pulp and paper novelist and just more. -- So thanks for the wonderful blog!

Carol Percer said...

I have to admit I DID go to your blog simply because of the conest for a free critique---but, then, I'd never seen your name on the forum before.
BUT---I DID love the blog! And agree---a writer can't NOT write. Thanks for sharing.

Mona Risk said...

Great post, Liana. I wrote my first story in my head ten years before I typed it. I knew it was different, interesting, compelling and I wanted to share it with friends and with readers around the world. TO LOVE A HERO was written with passion and the reader feels it.

Most of my stories originated from an event that affected me or someone I know. As long as I have stories I believe in, stories I feel passionate about I will continue to write and share them. I count my success by fans' letters, good reviews, friends compliments as much as by the number of books sold.

Skhye said...

Hi, Liana! I thought I'd swing by and see what all the bru-ha-ha was about. You forgot one "why" on the list...

One of my critique partners is determined to get published just because she wants to be remembered for something after she dies. I told her that was crazy because she has two children. But she doesn't think either will prove her legacy. She's over-educated and can explain the reason more thoroughly than I feel comfortable in plopping down for all to read on someone's blog. ;) But her reason is probably one a lot of writers use to light their muse and purchase stamps in the great race to publication.

Me, it's just a challenge to write something people want to read. You can pigeon-hole that one wherever it fits. ;) ~Skhye

Sarah Simas said...

Hi Liana and Terry!

Wonderful post! I can really relate to the topic. I'm a newbie as in never been published. I have my nose to the grindstone trying to learn all I can. I'm a stay at home mom of two toddlers and a huby who is slow to learn how important this is to me. But I'm up every morning at 530am to write before the kids are up and I'm the last in bed. It's that important. Mygoal is to submit my MS to the Golden Heart this year. I have never been so inspired to keep going since I joined several of the yahoo groups and follow various blogs. Thanks for giving me hope and inspiration to keep going!!


Terry Odell said...

Liana will be by to respond to comments later. I'd like to thank everyone for stopping by. Carol -- I thought I was all over the place; I'm glad you found me and hope you'll be back.
Sarah: Best to you. I think there's a definite recurring truth here: Writers write. What happens next will vary, but there's that compulsion to get the stories out there.

Liana Laverentz said...

Thank you, Heather, best of luck to you in doing it all. Carol, thank you for stopping by--glad yoou liked the blog and good luck in the drawing. Good luck to everyone, actually :)

Hi, Mona--congratulations on your persistence and upcoming release. You're right, Skhye, there is no way I could cover all the reasons people want to be published. Thanks for adding one more.
Sarah, keep working, and good luck with the Golden Heart.

Pat Brown said...

I love the validation I get when someone reads what I've written and takes the time to tell me how much they love it. I don't get a lot of that in my life -- I live pretty much alone, with little close family so the whole writing community is my family. Who doesn't want their family to be proud of them?

Plus it satisfies a craving I've had all my life. Like you say, I can't NOT write.

carol percer said...

I'm sorry---I didn't see the post until AFTER you announced the contest, that you wanted to know why and how we plan to be published.

Why? Because I have these wonderful, vivid, so-true-to-me characters in my head and--even more---in my soul and gut. And I want to share them. THEY want to be shared! Does that sound crazy or what?
How do I want to be published? That's the dauntig part. I don't know. There are so many nightmare stories out there about how hard it is to BE published. So I'm trying not to be intimidated by that---and don't want to slight my characters by letting me fear of the big bad pubslishing world influence the "heartbeats" of my beautiful characters.
I don't claim to have THE story--the breakthrough novel that nobody's ever seen or read. But I DO have a wonderful, vivid dream that makes me bust at the gut to see it in the hands of others who can share it with me!

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Liana,
Great insight into levels of success. I'm happy where I am at at this time in my life, even though some may not consider me sucessful. I don't know where I'll be in five years, but if I'm still writing I'll be happy.

Liana Laverentz said...

Hey, P.A. even with a ton of family you don't always have people who "get" what it means to be a writer. That's why I like to go to writer's conferences and hang out with fellow writers now and again. So I don't feel so odd around supposedly "normal" people. Carol, thanks for stopping by again with your reasons, all good ones. Kathy, I'm like you. I'm happy where I am now, and as long as I am writing, will be happy where I am in five years. Got lots of irons in the fire, so we'll see where it goes, and it will all be good :)

jacque said...

Wow, this blog entry was very eye opening. I guess I write because the voices are telling me to. I can't sleep unless I let them tell their story. While being published would be an extremely big deal for me, if I can make one other person smile because of something I wrote and finished...I would be happy!
jacque twinmomx5

Sam said...

I have a compulsion to entertain people. Whether it's on stage in a play, around a camp fire with my guitar, or lip-syncing Aretha Franklin's "Respect" in the Home Depot garden section*, I want to make people forget their troubles for a little while. Writing suits my creative urge best; publishing is a way to share that creativity and entertain people.

* Really. My wife was horrified at the time, but she laughs about it now.

