What I Gained From "There's No 'I' in Books" as an Aspiring Author

What I Gained From "There's No 'I' in Books" as an Aspiring Author.

Editor's Note: Summer intern Eva Kwiecinski, in addition to her many Lit Fest assignments, attended the lunchtime business panel "There's No 'I' in Books" and wrote the following response. The event featured panelists Lindsey Kennedy (HarperCollins), Kira Roark (former Marketing Director of Sounds True & Penguin Random House), Mariah Stovall (Trellis Literary Management), and Monika Woods (Triangle House).

Unless you keep your writing secret like photos of yourself from middle school, you’ve at least thought about publishing your book. Because most of us want our stories to be released to the world to be shared, we search. We search for a way to achieve that. We do this through research, classes, asking, and more searching, but does that mean we know everything about publishing? No, not in the slightest. Attending "There's No “I” in Books" with Lindsey Kennedy, Kira Roark, Mariah Stovall, and Monika Woods, a business panel at Lit Fest this year, gave me a whole new sense of perspective on the industry and publishing. As an intern at Lighthouse at the time, a writer, and a searcher, I already knew a little about publishing before attending the panel, and likely, it's the same case for you. You know the whole deal of querying agents, attending classes or panels, and pitching like I do. Though, some of the subjects presented at this panel in particular made me rethink my approach and previous mindset. Whether your current idea of the publishing industry is like pleading before a monarchy or something a little more realistic, it all comes down to people doing their jobs just like we are. As someone who fears publishing as much as they crave it, I learned what an agent is meant to be to you and why defining success matters. 

When you think about getting an agent to read your work as a baby writer, you might as well be seeing yourself kneeling before a deity, but really, agents are people like you trying to pay their bills and groaning over taxes. Of course, their views on stories and literature will be more refined because of their experience and position, but ultimately, they aren't an all seeing force who will shun you if you stutter a little. Monika Woods, a literary agent, said at the panel that the ideal relationship with her clients can be many things. While it’s not always a bad thing to be a little scared of your agent, feeling like you’re confessing your worst secrets to them isn't really what’s happening. Woods said that who an agent should be to the writer is an amateur psychologist, finalist, partner, ideal reader, advocate, marketer, and lead-way into the sales team. While you can generally assume this, your agent really is on your side. So while having those bits of fear can help you in becoming more analytical of yourself, an agent is meant to be your friend in your publishing journey. Woods had a lot of emphasis on what the ideal relationship is with her clients, but really, it's up to you, the writer, to decide if you want to be friends with them, follow their every request without hesitation, or simply mutually accept the idea that you’re in this together. Just as long as you don’t run away from them screaming and shaking, you’ll be fine. 

Harsh truths are found all over, but especially in the publishing industry, and Kira Roark talked about some that I found to be particularly humbling. We’ve all heard that the market is crowded. We all know this, and trust me, it keeps the rest of us up at night too. Though there's a lot more to that saying than it appears. There are 500,000 books published each year, 4 million including self-published books, and your publishing team could be working on 80-100 books at any time. You have to accept that you are not special when it comes to statistics. That's just how it is, and even if it haunts you like the ghosts you’re convinced are in the Lighthouse elevator, it shouldn't stop you from trying anyway. Aligning your success to those harsh realities and the industry standards will set you up for a better mindset if something inevitably doesn't match your ideals. An example is initially setting out to have your book be a bestseller. Publishers don't have a magic ball that determines how much your work will sell, and nobody else does either. If everyone knew how to get their book to be a bestseller, everyone would have one, but at that point, no one would.

Most people that go into publishing don't have a clue about what the first step is after writing the book, but if you care enough to do research or attend classes, then you're already a step ahead. While the market is crowded and it's hard to get an agent or publisher, it's not impossible, there are plenty of people that have already done it. Your work won't get anywhere without you to aid it to the finish line. After all, getting published shouldn't be any harder than figuring out how to navigate Denver.

Eva is a high school senior planning to study writing and literature after graduation. She’s lived in Colorado all her life, but truthfully only likes it because of the bipolar weather. She loves books that will make you cry, and of course, any angsty romance trope. 

Subscribe to The Lookout