Diplomatically Speaking… A Conversation About Premature Publishing

Today, I heard ’round the grapevine that someone I know in real life has published their first book. A mutual acquaintance told me. I’ve been doing this long enough that the appropriate response materialized on my lips more or less automatically, but to be honest… I’m a little hurt the writer didn’t tell me, herself. And I’m genuinely pissed off that mutual acquaintance didn’t tell me the absolute first minute he knew, because I missed the celebration phase and landed **splat** in the consolation phase. Yup. The review (singular) is in.

Deep breath.

If you are going to self-publish, you must be a part of a writers’ community, and you must research your options. Then, research them again, because they probably changed while you took that coffee break.

The only thing I’m sure everyone (traditional and indie, and all the happy readers, too) agrees on is that publishing is changing fast.

Being a part of a community helps you stay on top of the changes. I’m involved in several, but probably the most active in the Holly’s Writing Classes Forums. And the community tells me things. It’s like having thousands of ears, instead of just two. How do you self-publish? Ask the community. How do you market? Ask the community. Need help with your query letter or your blurb? Ask the community.

You build relationships over time, and eventually… if you’re lucky, and if you work at building those relationships… you find people who can answer the tough questions. What’s wrong with this? What do you think of___? And ultimately… Is this ready?

In the case of my acquaintance? Well, you be the judge. She’s very young, and this isn’t just a book. It’s THE book. You know. The first one. The only one. The one you obsess over. The one you’re glassy-eyed in love with, ’cause you can’t believe you actually wrote a book. (Just admit it. You know exactly what I mean. If you don’t, you will. Just keep writing.)

The review says (rather rudely, I thought) that it needs structural editing.

A writing community could have told her that before she spent the money to publish it, and before her name was attached to something that… just isn’t quite done.

There were also some business choices (pricing, use of a particular vanity press, etc.) that left me feeling like I could have helped her, if she’d just asked.

So, as penance for the things I didn’t do for her, starting with not reaching out to her as actively as I should have, here’s a list of assorted writers’ communities to help you on whatever path you choose.

If there’s anything I’ve missed, or anything you find particularly helpful, add it in the comments.


  1. Reply

    Ugh, that’s an uncomfortable position for you to be in, and I’m sure it’s not pleasant for the friend.

    I know the book you’re talking about. Thankfully I never tried to publish mine.

    Thanks for the links. I’m not familiar with all of them. I’d also add that there are a ton of great blogs providing information for writers, though reader beware, because there’s also some dangerous misinformation in circulation.

  2. Reply

    A number of my short stories have been published, and I don’t mean just by me (indie). I mean they were accepted by online journals with a lot of competition. I could not have done it without my main critiquing community at: http://www.critiquecircle.com.

    CC does not help with marketing. But they do offer thorough critiques with honest ideas of what, in their opinion, works and what does not. I would never submit a story without running it thru CC first.

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