Waiting to Be Published? That’s a Stupid Strategy

Earlier this week on Twitter, I asked a question about self-publishing and got more responses than I expected. Turns out, many people are still waiting for permission to publish their work. And I think that’s a shame.

Girl waiting by subway
Photo Credit: TheeErin via Compfight cc

They’re still looking for a magic bullet, some special secret that will allow them to finally share their message with the world. They want someone to pick them — and that’s just a silly, if not downright stupid, plan.

Sorry if that comes across as strong, or even offensive, but sometimes you’ve got to be blunt. And I see a lot of people spinning their wheels with strategies that won’t get them anywhere.

After my recent podcast on self-publishing, I was curious how many writers out there were still waiting to be published. So I asked a question, figuring with all the resources now available for indie authors that self-publishing would be something people already knew was an option.

Boy, was I wrong.

I got questions and comments about how much it cost and what it would take and why some writers still think a traditionally published book is more “legit.”

I couldn’t believe it.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to knock publishers. There’s nothing like have a team of professionals to help you create your best work. I’ve worked with a traditional publisher for my last two books, and I’ve also self-published. If you have the chance, I recommend you try both, too.

Ah, but there’s the rub. What if you, like a lot of writers, don’t have the chance? Or what if you simply choose to not go with a publisher and try to do it on your own? Do you have another option?

Of course, you do. The problem is most people who want to write a book act as if they don’t.

Many would-be authors are just waiting. Waiting for the right opportunity. For their big break. For someone to come affirm them.

And some will be waiting for the rest of their lives.

The illusion of the waiting place

You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…

—Dr. Seuss

In spite of the fact that I wrote a book about the lessons we learn in the in-between moments in life, I am not a fan of waiting.

Waiting is hard. Waiting is frustrating. Waiting is unnecessary.

Wait, what? Unnecessary? But I thought we all had to wait at various times in our lives. Ah, yes. Allow me to explain…

There is a difference between waiting and stalling.

If you are waiting to marry the right person and won’t compromise certain values, that’s honorable. In fact, a good friend of mine recently married a great guy after waiting for decades, and she would say he was worth the wait. Some things are.

But if you are waiting without a plan or understanding of what you’re waiting for, if you’re hoping things will turn around without doing anything to prepare, then you aren’t waiting. You’re stalling. And you, my friend, are headed nowhere.

The truth is life is always moving. So when we wait, we aren’t stuck in one place; we’re actually going backwards. We’re regressing.

This is true for you and your big break, your chance to show us what you’ve got. If you are waiting to be discovered without doing anything to put the hours in, to practice and network and look for any possible gig to prove yourself, then you’re kidding yourself.

That’s not the kind of waiting that produces results. It’s fear taking the wheel of your life.

A better way to wait

Think of it like this: when a baby is growing in its mother’s womb, it’s waiting. But the reason for the wait is the child is not ready to face the world. It couldn’t survive without those nine months of preparation.

It’s not stalling; it’s growing. And that’s not a bad strategy. We all need to grow and get better, and waiting sometimes provides the context for that growth, provided we take it.

If you find yourself in the valley of waiting, I think there are three options available to you:

  1. You can just keep writing.
  2. You can do something interesting and generous to get attention.
  3. You can build a platform, sharing your best work with the world, and watch as people take notice.

Or you can do all three: focusing on your craft while not taking it for granted that sometimes you’ve got to stir people out of their slumber to acknowledge important work. And you can do this all on borrowed attention or do the difficult work of earning your own audience. I recommend the latter.

Whatever you do, you can can’t sit still, hoping for a shot at success. There’s no guarantee it’ll come. That’s the bad news. The good news is you don’t need it come. You have everything you need to get started right now: your fingers, your ideas, and a generous heart.

Now, it’s just a matter of getting on with it.

If you need some help getting started with self-publishing, check out this article: The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing a Book That Doesn’t Suck.

Be honest: Are you waiting to be published? What’s something you could do right now to change that? Share in the comments.

By the way, if you want to see a couple of guys who are picking themselves, doing something interesting, and rewarding those who pay attention, check out this Kickstarter project where you can have front-row seats to the writing of a novel. What a cool idea! I highly recommend supporting this project. Check it out.