Liars Club

Liars Tell the Truth About… what they wish they knew

by Marie Lamba on April 21, 2010

in Advice for Writers,The Writing Life

We Liars are kicking off a new series of “honest” posts, where members each tell the truth about a particular burning question or issue related to writing or the industry. Check back on this site frequently for posts from our illustrious Liars.

Burning Question #1: What one thing did we wish we knew before publishing our first book or article?

From Liar Marie Lamba

That crap happens. Honestly, every published writer I’ve spoken to has a story about how they have gotten the nasty end of the stick. This shouldn’t be such a big surprise, but somehow it is. This is partly because authors rarely talk about these nightmares openly. It’s the kind of thing we whisper to each other when swapping horror stories with a colleague. And I think this is a disservice to our fellow writers, who really should be better prepared for their future.

Writing is such a personal business. Especially with fiction. Your book is your baby in a way. You invest so much into it. You love it.  Then you have an editor who loves it. And you have this great relationship with your editor. Yeah, it’s business, but you feel really close to your editor, and you know that she will fight for your book till the end.

So, uh, how come there are so many authors with “crap happens, and it happened to me” stories? Because your book may be your baby, but in the world of publishing, nobody cares. It’s just a commodity. Not even your editor cares. Well, she does to a point, but I can promise you she cares about her job and her paycheck more. So books get accepted and then get canceled.  Books come out and a publisher has already lost interest in them, so there is no publicity or support. Future books that you write may or may not be picked up by the publisher/editor who “loved” your last novel. And so it goes. It all definitely feels like a betrayal of sorts, but as Donald Trump says, “It’s nothing personal. It’s just business.”

I know, it sounds dire. But before you impale yourself on your fountain pen, think of how empowering this information can be.  Just knowing that crap happens and that it will probably happen to you should make your dealings more businesslike.  Don’t trust that an editor has talked up your book with the marketing committee, get over there and talk with them yourself.  Don’t be complacent and believe that since a publisher has accepted your book that your work is done. Assume that the rug will be ripped out from beneath you at any moment and work your ass off to promote the work you have gotten accepted, to relate to your readers and build a fan base, and to write an even better next book.  Always have projects going.  Dude, it’s survival. It’s business. And it’ll serve you well.

Sadly I’ve seen many a talented author get so distraught by what has happened to them in the publishing business that they’ve given up writing completely.  It’s killed the joy for them, and they just can’t pursue their craft anymore. It nearly happened to me. Having a book that was in final copyedits cancelled, along with a host of other serious crap occurring at the same time, nearly did me in. I’m an extremely positive person, but even I felt beyond low. The only way I got through was to fight back hard promoting my book like crazy. And by sinking my teeth into more novels.

I’m a different writer now.  Paperback canceled? Okay. Passed on a new novel? Fine. I’m not pleased, but I’m not devastated either. I’m too busy looking for the business relationship that will benefit my writing the most, and I’m too busy being the best writer I can be.

And I’m still loving what I do.

Philly Liars Club member Marie Lamba is author of the young adult novel WHAT I MEANT… (Random House). Author photo by Pat Achilles.


{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Gerri George April 21, 2010 at 5:28 pm

“Always have projects going” – that’s superb advice. Great piece. Thanks.

R. Walford April 21, 2010 at 9:27 pm

Fantastic article! Being unpublished, and full of countless questions like the one you just addressed, I found that this article really struck a chord with me. And you’re right — not enough writers talk about this stuff. By posting these discussions, and delving into subjects that aren’t normally addressed in your typical cookie-cutter “How To Write Your Novel In Twenty Minutes” type forums, you guys are really giving valuable advice to those of us who haven’t yet made the big leap into publishing. So thank you!!!

JonGibbs April 22, 2010 at 7:35 am


Thanks for sharing 🙂

Cyn April 22, 2010 at 10:02 am

Marie, that is the best advice!! You are so very right. So many people I know have jumped off during the low points of the publishing roller coaster ride, but it’s just business. And everyone has low points. If you don’t persist through them, you’ll never reach the the highs.

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Kaleigh March 10, 2017 at 5:55 am

in NJ—How horrible for you to be such a close-up eye witness to the tragic events of 9/11 and very nearly a fatality yourself. In the aftermath, what a touching symbol of endurance and continuing life was your little plant, a survivor of dielstsr.@Dearene—Hugs for you and prayers for your son in Afghanistan that he stay safe and be back home soon.

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