It Pays to Double Check

In the 80s when I had published only short stories and essays, I kept telling friends, “If I could just publish a book, one little book, with anyone, my problems would be over.”

Yeah, right.

Once I had gotten a book out with a major publisher, I discovered the truth a novelist friend warned me about: “The only thing worse than not being published is being published.”  Things go wrong at publishing houses that you could never imagine happening, for reasons you can never fathom.

Recently a novelist  I had previously reviewed asked if I was interested in seeing a new book of his, and I was happy to say yes.  He’s now twice been assured by his publicist that the book was sent to me.  I haven’t gotten it, so he gave up and ordered me a copy from amazon himself.

He was upset, but I wasn’t surprised at a mail room turning into a black hole.  With one of my books, none of the blurb copies ever reached the intended authors.  They got “lost” in the mail room.  I only discovered this by accident, when the deadline for blurbs was up, none had come in, and we had to go with reviews from a previous book.

That wasn’t a tragedy, but it would have made me feel more confident taking a new book out into the world with fresh, not recycled, words on its back.

Back then, I was too new to realize that everything in publishing demands double-checking when you’re an author.  And I was too shy to ask the authors I was hoping would blurb my book if they’d received their copies.  I’ve had to learn to get over my shyness, because that’s the only way to guarantee that something happens when it’s supposed to.

I’ve also learned that whenever I speak somewhere that isn’t a bookstore, and that’s most of the time, I need to monitor whether they’ve ordered books.  Why?  Because sometimes hosts at a venue get things wrong, are misinformed about a book’s availability, or just plain forget.  I always offer to run interference if they need it, and try to stay cheerful and helpful, no matter how frustrating the process might be in some cases.  If I don’t double check, there’s no guarantee books will be there.

Writing isn’t for sissies, and it’s also not the best career for an introvert.  You have to put yourself out there again and again, but you also have to never assume that things will get done efficiently or on time or at all.  You need to keep track of everything, whether you like it or not, even if it means feeling like a nag.

That doesn’t mean you’re OCD, it just means you’re careful and conscientious.  It’s your career, after all, and if you don’t check, who will?

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4 Responses

  1. You are very right about writing being not for the faint of heart. I have several friends, who process to want to become writers. They won’t start without a lot of handholding and even then, they won’t do it. They are in love with the glamorous image of the job without a real understanding of how things actually work when you are a writer.

    Very insightful and appreciated post!

  2. I can surely agree with your thoughts here, Lev, and am particularly struck with your warning to introverts about the perils of a writing career. I’ve been struggling with the need to “double check” and “to get it out there” my whole writerly life. I can “become” my fictional characters, but “becoming the professional writer” is much, much harder.

    • I started my career as an extrovert, but find that over the years, touring and being focused on every last detail takes more and more out of me. But as problems go, better to have it than not, I suppose. 🙂

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