The salty and sweet of being a writer – Wendy Francis
By Wendy Francis
Yesterday, someone asked me if it was easy being a writer after having been a book editor for fifteen years. “It must be so nice to understand how book publishing works,” she said. ♥
And to a certain degree, it’s true. I’m familiar with the nuances of contracts; the different stages of a manuscript; how rare it is for the first book jacket to be the one you actually end up with. I know what it’s like to pull your hair out over endings and to struggle for that perfect title.
But I’ve also discovered that I’ve got plenty to learn about being an author. For instance, aside from the hard, soul-searching writing part (which, I suspect, will never get easier), being an author requires a certain amount of trust. Because once you pass in your final corrections, you are no longer in the driver’s seat. Put another way, you have ceded the controls to your book, given up your seat in the command center. It can feel uncomfortable and unfamiliar.
An editor has the luxury of bending the ear of the publicity director while they go grab a cup of coffee. An editor can help sway in-house opinion when it comes to advertising, promotion, and book tours. Unless you’re extremely charming (and happen to live within a block of your publishing house), an author generally does not have this kind of influence. An editor is the author’s tireless advocate and cheerleader, while an author often must sit on her hands at home – and wait. Or pray. Or perform a rain dance. Or organize her paperclips while she waits for her finished book to meet the world.
Of course, you can blog to your heart’s content, post on Facebook, build your Twitter fan base. You can even hire your own publicist. But it’s not the same as being able to poke your head into a colleague’s office to ask, “Hey, how are sales looking this week? What else should we be doing to make people fall in love with this novel?” Having to wait patiently for book magic to strike your book, well, that’s the salt.
Thankfully, though, there’s a decidedly sweet side to being a writer. And that is the sensation you get when, for the first time, a reader tells you how much your book meant to her. Maybe it helped her through a rough time. Maybe it just made her laugh. Maybe one of your characters reminded her of her mom, her best friend, her sister. Possibly your novel sparked a great book club discussion. Or, maybe it captured a relationship that encouraged a reader to consider her own relationship with fresh eyes.
Whatever it is, I promise you nothing will prepare you for how your book will touch readers. It’s a domain reserved for authors and readers only, that personal connection—a connection that, as an editor, I could never fully appreciate.
Authors will go pretty much anywhere our readers will have us – bookstores, libraries, wine cellars, sweltering attics. It is when someone reaches out a hand and shares a story with you, inspired by yours, that the wonderful web of stories continues to get spun. And that is what makes being a writer, an author, a truly awe-inspiring job.
Wendy Francis is the author of the novel The Summer of Good Intentions and Three Good Things. She is a former book editor whose work has appeared in the Huffington Post and The Improper Bostonian. She lives outside of Boston with her husband and son.