The Road to Self-Publishing: It’s More Like Dating Than You’d Think 4 ways in which the two practices are eerily similar

Adiba Nelson - Pyragraph

Image by Adiba Nelson.

I am a writer. A self-published writer, at that. In 2013 I embarked down the late-night, alcohol-swilling road called Self-Publishing, and it was a journey at best. I’m also a woman. A woman who has dated, not dated, tried to get out of dating, and thought really hard about dating. I’ve dated great guys and not-so-great guys, guys I didn’t want to date, and guys I shouldn’t date. There have even been times that I wasn’t dating anyone but desperately wanted to, and so I just threw my line into the sea, ready to reel in anything that bit.

This, my friends, is exactly what the road to self-publishing is like. More specifically, submitting manuscripts to various agents and publishers, in a pathetic attempt to get published the traditional way. And this is why I present to you the four ways publishing is just. like. dating.

1. Dating: A bar full of hotties

You’ll sound like you’re trying to convince your Aunt Gertie to take a feral cat.

Imagine it. You walk into this amazing bar you’ve heard about from all your friends. They’ve all told you that you can absolutely find the right partner here, and you are so psyched your panties are voluntarily bunching themselves! You size everyone up and winna, winna, chicken dinna—you find six hotties that tell you (in no uncertain terms) that they’re lookin’ for what you’re givin’. SCORE.

Publishing: The Writer’s Market

This book is your bar. The publishing houses and agents listed on the pages, the hotties. The six hotties topping your list, the six publishers and agents that are currently accepting unsolicited manuscripts in the genre you specialize in. SCORE?

2. Dating: “How YOU doin’?”

So, like any balls-to-the-wall human being who is ready to throw all sorts of caution to the wind, you make eyes with the cutest one in the bunch. And then the next one. And the next one. And you keep going until you’ve made eye contact with all six of them. But you’ll only approach the one that looks like the best fit. The one that you look at and immediately hear wedding bells, see your 3.5 children, the dog, the minivan, and the 50th anniversary party being held in your spacious backyard, under the shade of the oak tree you planted the day you moved in, surrounded by your 25.5 grandkids.

Yeah…you know…that one. You look at that one and have an O face moment right there in the bar. You slink and saunter over, maintaining eye contact (eye on the prize), and lay it on thick. All the compliments. All the best parts of you. All the everything of everything that ever was, and then you slide over your phone number before slinking away. Because that’s how the game goes. You cast the short line with the incredible bait, and then you wait. Because you would look ridiculously desperate if you just went down the line giving the other five your best “come hither” stares and “you know you want this” grins. So, you wait. But try not to lose your shit while waiting. That’s never a good look.

Publishing: “Hi! I’m awesome! I wrote this! We’d be great together! Publish me?”

In the land of publishing, there are only so many publishers and agents that are going to fit your particular genre. And they’re not all going to be accepting manuscripts at the same time. So you’ve got to give your best pitch letter to the best fit right off the bat, because eventually you’re going to get really damn tired of repeating yourself. Your enthusiasm will wane and you’ll begin to sound more like you’re trying to convince your elderly Aunt Gertie to take a feral cat, rather than trying to convince the holder of your dream life that you’re a magical unicorn who will make them lots of money.

You write your most awesome pitch letter, send it to the gatekeepers of all things future you long for, and then you wait. You know there are five other fairly awesome publishing houses you have your eye on, but this one—this one is special. You don’t want them to think you’re fishing (submitting to anyone and everyone, waiting for just ONE to bite), and it’s highly likely they all talk to each other (since you’re so “niche”), so you submit, and then you wait. Typically six to eight weeks. Just enough time to lose your shit completely.

And trust…around week four, you will lose your shit. Completely.

3. Dating: The fucker never called. Asshat. NEXT!

Get your batteries and coffee, it’s about to be a long ride.

