Friday, June 4, 2010

Friday Fricassee

Today I want to hear your stories.

Namely, your stories about trying-to-explain-the-whole-querying-agenting-editoring-publishing process to non-writing friends who have absolutely no clue what you're going through.

You're nodding vigorously. Or is that a seizure?

I've got absolutely wonderful people in my life who are consistently supportive, encouraging, and genuinely interested in what I do. They applaud when I finish a draft, even though they don't understand, really, how much effort went into it, and how much work remains (as in, months' worth). They tell me they'll buy signed copies of my book, that their son is my biggest fan (even though he's never read anything I've written), that they're amazed I find the time to actually complete entire novels (don't they know it's the MAIN thing I accomplish in my life?).

And yes, my mom is a delightful and irreplaceable part of this special group.

But if they pause and ask a question ("So, is this going to be published?" "Is this the one you sent to that agent who said she wanted you to rewrite it or something?" "Now what?"), I don't have the time, energy, or even the ABILITY to distill this long, convoluted, emotionally exhausting process into a brief explanation.

And, honestly? I don't think my well-meaning friends really WANT to know.

I want them to know, though. At least to know enough that they can appreciate my sometimes-angst and sometimes-hopefulness. And I simply don't know how to enlighten them without boring or confusing them.

So tell me. What do YOU say to Those On The Outside? I'll be taking notes.


  1. Ah. I simply didn't tell anyone, other than the one person closest to me - and a few writing friends for last-minute reads, and advice once requests started coming in. I told those people when I got an agent, and a few more when I got a book deal. (And of course posted both on my blog.) But that's just me.

  2. When describing the query/agent process I usually describe it like this:

    It's like searching for a job in hard economic times where no one is hiring. More specifically:

    A query letter and first 3 - 5 pages are like your cover letter and resume. You send them out to the jobs you want (aka agents you want) and hope to hear back.

    If they like what they see, they ask for your first few chapters. This is like getting a phone interview with the company.

    If you pass the "phone interview", they ask for your full manuscript. It's liking having an on-site job interview, where they fly you to the place of business.

    And if you pass all that - then you're hired! You've got an agent!

    But then your agent has to go through another "hiring process" to get you a publisher.

    At this point, my friends realize it's a lot harder than they thought, especially since half of them are currently trying to find jobs.

  3. I haven't worked out a reply to, "Whadda mean it isn't published? Didn't you finish that book-thing five months ago?"


  4. I didn't tell anyone for the longest time. My family was quite surprised, to say the least, when I'd announced an agent asked for more of my manuscript or I finaled in a writing contest. . . . LOL!

    But now, yeah, they constantly ask, "How's the writing going?"

    I really only tell them, "Agent's got some interest, but it'll be months before I hear anything."

    That seems to suffice. But then again, in months, they may ask again and I'll have to figure out what else to tell them if I haven't heard. . . LOL.

    I just really revel in the fact that they're interested enough to ask even if they don't understand the process.

  5. Luckily, my friends and family just ask, "How's the writing going?"

    I've got to give them credit for not glazing over as soon as I start telling them about the manuscripts I've got with agents or that I'm rewriting, etcetera, etcetera...

    I don't share what's going on with anyone who doesn't ask except for my husband.

  6. I tell them that publishing is a crazy industry and that writing the book is the easy part, getting published is the hard part. : )

  7. I tell them, "You know AMERICAN IDOL, with the gobs of screaming people who all think they can sing, even though we know most of them can't, and 99.99% of them never make it past the producer's intern's grandma? Yeah, it's like that - only with (a few) less people."


  8. Good question! I usually gloss over the details, but that's usually even too much for them. When the person's eyes start glazing over I know they've lost interest and don't really care. I try to make it clear that it's tough and a real job.

    It's difficult - the feeling of NEEDING the people closest to you to understand what you're going through, but they just can't possibly "get" it. My parents, for one, don't seem to understand at all, and it hurts. The problem is, if the person is truly interested, they'll try to understand. If they aren't truly interested, don't take it that they respect or love you any less. Quite honestly, I could care less about my dad's job as a soil scientist. I'm interested in the outside details, but if he starts going off on collecting samples of such and such soil and why it's that way and the salt content and blah blah blah, he's kind of lost me...even though it means the world to him. :)

  9. I have amazingly supportive friends who've been on this journey with me from the beginning. Since I've been writing for 30 years, my parents are happy when I do well, but I don't think they believe this will ever happen, but they keep asking if I've heard anything on my submissions. The rest of the world, I don't tell. It's hard to explain why it can take nine months for an editor to get back to you.

  10. Try explaining this to your family. My picture book manuscript wins the Writer's Digest writing competition. I win cash and trip to NY, family is thrilled. The first publisher I send it to buys it, family is doubly thrilled. Many months, then years, pass. No book. Due to a variety of reasons, some better than others, the contract expires and the book is never published. Now my family and friends, eagerly awaiting their autographed copies, eye me suspiciously. Did you REALLY have a contract? Frustrating for them, and for me, too.

  11. I've learned to dance around the topic. If they want to know why I haven't gotten published I start spouting about the trends, percentages, sell-through, and the biz as a whole--eventually they slowly back away and leave me to the elves, trolls and faeries that inhabit my mind.

  12. I've stopped talking about it all together. I'm sick of their rolling eyes and "when is it going to be published?" I have no idea. It's a miracle it even got out of my head and into written form with me losing all of my sanity. Whether an agent, publisher, or anyone else will want to read it, sell it, make it available to the world to buy for actual money is completely out of my control. I just keep sending it out and bashing my head against my desk.

