Four “Comforting” Things People Say to Pre-Published Writers (That are NOT)

4. You finished a book! Most people will never manage that!

Yeah, okay. I finished a book. Yay me! It is a big accomplishment, but it’s also one that I hit for the first time when I was 13. I’ve written almost SIX books now. It is hard to see writing additional books as anything but a failure—as in, I’ve written six fucking books that I can’t sell. I’m just piling up rubbish manuscripts, and that doesn’t feel like an accomplishment at all.

3. But writing is its own reward! Don’t think about getting published!

Writing is hard goddamn work. Which doesn’t mean that it can’t be its own reward, but it isn’t something that fills my life with rainbows and sunshine. I do derive great pleasure from perfecting a turn of phrase or making a plot come together just so. Obviously I must enjoy it for its own sake on some level or I wouldn’t still be doing it. And for some people, just writing is their goal. That’s great! But for me, I want to share my writing. And while I do that in various forms already, the biggest way that writers share their work is by publishing. That is my goal.

2. Well, I’ve read your stuff, and it’s so good!

I know, complaining about praise seems churlish. And I do love getting feedback of all kinds on my writing (seriously, I crave it, harsh or kind), and positive feedback can make me feel like a thousand bucks. But in the context of publishing, it’s disheartening. Because if I’m so good, then I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, which means I can’t fix it. And I’ll spend another 14 years doing whatever I’m doing and not getting anywhere with it. And even if I really am good (doubtful), then it just makes it feel unfair (ha, I know, that word) that I haven’t had any luck at all wading through the slush.

1. Yes, agents get tons of queries, but 90% of them are pure crap—can’t follow guidelines, can’t string together a sentence, can’t even spell check! The odds aren’t actually that bad for the good ones.

On first blush, this should be a good thing. I do research agents and their guidelines and requests extensively, and I do spend a lot of time and effort perfecting my query letter. I proofread and edit and still have not ever accidentally sent out one with the wrong name. So I should be ahead of the game! Except I’m not. Which means—oh gods, I must be the 90%. I must not be good at all. Worse, I am one of those delusional people who thinks she is doing okay. But I can’t even beat out the half-trained monkeys sending “To Whom It May Concern” queries about their sparkly teenage vampires. Fuck.

Anyway, I know this is all very complainypants, but I’m in a complainypants space right now. I may or may not have cried myself to sleep last night, as my queries for novel 7 draw to a close and novel 8 continues to refuse to come together. I’m feeling discouraged, and I want to feel uplifted, but it seems that every “inspiring” quote or post is just making me feel worse. I think maybe I need to disconnect from the writing community for a little while, do what I can for this first draft of novel 8, and remember that I do love writing for what it is—and right now, it definitely not is getting read.

6 thoughts on “Four “Comforting” Things People Say to Pre-Published Writers (That are NOT)

  1. kkellie

    I responded to this on my blog, when I saw your post over there. Just so you know somebody read this and somebody is telling you to hang in there, Nora. Because that's what we writers do.

    xo kk

  2. E.L. Wagner

    OMG, your fourth point. Yes! Because I keep reading all those agent blogs and #Xquery tweets about how bad most of them are, and I'm pretty sure that my query letter is well written, at least, not too long, and answers the three questions. And I've gotten compliments on the writing in my opening pages too.

    So why in the hell aren't I getting full and partial requests? It makes me worry that A. My writing really sucks after all, or B. the kinds of stories, world and characters I want to write about just aren't what anyone wants to read right now (nothing I can do about that).

    The other piece of advice that drives me nuts: If you write well, your book will sell. That's completely tautological and non falsifable, since the definition of "well" becomes writing something that sells! And it makes me feel terrible.

  3. Nora

    Yassss, you are totally on my wavelength!! Sorry that you are going through this, but one thing that *does* comfort me is knowing I am not the only one!

  4. Nathanielle

    That first one especially resonates with me as I trusted my manuscript to the wrong person when I was looking for an editor. He sent it to four "friends", two of whom told me how wonderful it was and that they didn't think I needed editing.

    That was very comforting, until I did my own proofread and I found typos and grammatical errors that couldn't have been more obvious on the second read through if they were actual Smurfs. I probably still should find an editor, but I just can't afford to pay someone for their services and there's no one close enough to me to do it for free without making me wait an excruciatingly long amount of time.

  5. Nora

    That is really tough! Sometimes people don't understand what you're looking for, and think you want reassurance when what you are after is actual help. For copy editing, I recommend doing backwards reading or covering line-by-line to help you, as you are probably right that it is hard to find someone to do that for free. However, if you are looking for more overall feedback, you can try beta readers! There are many places out there to find helpful people for that, such as Absolute Write or other writing forums. Good luck!!

  6. Kim Keister

    Hello, I came across your blog (I have one myself) and I was reading other blogs and came across this post.

    There's a company with I believe Shirley said was in Los Angeles area. If you pay like an x-amount (about $2,000) of money they have you books printed and you can sell them and Amazon will sell them. Well it better than nothing. There was someone I used be friends(We had a fall out over a box of 1 week old kittens I wanted to foster, yeah kind of lame and immature. I know I’m way over it now) with had that done, when no other publisher would publish her book The Secret Life of a Dog Catchers. There no publisher name or anything on book just her name "Shirley Zindler" and what she choose to put on it and in it! It's kind of popular book in the animal loving world and Animal Control. Still Zindler became well known to the point she was asked be part of a well known dog magazine called The Bark. Even if this is not way you want to go, maybe it would help you to get your foot in the publishing door. I don't remember Zindler's personal contact but she works for Sonoma County Animal Services you can call her at (707) 565-7100(This the number for The Animal Shelter she works for) and here's more about her online

    If you do make contact her, I won't mind if you mentioned me as the one that referred you. I’m pretty sure she would help you out. She is someone that willing to help out another.

    If she does not help you can email me at and I see if I can find who this publisher is.


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