Thursday, February 24, 2011

Why Aren’t You Published Yet ? (How Clint Eastwood Taught Me How to Answer That Question and Avoid Committing Justifiable Homicide.)

Everyone who has ever had a family member, coworker, friend or just a really annoying person ask them that question, raise your hand. Okay, now unclench your teeth (or your fist) and relax, grab a cold beverage (adult beverage if necessary) and a handful of chocolate. You’re among friends here. I think I can safely assume we have all heard, at some point on our writing journey, one or more of the following :

“Weren’t you writing a book? What ever happened with that?

“Man, how long does it take to get a book published?”

“I thought you were writing a book. Why are you still working here?”

“I can’t believe it takes this long to get published. Maybe you should try something else.”

“Are you STILL working on that book? Why don’t you try to get it published or something?” (No idea what ‘or something’ is. Probably don’t want to know.)

“You’ve been working on that book so long I thought you’d be rich and famous by now.”

I am sure we have all come up with some really snappy answers to the question AFTER the well-meaning (we’ll call them well-meaning – want to keep the blog PG) person has shaken their head and walked away mumbling “She must be a lousy writer if she ain’t published by now.” And if you HAVE come up with some snappy answers, please feel free to share with the group. I’d love to have five or six gems written on index cards so I can whip them out faster than Dirty Harry in pursuit of a scumbag.


Take that you well-meaning scumbag, I mean person.

Ask again. Go ahead. I dare you.

You gotta’ ask yourself – Did she just whip out five snappy comebacks or six?

Do you feel lucky?

Sorry. Where were we? Oh, yes. Snappy comebacks. I have arrived at a solution to the anger, confusion, exasperation and sometimes barely contained urged to kill (or at least pummel mercilessly) that often overwhelm me when the twentieth person that day sees me working away on my manuscript during my lunch hour and asks one of those really irritating questions. How? By remembering that all possible answers to these questions fall into three categories :

The Good

The Bad


The Ugly

Question : Why aren’t you published yet ?

Good Answers :

Well, you know, it is a business of hurry up and wait.

The right editor just hasn’t read my book yet.

I expect to hear good news any day now. Thanks for asking.

Note : Answers like this are much more convincing if they aren’t delivered through ground teeth accompanied by bulging eyes with your nose inches from the
other person’s face.

Bad Answers :

Because all of the editors in New York are idiots and wouldn’t know a best seller if it walked into their office and bit them.

Because all people want to read about now are stupid vampires and I don’t write sex scenes with dead people in them. Nobody should read that crap.

Because the only way to get published these days is to know somebody in the business, the romance writing business is all one big hoity toity clique. (Actually heard this one at a conference!)

Ugly Answers :

They’re all just jealous because I’m such a great writer and they’re not.

Because Nora Roberts is hogging all the shelf space in the stores and editors won’t buy anyone new until she dies! (Actually heard this one too. Wasn’t pretty. Alcohol was involved.)

I don’t know, but you just wait. Once I’m dead they’re going to find my manuscripts and fall so in love with my writing that they’ll want to publish them all, but I’m leaving instructions in my will that they all be BURNED on the courthouse square.

Note :
If you hear this one back slowly toward the nearest exit and make a run for it. There is nothing more dangerous than a writer who has finally crossed the line from “She’s that woman who writes all the time. I think she’s writing a book.” to “You’re not going to believe who is on the six o’ clock news barricaded in the Starbucks demanding Hugh Jackman play the hero in the film version of her book.”

The truth is, questions like these very often hurt our feelings, tick us off, or worst of all – make us doubt the possibility of our dreams. There are even fellow writers who will tell you that with the economy and the increase in e-publishing and self publishing your chances of getting an editor to buy your book are shrinking by the nanosecond.

The most important question is the one you ask yourself. As hard as this is, why do I keep writing? Why do I keep trying, submitting, querying? What’s the point? Only you can answer that question. And sometimes we have to answer it every day. I know I do. And every day I come up with the same answer.

This is what I was born to do. This is my dream of dreams. And I have the right to try for it, to strive for it and with hard work to achieve it no matter what the circumstances. I’m a writer. It’s what I do. It’s what I am. And yeah, Clint, every time my agent sends one of my books out on submission I DO feel lucky. Think of all the people who thought they wanted this and never got this far.

