Publishing in the Dark

The story of the elephant and the blind man is told in many religious traditions. Even business seminars have found value using it to make a point. As the story goes, depending on what part of an elephant a person touches without seeing the whole, that forms their opinion of what the entire animal looks like.

This same process could be applied to many things.

A customer’s one-time experience with one small part of a company gives them an impression of the entire company, right or wrong.

A visitor’s first-time experience with a church is something they carry with them for a long time, either positive or negative, accurate or not.

Opinions derived from first impressions or limited exposure are almost always incorrect or, at best, incomplete.

Using this same process to describe the publishing ecosystem is entirely proper. There are so many aspects to it, no one description is true of all publishers, except they all want to succeed at what they do. This is true for any part of it, even agents.

But yet, the entire industry can be mistakenly painted with the same paint brush and color after one or two negative encounters.

Did you know virtually every best-selling author experienced rejection many times over many years before someone saw something in them?

Did you know almost every proposal for a best-selling book was declined by multiple publishers before finding an editor and publisher who believed in it?

Remove the word “best-selling” from the above two sentences, and they are still accurate statements.

Agents also see things differently than one another, as we all have different backgrounds and preferences in the type of projects we represent.

If you are a published author or an aspiring one, try to learn as much as you can about publishing in all its facets and parts. But you will still never figure everything out with absolute certainty.

Don’t stop updating your knowledge about the industry. It is different today than it was even a couple years ago.

Don’t give up too quickly. Even if you never get a book published, you should be contributing written material to other written-word media. Books are not the only thing.

Don’t stop honing your craft and the depth of your Christian perspective. Many authors go back to school to get an additional degree in theology or in a specialty that will help them write more authoritatively.

If there’s one lesson to remember about all this, gleaned from all the proverbial elephants we confront in made-up dark places, it’s this: If you give up, stop trying, stop learning, and stop writing, while you will save yourself some momentary discomfort, later on you will regret being so easily discouraged and wished you would have persevered.

Publishing is hard. If it wasn’t, anyone could do it. It tests your patience and commitment. Whether or not you succeed to be published, the journey and process are worth it and will change you for the better.

21 Responses to Publishing in the Dark

  1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser December 9, 2021 at 5:06 am #

    I hear the tumult and the strife,
    and know not what may betide
    ‘cept that in writing as in life
    it’s so very dark outside.
    Here at the fallen end of time
    behind a thin and peeling door
    I look for meaning in the rhyme
    but don’t know who I’m writing for.
    Is this for me catharsis,
    soul bared to a darkling mirror,
    a flame I moth-like can’t resist
    to make of chaos something clearer?
    Or am I fleeing from the pain
    of finding that I’ve lived in vain?

    • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser December 9, 2021 at 5:34 am #

      If I may, I’d like to offer some background to the sonnet above.

      It was written while attending an old dying dog in the predawn, and thus come the memories of walks not taken and frisbees unthrown that I might work on an aeroplane that never flew, and books no-one read.

      It’s a savage analysis, and has to be, because while my dreams were glittery emphemera, what was sacrificed was real, and can only be redeemed, now, by God in His bright Heaven.

      That hope is the only spark of light in a heart now dark and heavy.

      I do thank anyone who read this far, and offered, perhaps, a small prayer for a gentle dog, and for her vain and foolish friend.

      • Roberta Sarver December 9, 2021 at 10:01 am #

        Prayers for you, Andrew. Losing an animal can be so painful.

        • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser December 9, 2021 at 10:24 am #

          Roberta, thank you so much. Megan The Tank is special (her name comes from her being the largest Aussie I have ever seen).

      • Kathleen Freeman December 9, 2021 at 10:08 am #

        Beautiful and real, Andrew. Tough times.

        • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser December 9, 2021 at 10:27 am #

          Thank you so much, Kathleen. These are indeed hard days, made more compellingly sad by that which, in my hubris, I neglected.

          I’ll not regret my ghost-career as a novelist nearly as much as the summers of joy that passed unseen.

      • Kristen Joy Wilks December 9, 2021 at 10:31 am #

        Such a hard thing, Andrew. Praying for you today.

      • Susan Sage December 9, 2021 at 12:00 pm #

        Andrew, once again, your words in both the poem and the explanation have touched my heart. You are more a blessing than you know, and I thank God for the opportunity to get to know your heart through the words God gives you.

        • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser December 9, 2021 at 12:51 pm #

          Susan, on this fell day, your words and thoughts are a beam of light, reflected from God’s own Heaven.

      • Robin December 10, 2021 at 3:55 am #

        Praying for you this morning.

  2. Deb Gorman December 9, 2021 at 7:46 am #

    “If there’s one lesson to remember about all this, gleaned from all the proverbial elephants we confront in made-up dark places, it’s this: If you give up, stop trying, stop learning, and stop writing, while you will save yourself some momentary discomfort, later on you will regret being so easily discouraged and wished you would have persevered.”

    Boy oh boy, needed this today. Time to focus on that dream again and not let it go…as I await an agent’s response to two novel manuscripts she requested. Waiting is hard, but giving up would be harder in the long run.

  3. Mark Moss December 9, 2021 at 8:33 am #

    Good post. Thank you.

  4. Roberta Sarver December 9, 2021 at 10:02 am #

    Dan, I needed this today also. Thanks.

  5. Kathleen Freeman December 9, 2021 at 10:14 am #

    Thank you Dan. “Coincidentally” this is an immediate answer to a question I asked, and following a timely answer to a related question.
    Blessings to you!

  6. Kristen Joy Wilks December 9, 2021 at 10:33 am #

    Though I’ve been pressing forward in this writing thing for over twenty years, I do not regret the many attempts, the learning, the growing, both the successes and the failures. I do not regret deciding to try.

  7. Susan Sage December 9, 2021 at 12:02 pm #

    This is a great post, Dan. Thank you for writing it. My mantra is: I may quit, but not today.” I took it from a battle scene in one of the Lord of the Rings movies. Your post made me think of the scene again. Thank you.

  8. OLUSOLA SOPHIA ANYANWU December 9, 2021 at 1:30 pm #

    God bless you,Dan!

  9. Dennis L Oberholtzer December 9, 2021 at 7:41 pm #

    As great as your post is, I am still shooting in the dark. Most writers’ posts seem to pamper the novel and non-fiction world. Are there any agents who can ghost write a non-fiction story without destroying or distorting the contents?

  10. Robin Prince Monroe December 10, 2021 at 4:04 am #

    I received my first rejection when I was only 9, was traditionally published when I was 30, then had so many family challenges that writing moved to the back of my priorities. Marketing my work became nonexistent. But I never stopped writing or learning about writing. Finally, I am back to writing more regularly and had my fist book signing in years this past Saturday. I missed writing full out! A huge part of my heart was gone and it is a wonderful relief to have it back!

  11. Donna D. Kincheloe December 11, 2021 at 4:52 am #

    Dan,
    When I submitted my DNP project to my faculty advisor she said, “Donna, you don’t have to eat an elephant.” My proposal included spiritual care surveys of three groups: Nurses, patients, and families (n=165). I stood my ground, didn’t quit, and the blessings overflowed. During my presentation at the Research conference, my slide of an elephant on a plate brought bursts of laughter when I acknowledged my advisor and said, “By the way Dr. White, an elephant can be quite tasty!”

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