Deb Caletti is a bestselling Young Adult novelist and National Book Award finalist for her 2004 novel, Honey, Baby, Sweetheart. Her current book, The Secret Life of Prince Charming, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, one of several her work has received. If you’d like to learn more about Deb (there’s much to learn, too), or if you’re just in the mood for a smile and an example of what positive energy looks like, go to her site, www.debcaletti.com.
When I first signed with my agent, I sat back and waited for the phone to ring. I was sure that the great news would come at any moment. (If you’re asking what great news, you’re definitely on the wrong site.) I thought the hard part was over. Four years and four more books later, I finally got that call. Now the hard part was really over, right?
What I wished I knew but didn’t then was that every part of this business is a long distance run. The writing of a book is, the selling of a book is, and the selling of another book is. Publishing isn’t a single destination you reach and once reached, where you get to stay. It’s not a royal post, with forever riches and glory and an embarrassing (but also sort of cool) velvet hat. It’s a job. Which means it is work. A lot of work. And it is an unstable job at that. Think less “royal” and more a retail job with bitchy customers where everyone’s always getting laid off. Or a day trader, at the complete financial and emotional mercy of your best guess at the whims of the market.
This is a tough business. I knew it was tough before I was published, but didn’t really know. I knew it the way you know an earthquake must be tough if you’ve only ever seen one on the news. In this business, you have to be very good, and you have to stay very good if you want to keep your job. It doesn’t let up unless you are Stephen King, and I’m quite sure “let up” is not even how he (one of the hardest working writers ever) would define his life. And “very good” is only part of the picture. You can mind that part of the store and still a hurricane can come, some plain bad luck that has nothing to do with your talent that wipes you out and sends you back to start. (Yes, I realize this is the second natural disaster mentioned in one paragraph.)
There are no magic keys that can make “it” happen or keep it happening. Knowing the right person will not, doing every P.R. stunt involving every technological device while wearing feathers and peddling a unicycle backwards will not. Your best bet is to remember your job, which is to write really good books and more really good books. This is very hard, and still no guarantee your next masterpiece sees print.
I usually try to tell the truth about all this – not to be discouraging, but so that writers can understand it all in a way that’s more honest than the “Ten Steps to Getting Published” and “P.R. Your Way to a Bestseller” articles of Writer’s Digest. (Not to knock Writer’s Digest. Just saying.) I think it’s important to know the truth and embrace it, if writing is who you are and what you have to do.
And if it’s who you are and what you have to do, all of this is just good information, anyway. It won’t deter you in the least. You’ll keep writing, even if it’s a constant uphill trek in the snow with a yak and all your worldly (or word-ly) possessions.
Visit Deb Caletti at her website, www.debcaletti.com.