The Publishing Industry For The Insecure

Submitted for Contest #46 in response to: Write a story about someone who has just finished writing their first story/book.... view prompt

18 comments




I was reluctant to share the fact that I was writing a book. Though many of my friends have been a lot more encouraging than I thought they’d be. Thank God for those generous souls. There were others that reacted in less than pleasant ways, though, downright discouraging ways, in fact. There’s the trying-not-to-laugh sideways glance, like your friend or family member thinks you couldn’t write yourself out of a paper bag, great confidence builder that one. Theres the who do you think you are and how could you ever say anything that would be of interest to anyone comments, also real ego boosters. But what I love the most are the comments by folks who want to stress how much better they’d be at such a feat than you


I didn’t let any of it stop me. I had a story that I just couldn’t help writing down. It took me two years but I finally finished it last month. I’m proud of it. I can hardly believe that I accomplished the writing of an entire novel. Better still, a couple of people have read it and said the same complimentary things about the story. 


So, emboldened by the good opinion of others, I’ve been submitting my work to agents. And getting absolutely nowhere. 


It turns out that I knew nothing about the publishing industry. There are trends in writing style. Plus, a writer has to pay attention to their word count. They have to know their genre and markets that accept their type of work. Authors to be have to be able to sum up a three hundred page novel in two paragraphs or less and then again in two sentences or less.


I don’t know how long it’ll take me to learn everything including how to revise or indeed how long the revising itself will take once I learn, but I am committed now. Besides, what I lack in confidence, I make up for with a solid work ethic and an almost crippling fear of being laughed at about this for the rest of my life. I’m going to do everything it takes for as long as I have breath in my body or until I’ve worn down someone into publishing this book, whichever falters first.


My most immediate problem is my mom. She has told everyone that I wrote a book and I’m going to get it published. I must confess that most of the you-couldn’t-possibly-write-a-whole-book-I know-you’ll-give-up, smiling, sideways glancers have taken to congratulating me instead of sneering. Some of the you-could-never-come-up-with-something-interesting-to-say folks have also been silenced, but there are still enough comments and advice to humiliate or upset me whenever I go anywhere I might find someone my mom knows. Sadly this is a small town, and Mom is the mayor. 


For this reason, I find myself turning down most invitations. One can’t refuse to attend their own sister’s wedding, however, and that’s why today I stood by a sumptuous buffet table in embarrassingly tight pink satin, through which I could see the too large indent of my bellybutton. Undoubtably this was inviting a multitude of people to think I don’t need anything more to eat. Oh, and I apparently had a bullseye drawn on my forehead that people who have something humiliating to say about my writing could see even better than the fat shamers could.


First my Uncle Elden steps between me and the adorable college friend of my new brother-in-law who’s in the line in front of me. “Jane! Your mother tells me you’re about to have a book published.” 


Adorable college friend looks interested, but I have to say, “No, Uncle Elden. remember, I wrote the book, but I haven’t found a publisher for it yet. I can’t even get an agent to represent me so far.”


“What do you need an agent for? Just quit being lazy and get it done.”


“I really want to get it published traditionally if I can.”


“So get it done. You can’t do odd jobs your whole life.”


“I wouldn’t call being a nurse an odd job. I’m starting to get a sneaking suspicion that it’s always going to pay better than the writing.”


Elden grumbles something else about lazy kids of today and goes on. By this time, the hot guy is gone. I abandon the buffet and get myself a cosmo instead. I look around for him, taking a nice gulp of liquid courage and trying to forget about how everyone can see my bellybutton indent. 


I’m lowering the cosmo and trying to convince myself that maybe cute guy will be into a huge belly button indent–who knows–when my obnoxious cousin Clint knocks the rest of my drink down the front of my maid of honor dress. “Smooth, Clint.”


He ignores the fact that he spilled my drink down me, obviously eager to get something off his chest. “You’re mom says you’re getting your first book published.”


“Not yet.”


He laughs. “I told my mom she was lying. What the hell do you know about writing? Weren’t you like a biology major?”


“You still doing the graveyard shift at the Quickie Mart?”


“Yeah, why do you want to know?”


“Excuse me a minute. I need some napkins and a new drink.”


I head back to the bar and miracle of miracles the good looking guy joins me. What’s more, he starts to flirt. It’s going great for about twenty minutes. Then he says, “So, you wrote a book?”


“Yeah, it took me about two years and now I’m having to do some serious revisions.”


He smiles broadly and I think he’s going to say something nice about my achievement, but he says, “I’ve often thought about writing a book too. I figure I could knock one out in a couple months.” 


I look for some sign that he’s joking and realize he isn’t.


He goes on about his talent and his great ideas.


