Finding My Place in the Publishing World

UntitledpI’ve been reading promotional materials (again!) looking for ways to increase book sales, and one of the articles, in a rehash of the idea of positive thinking, said that if you’re not satisfied with the way your writing career is going, don’t ever let it be known but speak and act as if you were a bestselling author.

In other words, don’t ever let people know the truth, and that goes against the spirit of this blog. I suppose it isn’t smart of me to talk about my struggles to find my place in the publishing world because it probably does show me in a negative light. In fact, one friend emailed me and said, “If you want to stop writing and pity yourself because you think you are a failed author, go ahead. That’s your choice.”

Regardless of how I come across, I am not negative or pessimistic. I have every intention of making my living as a writer, and if I thought claiming I were a bestselling author would get me there, I’d do it. Or maybe not. There are so many authors out there claiming to be more than they are that the world doesn’t need another one.

Despite the contention of my friend, I do not consider myself a failed author. In fact, I am a successful author. I’ve written five books that I’m proud of and that many people love. I just haven’t been able to turn them into financial successes yet.

I see myself on a writer’s journey, though I admit I’m going through a crisis of faith, struggling to find reasons to write. (I’m also struggling to find reasons to live, but that doesn’t make me a failed human being.) For some writers, writing is their reason for living, but although that isn’t my reason for living (I am not compelled to write; it’s something I choose to do), I have a hunch that my reason for living is tied up somehow with my reason for writing. (Writing fiction, that is. I do write every day for this blog, partly for the discipline of it and partly to help me figure out my place in the world, the world of grief, and the publishing world.)

I began writing fiction more than a decade ago as a means of bringing my dying life mate/soul mate in close. Someone who is dying drifts away until finally he begins to disconnect himself totally from life, and I couldn’t bear to let the disconnect from me happen sooner than it needed to. For several years, until he drifted too far away, I wrote at night, then read the passages to him in the morning, and he’d let me know if I nailed the scene, usually with a small, impish smile. If I didn’t get a passage quite right, I didn’t get a smile, but I got help figuring out where I went wrong.

That’s why I used to write — to see his smile. And that’s why writing has become such an angst-ridden subject for me. My reason for writing died when he did.

A friend (the same friend mentioned above now that I think of it) once sent me a snippet of a poem:

A voice calls, “Write, write!”
I say, “For whom shall I write.”
And the voice replies,
“For the dead whom thou didst love.”

—John Berryman

Maybe someday writing for the dead whom I didst love will be reason enough to write, but for now, I’m still searching for my place in the world and the publishing world. And if the search — or my angst — comes across as negative, so be it. Besides, when I start acting as if I am a bestselling writer, I want it to be for real.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+

14 Responses to “Finding My Place in the Publishing World”

  1. rami ungar the writer Says:

    You’re having trouble finding reasons to live? I hope not, there are plenty of people out there in the world who like and appreicate you. We’d all be sad if you just dropped off the face of the Earth.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I’m not going to drop off the face of the earth, I promise. It’s more a matter of finding something to live for. As Fyodor Dostoyevsky said, “The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.”

  2. Malcolm R. Campbell Says:

    I hear that advice a lot, too–keep quiet about things that seem to be unfair or evolving slower than expected or the other authors who may seem to effortlessly hang the moon. That advice often makes it hard to share one’s struggles and opinions in a blog.

    Our true struggles, perhaps, probably need to be saved for people we talk to in person rather than broadcast to the world.


    • Pat Bertram Says:

      You’re probably right, but if we take our struggles out of our blogs, there doesn’t seem to be much point in blogging. It’s the struggle to reach the goal that provides the impetus to blog, at least for me, otherwise the articles would be just a rehash of what everyone else is writing.

      I do keep most of my opinions to myself, though, especially if they involve other authors.

      • knightofswords Says:

        It’s the whole appearances thing. One doesn’t see mainstream, bestselling authors using their blogs to talk about their problems. Of course, those writers are on panels, going to conventions, juggling book signings and other appearances, etc, so they have more than enough to blog about if they bother to blog at all. So, we try to find like-minded, kindred spirits before we’re successful to get a dialogue going, but then I wonder if that makes readers who aren’t writers stay away from our books because they figure if we’re having these problems, we aren’t who they want to read. I can going around and around pondering this.

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          I do understand about appearances. On the other hand, I have a hunch what we say in our blogs doesn’t affect readers at all. This is the backwater of the blogosphere, after all, not the book page of the NY Times. How many readers bother to research writers and read their blogs before they buy a book? Not many, I’d be willing to bet. And if by chance they do, they would be uninterested in all the rest of the stuff we writers talk about such as writing, editing, promoting.

          I know we are supposed to write about the subject matter of our books in the hopes of attracting like-minded readers, but there is no way I’m going public with my views of the government and its affect on our lives. My views are in my books, but the fictional context mutes them a bit. So, for now, I write what’s on my mind. And I have found kindred spirits, which is nice.

          As you say, going around and around pondering this.

  3. Carol Wuenschell Says:

    I admire your honesty.

  4. Phyllis Ring Says:

    The truthfulness in this post, and the kind of insight you offer in it, is the reason I write at all. And, as another commenter notes, struggle is as much a part of living — and writing — as anything else. Thanks very much, and may you find your way to writing for the dead whom thou didst love in your own timely way.

  5. Steve Lakey Says:

    Your writing is authentic, and that makes you successful. Your style is engaging and honest. This article left me wanting to read more. Please keep writing. I’ll be back! 🙂

  6. Mike Croghan Says:

    You may like a quote I often use in my email signature. It’s from a very good friend of mine who was a very successful Latin American novelist. “Escribo para que la muerte no tenga la última palabra” (I write so death doesn’t get the last word.) His name was David Sanchez Juliao and sure enough, after being dead for two years, his words and works live on.

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