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Friday, February 19, 2010

DREADED AUTHOR QUESTION: Are You Published Yet?

By Isabo Kelly


When you tell people you’re a writer, this is naturally one of the first things they ask. And I suppose it’s a fair enough question. But personally, I’ve always hated it. Especially when it’s asked in that tone… You know, the condescending one that says, “Really? You think you’re a writer? Prove it.”

Even if the question is asked with simple, polite interest, when you’re not published yet this can make you feel like you’re not a real writer. Julie Cameron, in THE RIGHT TO WRITE, calls this a “credibility attack”—the feeling that you have to be published to call yourself a writer, which is a load.… If you write, regularly and with an eye toward honing your skills as an author; if you keep churning out stories month after month and year after year, you are a writer!

Publishing is nice but far less important than getting your butt in the chair everyday and hacking out that next sentence, paragraph, and page. Just finishing your beloved manuscript is more than a lot of people ever do. Remember that and be proud of the accomplishment. “But Isabo,” you say, “I do have something published, but it’s only…” Stop! Even when we can answer this dreaded question with a yes, we want to qualify our achievement:

“I’ve had a few non-fiction pieces published, but I haven’t been published in fiction yet, so I’m not a real author.”

“I’ve been published but only in the small press.”

"I’m not really making any money as a writer.”


These qualifications diminish the accomplishments made to date, and imply that you have to be Nora Roberts before you can call yourself an author. Wrong, wrong, and oh very wrong. Non-fiction publication is published. Small press publication is published. As for making enough money writing to live on—well, I know big name authors who aren’t doing that yet (promoting a book eats up advances quickly).

If you write, you’re a writer. That’s all there is to it. And you should say so with pride. The next time someone asks you this question, if you’re not published anywhere yet, say “I’m working on it” and know with full confidence that you are. No more justification is required for calling yourself a writer. If you are published in anything at all—non-fiction, short stories, small press—announce with no qualifications, “Why, yes I am.” You’ll feel brilliant and professional.♥



Isabo Kelly (aka Katrina Tipton) is the author of multiple science fiction, fantasy and paranormal romances. Her Prism Award Winning novel, SIREN SINGING, has just been released in paperback from Ellora’s Cave (www.ellorascave.com). For more on Isabo’s books, visit her at www.isabokelly.com


EDITOR'S NOTE: In this monthly series, Isabo talks about the often uncomfortable questions every author gets asked, and how to handle those dreaded inquiries. If you have gotten any of these “dreaded” questions, please share them with us; and, if you have an answer, all the better.

13 comments:

  1. Mea culpa. I am guilty of qualifying my answer to this question. In fact, if the person doesn't already know I'm a writer waiting to be published, I don't even mention it anymore. Is that qualifying?! It's just been a long time since I sold my last short story and I am getting discouraged. But luckily I get energized at every chapter meeting and when I read our chapter blog and our chapter loop. Thank goodness for RWANYC. It keeps me sane....most days. ----Maria Ferrer

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  2. Thanks for this post. I can't stand that question so I feel I have to head people off by saying I'm not published yet. I think now I'll just shut up and say I'm working towards it.

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  3. Great post! Thanks!

    Kwana, I like that approach. I'll have to try that.

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  4. Excellent advice! And in the literary canon there are numerous examples of authors who either wrote for eons before getting published and, I would guess, would have taken up their fists if you claimed they were not "really a writer". And like the recently departed icon, J. D. Salinger, who, after his four novels and collections and the fame that went with them, ceased writing for publication and just wrote for himself. For the sheer joy of it.

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  5. Thanks, Isabo. I always say I'm not published, because I have not published in book-length fiction. I am going to step up to the plate and let people know that--yes--I am published in short non-fiction. I think in the "Big City" atmosphere of New York, I was a little shy to say I've been published in the Pacific Daily News (Guam's newspaper) and in a military spouses' magazine. Elizabeth Palladino

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  6. I'm so glad the post spoke to you guys. I used to qualify my accomplishments all the time. Took me years to figure out I needed to stop qualifying and be proud. We can all be proud. Writing is not near as easy as it looks. Just doing it is an accomplishment. You go writers!!

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  7. Isabo, you are so right. Thanks for the great post!

    Denise A. Agnew
    www.deniseagnew.com

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  8. I enjoyed this post very much. I often feel funny calling myself a writer, even though I've been doing it for a while now. This post has given me a lot more confidence. Thanks!

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  9. Great post, Isabo! I think there's qualifying this question at so many levels, if the book is in stores or on line, if you've hit a list or haven't, where you're shelved, etc. I guess the thing I keep realizing is that all of us are always working hard to get to the next level, no matter where our levels are, and that we have to just support one another because at the end of the day, that's the important thing, right? That we're all writers. And that doesn't need to be qualified.

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  10. Awesome post...and come to think of it, my book reviews count, my publication in a military spouse magazine counts (Hi Elizabeth, I had forgotten about that one!), my publishing a fiction e-zone counts and getting published in a numner of on-line publications counts...what the heck am I so ashamed of?!! Shoot I've finished (nearly! -uh-oh qualification already!) three books too! How many people go through life "wanting to be a writer" and never finish anything???!!! I wrote three books, I wrote three books...my mantra and I guess they can put it on my tombstone! Ha. Isabo/ Katrina, what a great post and thanks so much for being a wonderful suportive writer and all your great service to RWA/NYC.

    Mari

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  11. I guess spelling doesn't count! Heh.

    Mari

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  12. Good gracious yes! We all hate that question. Then you have to go out and try to prove it because half the people I know still have no idea what Digital is and “don’t like to read novels on over PC Screen.” (Gotta remember I am really old).

    But like everyone here, I love to write and that makes me a writer. Getting published is gravy and lets other people enjoy what you love to do.
    Like most people I have the “if I only knew then what I know NOW about writing…” syndrome, but since we can ONLY move forward, that’s what I do.

    Are we real writer’s? you bet we are.


    Patt

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  13. I hate that question too. Why do people always have to ask that? I am an unpublished author, but I am a published journalist. I will continue to write, because writing is my passion.

    Great post Katrina.

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