David Louis Edelman David Louis Edelman

Five Things That Do Happen When You Become a Published Author

Following my somewhat pessimistic post on Five Things That Don’t Happen When You Become a Published Author, here are a few things I’ve noticed that do happen when you become a published author.

1. Strangers will be strangely deferential to you. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met in the past year whose eyes lit up when they discovered I had written a novel published by a real, live, New York publisher. The quality of what you’ve written is irrelevant. They’re just fascinated to meet someone with a publishing contract, and suddenly you’re the most interesting person in the room. I’ve had a million conversations that go something like this:

Them (eyes expressing boredom): So what do you do?
Me: I’m a novelist and a web programmer.
Them (eyes expressing polite skepticism): A novelist, huh? Gotten anything published yet?
Me: Yes, my first book was published last summer by Prometheus Books.
Them (eyes suddenly ablaze):
REALLY? Wow, what’s it called? Can I buy it in the stores? Is it on Amazon?
Me: It’s called Infoquake. You can find it in the science fiction section, and it’s on Amazon.
Them (eyes edging back part way towards skepticism): Oh, I don’t read science fiction. But I’ll have to tell my 12-year-old nephew, I’m sure he’ll love it!

2. You will suddenly become “the writing expert” to your friends and relatives. Several people have approached me since Infoquake‘s release and asked for my advice on getting their magnum opus published. It seems like 10% of the population has an unpublished novel sitting at home somewhere, 33% of the population has a partially finished novel sitting at home somewhere, and 90% of the world has a sister, friend, or cousin with one of the above.

The problem, of course, is that some of these books by friends and acquaintances clearly aren’t good enough for publication. You are now in a very, very awkward position. And so most authors have a story about how they tried to offer a would-be novelist some good advice, only to be roundly rebuffed.

3. You’ll have mixed feelings about what you’ve written. Most days, I’m pretty damn confident that Infoquake is a quality read. But there are plenty of times when I’ve picked up the book and flipped it open at random, only to find something that made me cringe. Like the other day, when I noticed a dialog where everyone kept talking in italics, because they had so many things to say that they just had to emphasize. On days like that, I feel like the only thing that got my book on the shelf at all was sheer persistence.

On the other hand, there have been plenty of days where I’ve had my mood bolstered by something positive that someone wrote about my book. Why, Barnes & Noble called me “the love child of Donald Trump and Vernor Vinge”! Ian McDonald said I should win the Philip K. Dick Award! SFFWorld said “the genre might not be quite the same after this book”! I’ve found that the compliments have stayed with me much longer than the disses.

4. Self-published authors will look to you for validation. You’ll likely find yourself in strange conversations with people who have published a book through a vanity press on wicca/shamanism/vampire erotica/extreme feminism/martial arts/military history. They’ll want to pal around with you in an effort to prove to themselves that they’re “part of the club.” Now, I certainly don’t mind dispensing advice and trading marketing tips, and I struggled long enough myself that I try not to make judgments about their books sight unseen. But sometimes I get the feeling that they’re not interested in what I have to say; it’s all about them, them, them.

One example: a few months ago, a self-published Irish wiccan priestess I met in Starbucks kept trying to push marketing tips on me. She asked if I was on the web yet, and told me I should really try searching for my name on Google. Another example: I chatted recently with an acquaintance from college who published a book of infantilism erotica with a specialty press. (That’s “diaper porn,” to the rest of us.) He kept saying things like “from one published author to another,” “us published writers,” and “in our business.”

5. You’ll have accomplished something that nobody can take away from you. Ever since I was a kid writing superhero stories for my brother, I’ve had the ambition of being a published author. Ever since I started college in 1989, I’ve been toiling away at some work of fiction or other. And finally, in June of 2006, I opened up a carton that arrived on my doorstep and saw a stack of snazzy trade paperbacks with my name on the cover.

It almost doesn’t matter what the critics or the readers say after that (though I must say that I’ve been pretty lucky on that score). You’re a published author, part of an exclusive group, and you won’t be going to your grave asking yourself What If.

