Guest Blog by Deb Sanders

The Life and Times of an Unpublished Writer 

I’m a writer. 

People have snickered and rolled their eyes when I’ve said that because I’m not published. Therefore, I must not be a “real” writer. 

I’ve always lived by the words of Dr. Wayne Dyer. “When you believe it, you’ll see it.” To help solidify my dream of becoming a published writer, I visualize myself attending book signings, imagine my name on the New York Times Bestseller list, role play with an invisible agent as we discuss my next project. I’ve even designed covers for my unsold manuscripts and pinned them to my bulletin board. 

And then reality hits. There are bills to pay, issues that need resolving, grandchildren that need a hug, a husband who needs a hug. It can be difficult to maintain a dream when life adds a sobering dash of reality. 

I’m a writer. I will persevere. 

After everyone is asleep and the chores are done, I sit in front of my computer and summon my muse. Some nights are easier than others, but eventually the words come. A few at first, then a deluge until the pages tick by one at a time. 

I would like nothing better than to be a full time writer, published or not. Writing makes me feel alive. The need to tell my stories calls to me like the song of an unseen siren. I must write. I have no choice. 

The most difficult part of my journey to publication has been the incredible amount of patience that’s required and expected. I’ve even factored that knowledge into my submission process as I search for agents and editors who accept electronic sumitttals over snail mail. It’s actually quicker to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree than it is to get published. 

Think about it. You spend six months to a year writing and revising your manuscript, and that’s a conservative estimate. If you query an agent, it can be three months to more than a year before you receive a response, but at least you can query multiple agencies. If you query a publishing house, you must wait for a response before sending it to another. Again, you are probably looking at six months to a year. Let’s say an agent requests a partial. Several months later, they request a full. If you’re lucky, they will start sending it out immediately, but there are no guarantees. And if you’re very lucky, an editor might decide to pick it up. This process might take another six months to a year, especially if the editor wants revisions before they offer a contract. 

Finally you can smile. You’ve sold your first manuscript. But it will be another year to eighteen months before it ever arrives on a book shelf. Advances and royalties are balanced against net sales and returns. Don’t toss out those Ramen Noodles yet. 

I think this archaic system is why so many writers are exploring the option of self- publishing through venues like Kindle and Smashwords. It’s also why a growing number of published authors are self-publishing their backlist once they’ve regained their rights. It’s quick. You have control of the process. 

On the flip side, you’re also responsible for all marketing efforts. It’s certainly not for everyone, but I like the fact that the opportunity is there. While you’re waiting for “the call”, you can be building a backlist of titles and a following. In this economy, that’s an attractive option to a print publisher. 

If you’ve reached this point in the blog, you’re probably wondering why I even bother to pursue a writing career. The investment of time and energy is huge. The payout–at least in the beginning–is meager. It’s not easy and it’s often dehumanizning. Why do I do it? 

I’m a writer. 

Deb Sanders 

3 thoughts on “Guest Blog by Deb Sanders

  1. Hi Deb! You make a great point here. Writers feel compelled to write. I am so glad you are carving out the time and having the patience to keep at it. Tenacity is so key in this business.

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