I came upon these words of wisdom again recently and realized that they nicely sum up my answer to the oft-asked question from prospective clients: What are my chances of getting published?
This is an extremely valid question, of course, and one many of the Girls Friday are familiar with on a personal level as well as a professional one as we’ve wondered whether writing projects of our own would ever see the light of day. In this publishing climate, the answer to this question is more elusive than ever. On the one hand, traditional publishing is driven more than ever by platforms and market demands. You may have written a gripping baseball book (substitute: dystopian YA/vegan/fantasy/artisanal lifestyle as you see fit), and it may be that every agent across the land is rabidly seeking the next The Art of Fielding. But those same agents could just as easily tell you that that particular wave has crested, that the market has reached saturation point. On the other hand, in the last five years, the entire concept of “getting published” has undergone its biggest shift since the Gutenberg Press; and authors like Amanda Hocking, Erin Morgenstern, and countless others are finding the road to success by publishing their own work.
What is a writer to do? Two things: Write the best book you possibly can, and embrace the process. Girl Friday is here to help you make your book as enticing to readers and/or publishers as possible, but we can never guarantee that publishers—in all of their quixotic wisdom—will take notice and buy your book. (The good news is that publishers are no longer the end of the line, but that’s another topic for another day.) But regardless of the outcome of your publishing efforts, there are some serious fringe benefits to enlisting the help of an editor—in addition to ending up with a better book and increasing your chances of getting published:
1. One-on-one attention. In today’s dizzyingly fast-paced world, when we’re all checking our iPhones at stoplights and your friends are texting as they’re chatting with you, it’s a rare pleasure to get someone’s undivided attention. Your loyal friends who’ve read your book likely had to do it on the side. Even your mom probably had to juggle it amid other tasks. When you sign on with a professional editor, you’re getting their passion for books, their love of the written word, and their gloriously focused attention on the work you’ve created. It’s a delicious luxury in this day and age. You deserve no less.
2. It’s a little like going back to school. Just without the exams and emergency all-nighters. You get to learn about the craft of writing, which will not only enhance the manuscript at hand, but will likely improve all your writing going forward and enhance your pleasure in reading, too. It’s an opportunity to flex your literary muscles, to stretch beyond your comfort zone. Few of us get to learn a new craft in our jobs every day—this is a chance to do that.
3. Achieving a long-term goal. The most valuable thing I can teach my kids is how to persevere when something doesn’t come easily. To do something that takes loads of practice and that they didn’t think they could do. They didn’t learn to swim overnight, but after hour after painstaking hour of lessons, their pride was palpable when they first made it all the way across the pool. Though it took months, I’m convinced my son stood taller after reading the first Harry Potter on his own. I think that as adults (myself included) it’s hard to try our hand at something we haven’t already mastered, but I’m equally convinced that it’s what keeps us young and engaged. Even if you don’t end up on Oprah, there’s a lot to be said for what the process of completing a book can teach us.
4. It’s fun! Another grown up malady is that we often forget that not everything has to be a means to an end, many things are worth doing simply because they’re enjoyable. I love working with my authors. I’ve worked with several of them on multiple books by now, and even if I’ve never met them in person, they feel like dear friends. We can joke about things that come up in their books, chat about their characters like they’re old friends, and solve problems together. Getting to work with these people is one of the highlights of my job. After toiling away solo on your book for months, it’s a singular pleasure to get to talk to someone who’s really invested in your work.
The right editor should feel like your secret weapon—your ally and cheerleader and therapist and taskmaster all at once. Who wouldn’t want that? And the right editorial relationship should feel like a thoroughly worthwhile and deeply satisfying journey, no matter what the final destination may be.