29 Comments

Thank you for this! I think another challenging element of publishing is that everyone advertises their wins (understandably), and sometimes it feels like "you" are the only one failing or struggling to get off the ground! It always helps to hear about someone else's challenges along with the wins, because it truly makes people feel less alone.

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A very good post, Susan. I think most of us know how lucky we are to be where we are, to have what we have. That should not take away from our emotions regarding the things we wanted and worked for but won't get to have.

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Thank you for this! I left a similar comment under the video you did with Kate Elliott a few days ago, but recognizing a lot of my feelings about publishing as grief was a huge help in processing them. My first (and so far only) series also completely tanked, alongside a lot of other stuff going haywire in my life. Eventually I realized I wasn't just mourning the books themselves, which never found an audience, but also the dream of the beautiful, easy career. Actual publishing is a very messy reality compared to the beautiful dream and letting that dream go was *hard*.

This is more tangential -- maybe more related to last week's newsletter -- but I do think that learning the hard way will be useful prep for when I hopefully sell again someday. Going into my first series, I really didn't know enough to even know what to ask, even though I was informed by blogs and twitter, etc! Being a first-time author trying to figure out how to shape a writing career felt a lot like asking an entry-level employee where the see themselves in five years -- I don't know, I just got here, where's the bathroom?? If (hopefully when!) I make my way back, I'll have a *much* better sense of what I'm looking for in a partnership with an agent, what questions I want to ask my publisher, and what I really need for writing to be sustainable.

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Exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you! <3

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I loved this post. Thank you for sharing. πŸ’—

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I so appreciate everything you said here, and your honesty. One of the issues too is gaslighting around sales, through which publishers actively encourage authors to do what you're saying we shouldn't: believe it's our fault. For example, when a publisher declines to buy a manuscript because of the "author's sales track," they're framing it as the author's problem, as if the author had failed to sell their bookβ€”when it's publishers who are in charge of selling! They literally pay authors for the right to sell and make money off the book. I've also heard authors say, "I have to sell X copies to earn out my advance." I'd love it if we could say instead, "My publisher has to sell X copies in order to recoup their investment." And keep doing this for everything in publishing that doesn't belong to us but that publishing wants us to carry.

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founding

Great post to read! Thank you, Sooz πŸ’š

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I am so glad I started reading your substack Susan. It's so insightful and thought-provoking. I recommended it to a bunch of young writers who wanted to know more about the process of publishers this past weekend.

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Thank You! Slowly I've learned that you need to listen, not hand out platitudes. I've met a lot of real heroes that way. It's like the acrobats I saw in a circus years ago. They made it seem so light and easy -- until my mom pointed out that after every routine, every smile, they'd head off the ring and pick cinders out of their hands. Only mom noticed that!

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I think a lot about how I have used gratitude as a weapon against myself- literally beating myself up with the "should" of it. I figured it wasn't just me, but it felt like an unpopular opinion, so I've kept it to myself. I really appreciate you putting these words on paper and sharing them out loud. I especially loved this: "We can be grateful for the things we have and still want more, want better."

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Thank you, Sooz. Sending you so many hugs πŸ«‚ πŸ«‚πŸ«‚

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Some research on gratitude: it increases happiness for people who have substantial agency in their own lives. However, insisting on gratitude from people who have little control over their circumstances has the unfortunate tendency of making them reflect on their powerlessness, which can lead to frustration, even depression. Research is by Po Bronson.

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One of the things this reminds me of is the Brene Brown short on Youtube about Sympathy vs Empathy, it's a skill I wish more people had. Thank you so much for calling out toxic positivity and showing how gratitude is not just pure peaceful acceptance of everything.

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Sooz, this was such a great read. I read it twice, once this morning as I was headed out the door, and then again this afternoon. I think if we all stayed at "just be grateful" then we would never strive for more. I had a lot of thoughts about this, but they're all coming out too long in the written form, lol. TLDR; I think you can be grateful and still want more or grieve for a loss at the same time.

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founding

First things first, you are so brave to share not just your process and work related insides, but also sharing your personal grief. So many people seem to just listen to give a answer, or to just give a prefabricated turn of phrase without really listening to understand.

And yes, being grateful is important, as is not living with a storm cloud over your head, but being grareful should not silence uncomfortable truths... You've said it so well.

Big hugs to you and thank you for being the awesome human being (and author) that you are!!

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Hi Sooz - just chiming in to say thank you for your simultaneously honest and encouraging take on ... well, life. I'm especially saddened to hear of your infertility struggles. That is just so hard, especially because I can tell how much you cherish being a mom (and I'm sure you're great at it).

Have been thinking a lot lately (hello milestone birthday) about how ambition-based our culture is. We focus so little on the process, at trying things and being bad at them, or trying them and slowly getting better. Maybe it's just my generation/background, but I've always liked gold stars and all the best outcomes, and I'm realizing that I'm happier when I stop trying to mold myself to meet others' brass ring expectations, when I am at peace with my own effort in the moment (kind of a "keep your eyes on your own paper" worldview. Ha.).

All of which to say, I'm grateful for you and this community. Irony intended, but sincere. :)

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