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  1. John Farrell on March 16, 2007 at 12:00 pm  Chain link

    2. Oh yeah. You suddenly get calls from friends of your parents or siblings, who have a book (or book idea) and they need advice on how to get it published.

    (if only you could charge!)

    :)

  2. Muneraven on March 16, 2007 at 12:43 pm  Chain link

    Here is another thing that happens when you become a published author, sir:

    A complete stranger reads your hilarious post about Scott Lynch’s book on Fantasybookspot.com and thinks, “Who IS this guy?” So she goes and Googles you and finds your blog. Then she reads a few posts and thinks “Gee I like this guy, he’s smart AND funny despite being .” So she puts you on her to-buy list (bookstore gift card burning hole in pocket).

    I mean, that’s kind of a cool thing, right?

  3. David Louis Edelman on March 16, 2007 at 1:08 pm  Chain link

    I appreciate the sentiment, Muneraven. :-) Though I can’t be too unknown to you, considering I’m the webmaster and a contributor to the DeepGenre blog on which you are a frequent commenter.

    The Scott Lynch thing was all in good fun. Though having a sense of humor didn’t help my book get more votes than his. Alas.

  4. […] – Five Things That Do Happen When You Become a Published Author “Following my somewhat pessimistic post on Five Things That Don’t Happen When You Become a […]

  5. Josh Vogt on March 18, 2007 at 9:21 am  Chain link

    Have you ever had a self-published author actually look down on you for going through the money-squeezing, identity-erasing blender that is corporate publishing? Are there those you’ve found that think being self-published is somehow going to preserve the artistic value of their writing?

  6. David Louis Edelman on March 18, 2007 at 11:28 am  Chain link

    Josh: Nope, never had that happen. Although I do have some sympathy for that point of view. Not because my publisher is evil, money-squeezing, etc., but because I think in the long run all the big publishing companies are going away.

  7. Josh on March 19, 2007 at 7:55 am  Chain link

    What will be replacing them? A commune of print-on-demand and/or ebook suppliers? Do you think the big companies going away is a good change, bad change, or just “a” change writers will have to learn to adapt to?

  8. Cindy Blank-Edelman on March 19, 2007 at 3:40 pm  Chain link

    Thing number 6 that happens when you become a published author: your older sister greets all friends and acquaintances with “Did you know my brother just had a book published? It’s called Infoquake and you should go buy it right now.” Also part of thing number 6 is sister claims the right to feel vicariously famous because little brother wrote a book. :-)

  9. David Louis Edelman on March 19, 2007 at 3:50 pm  Chain link

    Josh: It depends how quickly we get real ebooks. Once we have a real, usable, lightweight, truly portable ebook reader with robust battery life, most publishers are going to collapse like a house of cards if they don’t adapt. I was hopeful that we might have gotten there with the Tablet PC, but looks like we still have a ways to go.

    Is it going to be a good thing or a bad thing? My guess is that, like most change, it’ll initially cause chaos and eventually bring huge benefits.

    Cindy: Thanks, Cindy! Now get back to work providing me in-depth commentary on MultiReal. 😀

  10. Mark on March 28, 2007 at 1:45 pm  Chain link

    Thanks for sharing! I think #5 is the biggest. For people who like to create rather than absorb, I believe there is a certain amount of fulfillment in the act of creation itself. But at a certain point the soul feels the need to do something more than simply create, to create something “worthwhile”. In todays world, getting it published is undeniable proof that you have done something worthwhile, that you have added to the sum total of humanity in a significant way other than by simply sucking oxygen. Congratulations, enjoy the feeling.

  11. links for 2007-03-31 • Morrow Planet on March 30, 2007 at 9:22 pm  Chain link

    […] Five Things That Do Happen When You Become a Published Author (David Louis Edelman’s Blog) (tags: writing) […]

  12. Sybil Ward on March 31, 2007 at 1:49 am  Chain link

    Hi, David. I came across your site while “doing research”. I’m trying to learn what I can about the business of writing from people that actually write. I was attracted by #3 since I LIVE with that concern.

    I did not ever have a desire to write fiction. One day I suddenly found a story in my head that would not go away. I wrote it and decided to have some fun with it (thus the website). I just wanted someone to share the story and talk to me about it because my husband was pretty much sick of hearing about it.

