There are a lot of common myths about the publishing industry. Often, they’re false—and can be damaging to writers who believe them. Many of them have been debunked by other writers and industry professionals, yet they persist. Here are five of the most inaccurate myths I hear about the publishing industry:
- You must have connections to get published
I hear this one a lot. I think most people assume that, because I’m also an editor as well as a writer, I must have had connections in the industry to get my agent. But here’s the truth: I started querying long before I started working as an editor. My agent read my manuscript after reading my query letter in the slush pile. At the time, I had no connections and zero recommendations. And I’m hardly the only writer who found their agent this way. Agents find new authors in the slush pile all the time. It is true that connections or recommendations can help you. But you don’t have to “know someone” in the industry to break in. If an agent loves your work and wants to represent you, that’s all it takes.
- There’s one “right” way to publish
I hear this on both sides—self-published authors who claim self-publishing the only way to achieve publishing success, and traditionally published authors who say the same of the traditional route. But there’s no such thing as one right answer, because what’s right for one author might be completely wrong for another. There are pros and cons to all publishing paths, and different writers will prefer different things. You might prefer one way over another, but don’t believe anyone who claims their way is the only way.
- Children’s fiction is easier to write than adult fiction
Obviously, as someone who both writes and edits children’s fiction, this one never ceases to make me angry. Books for children are not in any way inferior to books for adults—not in writing, and not in complexity. In fact, in many ways it can be harder to write for children, who have a much more limited attention span and won’t put up with any “boring” or slow scenes. And books for children and teens must have a very precise voice, one that can’t be too old or too young; readers will spot this a mile away if you get it wrong. As for complexity, children’s literature often tackles tough topics just as adult fiction does—but unlike adult fiction, it must present that difficult material in a way that a younger can make sense of. Children’s literature can challenge writers and readers alike in numerous ways, and often isn’t “easier.”
- Most authors are rich and/or famous
This is a myth that finally seems to be dying out, and if you’re reading this blog you’re probably informed enough about the publishing industry to know that very, very few writers are wealthy. In fact, very few writers even make a living solely off of their books. But I think a lot of aspiring writers assume that, while mid-list writers might not be rich, the bestsellers are. That isn’t true either; many bestselling authors still aren’t rich and aren’t well-known outside of the writing/book community. I say this not to discourage anyone from pursuing a writing career, but because I think it’s important that writers have reasonable expectations. If you want to publish books, it should be because you love writing and want to share your work with readers, not because you want to get rich or famous.
- It’s possible to be an overnight success
It is true that some authors seem to reach success very quickly. But, more often that not, what seems to onlookers as an overnight success is actually the result of many, many years of hard work that likely didn’t come without setbacks. Even debut authors who experience unusual successes didn’t get there instantly—they might have five manuscripts in a drawer that never sold, or they might have had a prior deal that fell through, or numerous other setbacks. For more on this, see this great post by author Victoria Schwab: “On the Slow Pursuit of Overnight Success.” Again, I say this not to be discouraging, but to help writers have realistic expectations when it comes to their careers.
What do you think? What publishing myths would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments!
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This post is part of my Submission Tips series. For information about submitting to literary agents, publishing houses, and more, check out other posts in the series here, and follow the blog to see future posts.