No “industry” is without its faults, but some seem more egregious than others.
I’ve been through every stage of the publishing process. I’ve queried agents, signed with two different agents, sold books for advance, sold short stories for cents-per-word, dealt with publishing houses and editors, dealt with audiobooks, and even self-published novels (mostly because I was fed up with traditional publishing).
These are obviously my pet peeves. Some authors may or may not disagree, so read everything with a grain of salt.
#3 — The Wait Times
Fun fact, true fact: the books hitting the shelves today were sold a year ago.
“One year isn’t so bad,” I hear someone groan from the far-side of the internet.
Perhaps. But now consider how long it took to write the book. And then edit it. And then pitch it to agents. And then have the agent pitch it to editors.
Let’s say you already have an agent and an editor waiting to buy. Even if it took you 8 days to write your novel (there are people who do this) a publishing house worth their salt will likely take 6-8 months to get the novel ready. They have a marketing team, ARC review books, beta readers, etc. etc. etc.
And that’s if everything is going your way. If we pretend you have no agent and you’re stuck querying, the process could take longer. And then maybe you get an agent, but that guy takes forever. One agent even boasted that he sold a novel after 7 years of pitching it to editors.
Jeebus Christ. The wait is insane.
#2 — Nobody Knows What They’re Doing
A lot of publishing houses take the “throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks” approach to books. Editors only have so much budget to acquire manuscripts, and they’ll typically throw down a lot on one and then use the rest to gather up a few others they think might have a chance.
Why do they do this?
Because no one can really predict what the masses will enjoy. Trends changes. Opinions change. Tastes change. What was popular twenty years ago isn’t going to fly with the readers of today.
The fact of the matter is… everyone wants to find the next greatest hit. And if they had a formula to find that, they wouldn’t have this long and awkward process of testing (and they wouldn’t be losing money).
Take famous example, Harry Potter, for instance. Agents and publishing houses turned it down. Heck, the publishing house that eventually took her actually rejected first. A kid of one of the editors read the book and asked them to reconsider.
The sad truth: a lot of people can write really well. Like, super duper well. Their words fly off the page and paint a beautiful picture of fiction, non-fiction, and screenplays alike.
Why is this sad? Because sometimes skill isn’t enough. Sometimes creativity isn’t enough. Sometimes, in the publishing industry, you need luck–even for just a second–to get ahead. And that can be frustrating.
#1 — The Predatory Nature of “Helping Authors”
This one is definitely the worst.
Have you ever considered self-publishing? Or maybe just hiring an editor to get your book in shape before sending it to an agent? Type that into Google and you’ll be overwhelmed with people selling you a service under the guise “helping you out.”
What do I mean by that? I mean, there are millions of people waiting around every corner who want to take you for a ride. Lots of people want to publish a book, and whenever there is a demand, someone is willing to supply–for a price. Vanity publishers (people who want thousands of dollars up front to publish a book for you), or editors asking for a couple grand to read over and evaluate your work, or scumbag agents who will represent you so long as you pay them first.
And that’s not even the beginning.
There are tons (and I mean tons) of “training courses” for you to buy your way into. Some cost a few hundred bucks, others will cost a few thousand–but they all offer you the same thing.
Mind you, these aren’t courses to help you become a better writer, or understand story structure, or talk about tight and coherent screenplays. These are courses with promises of money–tons of money–so long as you follow their step-by-step instructions.
Everyone wants your money. Hell, even I want your money! At the end of this article I’ll be throwing down links to my books like a shameless hooker offering a 2-for-50 deal. The real key as an aspiring author is to weed through the people who are offering you legitimate products and services, and the people looking to gut you for every last coin you have on your person.
Which, by the way, my books are legitimate products.
At the end of the day, my soul gets tired after the 600th advertisement talking about how I could be making money so long as I spent a shit ton of money.
If you’re a fellow author, you probably feel like I do–you just want to tell stories that other people will enjoy. You probably live for the moments people say they enjoyed your novel. You likely stay up at night thinking about the 1-star reviews and whether you’re a hack-fraud that’s just deluding yourself.
I get it. Which is why this is the worst pet peeve in the publishing industry for me. There are a lot of predators out there that want to take advantage of your personal dreams. They feed on optimism and lure you in with false promises and candied hope.
But I’ll leave you with this tweet. I think it’s the perfect counter-balance to all this negativity.