    Now, friends are INSISTING that I should try to get the story published. At this point, I’m unconvinced. How do you KNOW when you have something worth sharing?

  13. David Louis Edelman on March 31, 2007 at 9:21 am  Chain link

    Sybil: You might be interested in a discussion going on on one of the group blogs I belong to, DeepGenre: When Do You Know Your Manuscript Is Ready? There are a number of authors there (all more experienced than I am) who discuss that kind of question there on a regular basis.

    My take? You never really know for sure. And honestly friends can be misleading. But if you’re game to try and you have low expectations, it couldn’t hurt to see what happens if you send it off.

  14. Sybil Ward on April 1, 2007 at 2:17 am  Chain link

    Thanks, David. I will definitely to a look DeepGenre. All things considered, all I’ve got to lose is a little pride, some paper, and some postage :-) We shall see.

    I ordered InfoQuake today. It sounded far too intriguing not to give it a look. I’ll be back when I’ve finished it. I’m anticipating a fun ride.

    Take care

  15. Erin on January 10, 2011 at 6:18 pm  Chain link

    Thanks for the tips, David! i really appreciate the fact that you are helping out people and kids (like me!) get published. I am 13, and i have always dreamed of getting one of my stories published! Recently, i won a local contest with one of my stories, and i have now beem thinking about eventually trying to get it published. Please leave a tip if you think that it could help me with my quest :) also, do you think publishers look for the size and length of the story? right now, i am writing a short story for school, and i have been thinking ‘ if i ever want to get this published, will i need to make it longer and more elaborate?’ Hope you can help!

    good wishes from Canada :)

  16. David Louis Edelman on January 11, 2011 at 11:48 am  Chain link

    Erin: It all depends on where you want to get your story published. You should always check the submission guidelines for the publication(s) where you’re sending your story. Some markets want 1,000 words, some want 10,000. Just make sure you meet submission guidelines, and you’re off to a good start.

    Good luck!

  17. Keane on November 21, 2011 at 3:33 pm  Chain link

    Haha, great post. I stumbled upon this wondering if I should use the term “published” in my bio. This really boosted my morale!

    Thanks :)

  18. Bahareh on March 13, 2012 at 9:10 am  Chain link

    hi there… thank you for the post, I was thinking how did you publish your book? how much did it cost? and which one is considered better? “published author” or “self-published” author? do published books considered as relevant experience? and what about does who self published their books? and if you give the publisher your writing, how can I make sure they won’t steal it?
    I don’t know any of these questions and I thought maybe you could help me out. thank you for reading this.
    have a great time there.

  19. David Louis Edelman on March 14, 2012 at 9:10 am  Chain link

    Bahareh: Publishing through a reputable New York publisher (Random House, Simon & Schuster, etc.) costs nothing. In fact, they pay you. Nothing wrong with self-publishing, but you’re never going to get into chain bookstores or bestseller lists that way. Don’t worry about publishers stealing your writing; they’ve got far, far more publishable stuff than they know how to deal with already. Look in the Publishing section of this blog for some posts by me on how I got published.

  20. Bahareh on March 14, 2012 at 6:47 pm  Chain link

    thank you so much for the reply. here in Iran everything’s messed up. so that was the reason I asked. you can’t find your answer if you search in Persian, so you have to search in English. I wish I could get out of here soon. as it was my dream as a child and now it’s become a goal…! I like the way things are there. if you have a question you know where to go. any way. thank you so much. I’m so grateful.
    have a great time
    Bahareh

  21. David writer on July 10, 2013 at 9:10 pm  Chain link

    Hi David.

    Those are some interesting experiences. Having never bothered with Madison Avenue and going straight to self publishing, I guess I missed out on some of your fun. But self-published or publishing-house published, either way people’s eyes light up. Writing a book is simply something more interesting than commuting to an office like everybody else.

    Frankly, I don’t think it would matter if I had written about the digestive system of marine enchilada voles. OK, maybe it would matter. (I wrote on happiness, and most people have something to say on the topic.)

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