Why aren’t I published yet? My answer is the same today as it was yesterday and as it will be every day until I get The Call.

I expect to hear good news any day now. Thanks for asking.

What about you? What are some Good, Bad or Ugly responses you’ve used or thought about using in the inevitable event you are asked?

And do you think murdering the person who keeps asking day after day after day is justifiable homicide? (Remember a friend will help you move. A great friend will help you move a body!)


M.V.Freeman said...

Louisa, you always know the perfect way of saying the right thing at the right time.

My wonderful husband, told people recently, I was a writer (yay!), I wrote a book (more kudos), but inferred that it was coming out soon. (What?!!! --I'm shopping for editors, and agents--where he got this idea floors me).

So I get those questions: Why isn't it on the shelves? When is it out?
So here are my good, bad, ugly on answering questions:
Good: "I'm unpublished, but I am looking for agent/editor, thanks!"
BAD: "Apparently my lack of grammar skills are catching up to me so I have tons more rewrites."
Ugly: "I will tell you when I'm ready."

Ok, not funny...but some element of truth in it. But those questions: What do I write, when will it be out, and you'll be rich and famous (eye role here) drive me nuts. But I think it comes with the territory. I usually, smile, say thanks and gently tell them where I'm at. If I say defensively that its a lot of work...that's ok...I don't think they notice their eyes are glazed by that time...LOL

Shea Berkley said...

I wish I had a good comeback. I never did. I'd just smile shrug my shoulders and change the subject. Now I have to wait and see what people think about my book that is comeing out in November. I'm sure they'll have all sorts of suggestions on how I could have written the story. (giggle, snort)

Clarissa Southwick said...

I just loved this. I'm saving these answers to use in the very near future. Thanks for the laugh.

Connie Gillam said...


You should write comedy. You've put a smile on my face. (I can't laugh because I'm at work.)

Yes, I've had those questions and the knowing look in their eyes-like that say "she must suck at writing."

But I love it and keep waiting for The Call.

Lexi said...

I am not published because I killed the last person who asked me why I wasn't published and I just got out of jail.

Beth Trissel said...

Louisa you are such a hoot. I loved this! And I definitely vote for Hugh Jackman playing the lead in the film version of your not quite yet pubbed book. I love what I've read of your writing.

Louisa Cornell said...

Thanks, Mary! LOL at the eyes glazing over part! I've had my share of those too.

Bless your husband! His heart is in the right place!

And you are right. This is just another one of the joys of the AYUP Club! (As Yet UnPublished)

We'll get there!

Louisa Cornell said...

Shea !! I know! I am so excited about your book coming out! And there will always be someone who thinks they could have done it better. In that case, saying "I AM published!" and sticking your tongue out at them behind their back is a perfectly acceptable comeback!

Louisa Cornell said...

Hey, Clarissa! Thanks for stopping by and I'm glad it made you laugh.

Louisa Cornell said...

Thanks, Connie! Those eye rollers are going to be SO sorry once you're published!

Louisa Cornell said...

Lexi !!

ROFLMAO !!! Now why doesn't that response surprise me??? And I have to say it covers all three. It is Good, Bad AND Ugly! Perfect!

Louisa Cornell said...


You are a sweetheart! Thank you! Maybe you and I can talk Hugh into it!

Callie James said...

No one asks me this anymore. When I first started getting these questions (about 15 years ago), I would respond with, "There's not an easy answer to that question. I need to explain the publishing industry to you." And then I would launch into a two-hour explanation of the publishing industry, the process of securing an agent, etc.

Seriously. Try it. And keep talking long after your victim starts drooling and their eyes roll back in their head. Trust me, they'll never ask you again, and they'll have a much clearer, more educated understanding of the publishing industry and why you're not published.

Louisa Cornell said...

Fabulous, Callie!

Now THAT is a good answer, with a touch of bad to boot!

And a lovely visual image for me to remember the next time someone asks me! Thank you!

M.V.Freeman said...

We will get ther Louisa, I firmly believe it! :)

Julie Johnstone said...

Great blog! I enjoyed reading it, and will remember your answer!

Louisa Cornell said...

You'd better believe it, Mary! We are on our way!

Louisa Cornell said...

Thanks, Julie ! And with your great new agent you won't have to use my answer for long!

Carla Swafford said...

I'm like Shea. I just smile, shrug my shoulders and say, "It's just one of those things."