  13. First off, David above me, I bow down to you. I can't imagine the thrill of winning such a HUGE contest and then having it end like it did. That is just . . . HUGE. And probably writers like myself, who would be thrilled to final in the top 100, are the only ones who can really understand the magnitude.

    Which is why I keep a close circle of writing friends to tell news to--because they "get" it. My wonderful husband is very supportive and constantly asking if I've heard back from agents and sends me off to conferences while watching our kids on his vacation time. But the poor man is always at a loss to know which blog or contest or agent I'm talking about, and I can tell when he's had his limit.

    The rest of my family is immensely proud of any success I have, but they just don't get the ins and outs. I just tell them, "an agent is interested" and as my father sweetly replied after the SA contest, "it only takes one!" That's all the understanding I need! :)

  14. I leave them out of it until I have requests for partials or full. Then I'm so thrilled that I can't keep it private and usually I'm more excited about the agent who requested than their response. Yes, I'm weird.

    They can't understand and if I kept them up-to-date they'd get bored quickly and think I'm crazy.

    It's a solitary journey in the end, don't you think?

  15. I blog about it, and if they're really interested, they can read my blog. If they have questions, I answer them. For instance, one of my nieces kept asking when "my book" was going to be published, so I explained the whole process. Now she asks where I'm at on specific projects. I don't mind that. And I love that my teenaged nephews keep volunteering to read stuff (even if I haven't handed them anything yet). LOVE!

  16. My family is supportive, but they really don't get it, either. When my first picture book came, I took it to a family get-together to show everyone. Everyone had nice things to say, but not one person (that I noticed) read it. It was a picture book. It would have taken all of 3 minutes. They flipped thru and complimented me on the illustrations (They were great illustrations but I didn't do them.)

    At my next critique meeting, I took the book to my writer's group. They had read the story many times, but each and everyone of them sat down and read the finished project. They 'got' it. They knew what I'd been thru. They could relate.

    If family and friends ask, I tell, but in very broad terms. Otherwise, I don't say anything.

  17. Oh my yes. This is so my life. I just tell them about my magazine articles. But everyone seems to find out somehow from a friend of a friend. I'm lucky though because I have a very supportive group of friends who put up with my writing craze.

  18. I don't talk really talk about writing much outside the house, and even inside the house, it's only an offhand comment here or there. I don't think my family's tired of listening, but I'm tired of getting their hopes up. When something eventually happens worth mentioning, though, they won't be able to shut me up. ;o)

  19. I usually end every announcement of a partial request, full request or whatever exciting news I spew to the clueless with this:

    "This means nothing so don't ask me in a couple days when my book will be published. K? Thanks so much. What's for lunch?"

  20. Honestly? I've never had to explain the publishing process to my family and friends. Sometimes they'll be curious about "what's the next step?" or something like that.

    I think I just exude an aura of knowing what I'm doing and knowing what I want (even when I don't) so they just trust that.

    Strangers and acquaintances, on the other hand, can be more of a problem. I tend to avoid and shut down overly pushy people. In a formal situation - a conference, or whatever, I'm prepared and have my author person switched on, and I just answer whatever question comes my way the way I would answer a student.

    (I used to work on a playground, and I did the same for the kids - you gain a lot of aplomb with the kinds of questions kids ask. Especially when they're trying to push your buttons.)

  21. Oh, I wish I had an answer. I remember telling one friend I had 5 fulls out out of 100 queries. "Only five?" She said. I'd felt pretty good about it. Of course there were more partials... but still. It's so hard to make people understand. I don't think I really try anymore. My husband gets it the most, but still we have very different styles. I figure. I guess I've given up on anyone "getting it"

  22. Heh. I smile politely and then say with a very, very serious face:

    Thanks! If everything goes really, really, really 100% well from here on in, you might see it on the stores in three years' time!

    That usually gets a stunned look and people shutting up O:)

  23. I told my dad that I had finally finished my novel.

    He said, "When is it being published?"

    Oh boy...

  24. Things change in a subtle way when you get published. Seeing it in hard copy is tangible. But in children's publishing people hear you have a book people don't take it seriously.

    "Oh yes. When I retire I'm going to write a kid book about..." if I had a dollar for every time somebody has said this I'd have to pay high taxes.


    Tap on the head. "That's nice dear. When are you going to write a real book."

    I don't talk about it to people outside of publishing. I am lucky to have some wonderful friends in publishing both physically and mentally on the internet. So those on the outside are treated just like when you ask "how are you?" they aren't expecting your medical records.

    They don't understand why you are taking your book seriously. Why you just don't drop everything and go shopping for calories, or depression in glaring at your backside in a mirror which is lying to you at how big your backside is when you know it isn't that big(!).

    I also have a degree of superstition with telling people before I hatch my egg.

    People who are genuinely interested in my writing activity will ask me and I will gladly tell them.

    Thanks for the Tiny Drop the Needle. I didn't see it because I've been AWOL last few days having a nice little dose of depression. Your care for those o/s is so lovely I want to tell you
    Kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss

    Funny but would you believe there are episodes of Sex in the City I haven't seen - last night I feasted on two. What a wonderful script - WOW!


  25. Miss Aspirant, I got an identical comment from my mother-in-law the other day, except that I'm only a fifth of the way through my first draft. Oy.

    Fortunately, I am blessed with a supportive grandfather who was an aspiring novelist once (four complete manuscripts, none published), so he understands just how much sweat equity and time goes into writing a novel and can sympathize completely with my frustrations!