Today I have a guest, author Shallee McArthur here to tell us about her experience with traditional publishing.
Ah, the Land of Traditional Publishdom. So many of us want it, but those gates are closed pretty tight. I started knocking on the gates—AKA querying my book, THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE—with trepidation. Querying is no picnic. Except…for me, it kinda was. Within a week after I started querying, my agent offered. Within another week, I had two more offers. I accepted my agent Hannah Bowman’s offer with glee.
This was it! The hallowed gates of Publishdom had opened to welcome me, and what a welcome! My publishing path was paved with gold!
But here’s the thing. There is no path of gold in Publishdom. Sure, it only took me a week to get an agent, but it took me almost a year to get a publisher. And then I did, and I squealed and twirled my kids around the kitchen! I signed a shiny contract and had a shiny editor! Which, honestly, there are few better things in the world than that moment. Then, many other moments came.
Like the moment when my non-final book cover went live on Amazon/Goodreads without me knowing, and I had a panic attack and called my agent frantically because I was afraid it was going to ruin the big marketing push of doing a cover reveal.
Like the moment when a box of books arrived on my doorstep and I opened it to find words I had written inside the cover of a real, live book like the ones I’ve bought my entire life.
Like the moment when the librarian looked at me like “so what?” when I told her I was a local author and would love to participate in events.
Like the moment when I found out my book’s official release date was being pushed back two weeks, and I might not have copies for my planned launch party and again called my agent in a panic.
Like the moment I got a pre-release review where someone used the word “love” in reference to how they felt about my book.
Like the moment I got a call from the bookstore the day before my launch party saying they weren’t going to have copies in time for the party, fulfilling my worst nightmares.
Like the moment my agent, my editor, the bookstore worker, and I worked feverishly and managed to get the books to the event and I had dozens and dozens of friends and family and neighbors celebrate with me and I signed my own name on the title pages of dozens and dozens of books.
No matter what your path to Publishdom looks like right now, it’ll get better, and it’ll get worse. As my husband (and his dad) say, nobody gets out without singing the blues. In the end, though, none of those things I stressed and freaked out about mattered. My agent reminded me of that again and again. When one of those things goes wrong, it’s not the end of the world. Or your book, or your publishing career. It was true. My book did just fine, even with all those things I thought were going “wrong.”
That’s the most important thing I’ve learned during the publishing process. It’s not a magical land—it’s a business. It’s based on the idea of studying a market, finding what the market needs or wants, providing that thing, and making money on it. Publishing is a tricky business because it’s hard to know what kinds of books the market wants and which books will provide it. It’s a gamble, and in order to make their money so they can survive as a business, publishers have to play the game very carefully.
And us writers? We create stories that have nothing at all to do with business and everything to do with heart. So when those business-y things come up, and publishers have to make business decisions that affect our creation—which is their product—it hurts. It induces panic. It makes some people want to stay away from traditional publishing altogether.
That’s fine—that’s why it’s great there are multiple publishing choices that might fit your needs and your stories better! Sometimes publishing (no matter the route you take) sucks. Sometimes it’s great. Always, it takes hard work.
And always, there is no better feeling than to know your story is out there for people to discover, and for me, that is enough.
About Shallee McArthur
Shallee McArthur is the author of THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE. She originally wanted to be a scientist, until she discovered she liked her science best in fictional form. When she’s not writing young adult science fiction and fantasy, she’s attempting to raise her son and daughter as proper geeks. A little part of her heart is devoted to Africa after volunteering twice in Ghana. She has a degree in English from Brigham Young University and lives in Utah with her husband and two children.
And because people always ask, her name is pronounced "shuh-LEE." But she answers to anything that sounds remotely close.
She is represented by Hannah Bowman of Liza Dawson Associates.