People never ask me what I mean by that.

Sounds artsy, doesn't it?

Gwynlyn MacKenzie said...

Thanks for the laugh, Louisa. I'm amazed by the misconceptions out there. The worst offenders, however, were my own children. I had the oldest two attend RWA Nationals in 09. My son later confessed he figured there's be about a hundred women in housedresses! I gave him the hairy eyeball, and he said, "Well, not you, Mom." His wife slapped him. LOL

Anita Clenney said...

Loved this post. Oh my gosh. So funny but so true. The funny thing is that once you do get published, there are a whole other set of irritating questions. "How's the book coming?" is fine, but when they say, "Isn't it out yet?" and "You're still working on book one?" and "I thought you were finished with book one already" it starts to get annoying. People who don't write have no idea of the process that is involved. Edits, copy edits, covers, galleys. It is a long process.

Vanessa Barneveld said...

Oh., Louisa, you made my day! My Friday started off with two editor rejections, so I feel much better now.

Those bad and ugly answers were scary! Why do people pick on Nora? She's worked hard for that shelf space.

Fantastic post!

Anne Gallagher said...

My pat response has always been, (and mind you I am not agented)

"It's out on submission right now to agents."

Which technically, I have my query out so it's not a lie. They don't know that submissions is for an editor. It's my own word choice.

And that usually garners the response, "Oh, wow, that's great." And they move on. It's always worked and shuts them up faster than Clint's big gun.

T.H. Browning said...

Haha, I love your post. Like you said, I'm a writer and I'm going to be a writer until the day I die.

Creating stories fills me with passion and joy. I've realized it's okay to be a dreamer (and think up unusual stuff in my head). I am thankful to have the opportunity to work with a fabulous agent and talented, supportive writers who keep me positive, moving forward, and in high spirits. I'm lucky to have found my "calling" in life.

IT WILL HAPPEN!!! Okay, it's out make it happen universe!!! :)

Louisa Cornell said...

Very artsy, Carla! You've got that whole mysterious, broody artiste thing going for you!

Louisa Cornell said...

Gwyn !

Please give your son's wife my heartfelt thanks. A bunch of women in house dresses indeed!

Louisa Cornell said...

You are so right, Anita! The publishing world is one of life's great mysteries no matter where you are in the process!

Louisa Cornell said...

Oh Vanessa! Sending you hugs to the Land Down Under! Rejections are the worst! But your day is coming. I just know it! So glad I made you smile!

Louisa Cornell said...

Good answer, Anne !! And it IS the truth. And I just know the right agent is going to snatch you up and you'll be on your way!

Tiffinie Helmer said...

This was fun and had me choking on my tea! My favorite answer is that, "My agent is currently shopping my manuscript." I always get a few wrinkled foreheads on that. They don't ask me to explain because they don't want to admit they don't really understand what I said.

BTW, is it wrong for me to actually entertain the idea of holding a Starbucks hostage so Hugh and I could spend a few minutes together?

Louisa Cornell said...

Hey T.H. !!

I know exactly what you mean. It is great to realize what you were truly put here to do and to have the courage and tenacity to do it!

Anonymous said...

Got me smiling. Thanks.

Theresa Ragan said...

Thanks for the laughs, Louisa. Hilarious. I have been writing and submitting, working with my second agent, talking to editors and getting SO close, for at least 14 years now and the sad part is people at the gym and the grocery store and friends I run into don't even ask any longer. :) I'm sure most people don't even think I'm writing any longer. But I am and I will never give up!

Louisa Cornell said...


It is only wrong if you don't bring the rest of us along with you! Thanks for stopping by!

Louisa Cornell said...

Glad it made you smile, Valance!

Louisa Cornell said...

Theresa! So good to see you here! And you ARE getting close. So long as you are still in there working with an agent, writing, submitting, chatting up editors you are STILL in pursuit of the dream! And one day soon you will catch that dream and wrestle it into submission. I know it!

Marilyn said...

Great post--made me smile.

I found out that Southern Breeze SCBWI is having their 20-year conference in the fall. I attended the second one--had written (poorly) a chapter book based on a dream I had after my mother died. So, folks, my book CHILD OF THE MOUNTAINS is supposed to come out in 2012. That means I will have worked 20 years on writing for children before seeing my efforts pay off! Never give up!

Marilyn Shank