Terry Odell said...

Sam - I seem to recall you did some excellent role-playing at SleuthFest as well.

Sheryl Browne said...

Well, there’s food for thought. Personally, being published for me is a way of validating my work. If it’s “out there” and people read and enjoy it—and give me feedback to that effect, then it justifies my writing. I know we shouldn’t have to justify something we love and want to do, and, usually, fit in around the people that are important to us, work and general family commitments, but in today’s “multi-tasking essential” world sometimes we feel we have to.

Love of writing keeps me writing. If someone else loves it, I don’t give up when the multitasking leaves me exhausted or the rejection leaves me dejected.

You learn as you write. That’s really big incentive to keep going too. You look back over your work and you can see you really do have talent, and a burning desire to keep going. I don’t want to be a called a genius. I’m not looking for bestseller (thought I wouldn’t be too devastated if I got there!). What I want is to be able to touch people in some way with my writing. Can’t do that if I don’t let my baby take its first steps.

Thanks, Liana. Sometimes we do need to examine why we do what we do. :)

Liana Laverentz said...

Hey, Jacque, Sam and Sheryl, thanks for stopping by! I think most people write with the hopes that they will one day entertain people, or make them smile, or scare the bejeebies out of them, or...but we want to touch people's lives in some way. For being introverts, writers are very giving people.

Mary Ricksen said...

I write because it makes me feel good. I write because I can use my imagination. I write because the sense of accomplishment when I published my first book, gave me confidence, I really need confidence. I write because it's a dream come true, to put word to paper. I write because I have no children and no legacy, I want someone someday, years from now, to pick up my book and know that I lived. I write because of the wonderful people I meet at my chapter meetings and events, otherwise I wouldn't have a life.
And one more, I write because I have a story to tell and it has to come out. It has to live on the pages, and maybe take people on an escape of their problems, like reading does for me.
Great post ladies!!

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Liana,
Great post. Interesting about the lady who didn't want to be published even though she wrote great stories. Perhaps she will one day take them out of her drawer, or wherever she keeps them and submit. A shame when talent like that is not spread around.

Jenny Milchman said...

I loved this post, including every comment I just read. I have had a couple of short stories published at this wonderful on line site--Terry, will you plug it here :) Maybe some of these writers will want to submit!

Anyway, my suspense novel is being submitted by my agent now, and it is a little agonizing and like living on a tightrope of hope.

I loved the range of reasons you came up with, Liana. My primary reason is that I want readers to lose themselves in the stories I create.

But why do I want that? I'm not sure yet.

Great entry, Terry!

L.A. Mitchell said...

Hi Liana,
I really needed to read this today. Thank you so much for the gentile reminder that one cannot look at success so narrow-mindedly :)

L.A. Mitchell said...

oops..gentle, not gentile...haha

Nightingale said...

Why do I want to be published? Originally I thought it was a validation for my hours of effort. Maybe I wanted people to remember my name. TWRP did publish Black Swan but I want more....is that my nature or the nature of the writer beast?

Sassy Brit @ Alternative-Read.com said...

Hi Terry,

A very interesting post.

Today is WHAT'S ON YOUR DESK WEDNESDAY? on my blog. And you've been tagged. I hope you can join in with the fun, but please don’t feel any pressure to do so. If you don’t have time to do it today, there is always next Wednesday!

I will also upload any photos to my WHAT’S ON YOUR DESK WEDNESDAY? Flickr set, so if you’d rather not have your photo’s included, just shout!


Take care, and have fun!

Sassy Brit ☺

Liana Laverentz said...

Hi, Mary and Margaret. Thanks for stopping by! Jenny and L.A., Nightengale and Sassy, nice to meet you! I'm glad to have been of help to you with my post, L.A. Success comes one step at a time, and no, there's nothing wrong with wanting more each time you reach a new level. Goals can change. You can find you're comfortable where you are, or find out you think you'd like to go a little further.

Terry Odell said...

Sassy -- My own Wednesday blog posted before I read this. Can I play on Thursday, or should I wait until next Wednesday?

Sassy Brit @ Alternative-Read.com said...

Hi Terry,

any day is fine, how about next Wednesday? No rush! :)

Take care,


KaiaLogan said...

Hi Liana
Great post, and very timely for me. I've just stepped onto the sidewalk in terms of publication, and so I'm just finding out about how time-consuming promotion and networking are! Juggling everything is a challenge, and I'm starting to worry my writing time is suffering. I don't want to step off the sidedwalk though! lol
As for goals, I guess key to me is to figure a way to balance my time between being mom, wife, writer and promoter/networker. We'll see what happens...

Liana Laverentz said...

Hi, Kaia, and welcome. We all have that problem, trying to balance our writing life with the rest of our life. One place we like to talk about balance in our lives is at The Bookspa Yahoo Loop on Tuesdays. You might want to stop by if you get a chance. Congratulations and good luck!

Maggie Toussaint said...

got here a little late. enjoyed it Liana and Terry.