I nod and smile politely, but what I’m really thinking is: Ha, if you try it might be x number of years if ever. Hope you’ve read a lot. Your story would have to be original and interesting. It would have to be as tight as the lid on an old jar of jelly in Grammy’s pantry, plausible, with no plot holes. You’d have to create characters who seem like they could step off the page too. There has to be tension and suspense to prevent boring your reader during the setup of more tension and suspense. Goodness forbid there should be weird POV shifts, passive voice, improper use of dialog tags or anything that might confuse the reader. Gosh, the list goes on. Do you plan to quit your day job? Wait. Maybe you’re some kind of book writing mage.


When he's done talking, I say, “Yeah, you should give it a try. No guts no glory, babe. Take that first completed draft over to your local critique group. Better yet, query some agents. See what happens. Then get back to me on that. I want to take you out to celebrate your first book signing. Can’t wait.” 


If he is a book writing mage, I want to be his best girl.

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18 comments

Batool Hussain
05:19 Jun 25, 2020

Hello! Great story:) Mind checking out my stories? Thanks.

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A O
18:55 Jun 25, 2020

Thanks, Batool. I'll definitely check yours out.

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Laura Clark
10:56 Jun 20, 2020

Ha! I really enjoyed reading this - although I was so disappointed when the hot guy turned out to be one of those kind of guys. Ugh. Fun ideas (and quite a lot of technical knowledge - are you in the process of finding a publisher? It felt like lived experience). Thanks for sharing.

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A O
17:16 Jun 20, 2020

Hi Laura, thanks for the comment. Yep, have been looking for representation for two completed novels. Have had agents read full manuscripts, but have not yet found representation. Trying to hone my skills on short stories before further revision and resubmission. How's it going for you?

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Laura Clark
18:10 Jun 20, 2020

Wow, two novels is dedication. I’ve only been dipping my toe into creative writing for the last month or so - I’ve got the start of a novel but it’s literally only the start. I’ve got a lot more experience reading other people’s work and commenting on it than doing it myself! Good luck with your manuscripts though - I hope you find someone to represent you soon!

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A O
18:13 Jun 20, 2020

Thanks :-). You're starting in a far better place than me. I was all right at crafting a story, not so great at crafting a sentence. Still working on the latter.

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Shirley Medhurst
21:00 Jun 28, 2020

Brilliant! I love the inner monologue

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A O
00:54 Jun 29, 2020

Thanks, Shirley.

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Serine Achache
01:24 Jun 28, 2020

It's amazingly written. I loved how real everything sounded. I really really wish you the best of luck!

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A O
16:11 Jun 28, 2020

Thanks so much, Serine. I wish you the same. :-)

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Anoushka Jain
10:27 Jun 27, 2020

Wow! I loved your story, and the main character's thoughts, especially in the beginning mirrored mine. She had a very relatable character and would have loved to hear more about her family's opinions and how they interacted with the main character. Also, you've written two complete novels, wow that's impressive! I'm still a toddler in the writing community, and I definitely need some feedback from more experienced writers like yourself! I would love to hear how I can improve my stories from you, if you have the time! Once again, grea...

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A O
17:20 Jun 27, 2020

Thanks so much for your feedback. :-) I meant for this to speak to anyone who's had a legit schism with a close family member. Reconciliation in such an event is so complicated by what most of us feel we're owed by our close relations. Thanks for the encouragement about my 2 completed novels. I hope to revise them both to a level that would prompt someone in the industry to buy them but that hasn't happened yet.

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Anoushka Jain
17:29 Jun 27, 2020

Yes, I understand exactly what you mean about family reconciliations. Would love to hear more about your novels too, if you don't mind me asking!

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A O
03:44 Jun 28, 2020

Thanks so much for the interest. I started writing because I had an idea for a novel that I needed to get out of my head. So I guess I was pretty ambitious from the start. Confidentially, I didn't write at all well in the beginning. I finished that first novel before I ever wrote another thing. That was speculative. Then I wrote one that could be described more as women"s fiction. Now I'm just trying to improve my style with short stories before I go back and revise. How about you? What else are you working on?

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Anoushka Jain
08:01 Jun 28, 2020

Wow. I don't think I have it in me to write a whole novel, let alone 2. Your books sound interesting, and I would love to read them someday. I am basically a toddler in the writing community right now, and because of that I love hearing how I can improve, because I know my writings are not my best right now. I'm very nervous about sharing what I write with anyone, because I'm worried that people won't get it, so I can say I'm fairly new too this whole writing thing. Seriously, I've written like 3 stories. But Reedsy has really helped me n...

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A O
17:27 Jun 28, 2020

Anoushka, I don't think your writing is sucky. I've admired some beautiful lines that you wrote. I believe in taking every day as an opportunity to improve upon oneself and one's works, whatever they may be, so I would never advise anyone to stop trying to perfect upon work that's honest and productive. At any rate, that's how the great become great, trial and error, persevering through failure and embarrassment. I'm also sure that you have stories in you that will be inspiring to others even if those others are just in your immediate circl...

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