This is inevitable. The hot ones don’t call. They never do. They think they’re so fucking major and awesome, and they’ll only really give you the time of day if you know someone who knows someone who slept with a celebrity. Faster if YOU are that someone. Even faster if you are said celebrity. But if you don’t know that someone, and you’re not that someone (and ya damn sure ain’t a celebrity), you can rest assured that this delicious morsel of dreams come true is about to be your dream deferred. He’s not interested. Never was. He just likes to be seen. Oooh’d and aaah’d over. Damn narcissistic asshat.

Move along to the next guy. And the next guy. And the next one, and the next one, and the next one. But remember to wait at least 30 minutes between each guy, and do at least one lap around the bar between each one because: DESPERATE.

Publishing: Eight weeks have come and gone. Put down the bottle of tequila and move on to the next publisher/agent on the list.

Remember when you lost your shit at week four? Well, weeks five to eight contained lots of tears, alcohol and 3am mailbox checks because, “Surely you should have heard something by now!” But alas, nothing. Not even an, “I’m sorry, you’re just not what we’re looking for.” Just silence. You’ll realize you wasted eight weeks waiting for these people to even glance your direction, only to be greeted with silence. You’ll get pissed. You’ll throw a few things. You’ll doubt your ability as a writer. You’ll contemplate sleeping with a celebrity just so you can write a tell-all and get published.

But then you’ll realize that the only celebrity you know is your weird Uncle Bill whose claim to fame is a YouTube video of him leaving his dentures in an apple he was eating, and that’s just weird. And gross. And you’re not a hillbilly, so that’s not really an option. Hold on to your pride, young writer. There are five more publishers out there just waiting to have your manuscript slide across their desk. Submit, dear heart. Submit, submit, submit, and submit one more time. But remember to wait the eight weeks between each submission because: FISHING.

4. Dating: 0 for 6. Time to buy a vibrator.

Yep. The time has arrived. The time where you say, “Fuck this shit. I’m the best damn thing on two legs” (or one leg, or no legs, or prosthetic legs—whatever—you feel me). You have no idea what the fuck you’re missing. I was gonna turn your world so upside down, inside out, and UHF channel static-y you would have lost your damn mind. But noooooo…you’re too busy holdin’ out for little Miss “I Slept With 500 Celebrities And Here’s My Instagram Feed To Prove It.” So FUCK YOU. I’m done with all of you!

And just like that, you march your ass down to the nearest sex shop and buy the best damn vibrator you can find. It’s time to take matters into your own hands. Literally, and figuratively. But moreso, literally. Because really, who knows you better than…well…you?

Publishing: 0 for 6. Time to self-publish.

Yep. The time has arrived. The time where you say “Fuck this shit. I’m the best damn thing with adjectives” (or metaphors, or analogies, or imagery—whatever—you feel me). You have no idea what the fuck you’re missing. I was gonna turn your world so upside down, inside out, and UHF channel static-y you would have lost your damn mind. But noooooo…you’re too busy holdin’ out for little Miss “I Slept With 500 Celebrities And Here’s My Tell-All To Prove It.” So FUCK YOU. I’m done with all of you!

And just like that you Google “How to self-publish,” buy 10 ISBN numbers from Bowker, submit your manuscript to the Library of Congress, along with your check for $35 for copyright protection, and set up your $20 website from Squarespace. It’s time to take matters into your own hands. Literally.

So there ya have it, friends. The four ways that the road to self-publishing is A LOT like dating. My hope is that for you, you get the O face first time out. But if your luck is anything like mine, get your batteries and coffee, it’s about to be a long ride. But keep practicing that O face. Your time will come (pun intended?), and oh man…how sweet it will be.

About Adiba Nelson

Adiba Nelson is a children’s book author, as well as a gutsy truth teller and social commentator. She is also mom to one 6 year old girl and stepmom to two teenage boys, which means her bar is stocked. When she’s not telling dirty little secrets or calling out the world, you can find her eyeball deep in fishnets and glitter, preparing for her next burlesque show.

1 Comment

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