Why being unpublished is great

It can be hard to take yourself seriously as a writer if nobody else does, and it can be hard for others to take yourself seriously if you're not published.

So how can you keep your head high and your sanity intact when everyone else thinks you're delusional? Here's how to endure that indulgent smile people usually reserve for the completely deranged when they discover you're an unpublished 'writer'.

No-one has to know you're a failure

There's something to be said for acting the part if you want to be the part, but the great thing about being unpublished is no-one has to know you write. If you're serious about something, you're going to do it irrespective of what anybody else thinks, so why tell them? Who needs readers anyway?

No 'second book syndrome'

You don't have to worry about writing a second book that's shitty, because you're still writing/working the first shitty one.

You won't get panned

It's bad enough when your critique group dumps on your writing, but get published, and the whole world will dump on it. People you don't even know. People who actually get paid to dump on you.

It's still someone else's fault

If you were published and no-one liked your book, you'd have to face up to the fact that you were talentless – but when you're unpublished, it's just because those agents/editors are too stupid to recognise your genius.

You can make your mistakes in private

…while you work-through your enforced apprenticeship. If you stick to it long enough, irrespective of whether any publisher notices, you might get good at it.

You'll learn to be happy writing

Or give up trying. Point being, if you're a real writer, you'll keep doing it anyway. Publication be damned.


  1. Thanks for the post, James. I agree with your last statement..."if you're a real writer, you'll keep doing it anyway."

    I am a firm believer that a real writer is one who writes because they love the art and the process and the release and self-satisfaction, whether they seek/achieve publication or not. A writer who requires one of six corporations to determine whether he or she is a writer, needs to put a little more stock in themselves and keep going simply because they love to write. And today, a writer or indie author, can build their audience if they want to work hard, with or without the gate keepers. Thanks for the words.

    from The Writing Bomb . blogspot . com

  2. ROTFLMFAO!!! Brilliant post with loads of little truths. And I'm so looking forward to the day when you'll have to face all the downsides of being a famous published writer.

  3. Yes, :) working on building an audience and hoping not to damn the publisher forever, but... it's so true, if you are a writer, you are just going to write gate or no gate.

    great comfortingly funny post, thanks

  4. @Jeff - Thanks for your post, Jeff, and I couldn't agree more. When I first started writing I just wanted to get published, now my ambition is to be a good writer - something which is much more within my control. I do think I've perhaps gone too far the other way, and I actually should spend more time trying to get published - but in the meantime I'm building a body of work, and when I'm happy with it (does that ever happen?) I'll get it out there, self-publishing if necessary.

    @beeca - hey Bec, glad I made you laugh - I like your conviction about my work. One thing you can be sure of, I'm not giving this up, whatever the hell happens.

    @Uva - hey Uva, thanks for dropping by and joining the blog - checked out yours and love the ceramic work btw. I appreciate you taking the time to comment and glad you liked the post.

  5. LOL "funny cuz it's true..."

    The last one most of all. Several of my husband's friends brag about their "great book idea" that will take the publishing world by storm. Years have gone by and they haven't written it, let alone anything else. They aren't DRIVEN to get ideas on a blank page. They don't wake up at night thinking of great lines they have to jot down before they are forgotten. They don't get downright grouchy if they haven't touched their work in progress for a few months (weeks/days/hours).

    Anyone who suffers from those symptoms is a bona fide writer. Publication credit has nothing to do with it!

  6. I have a new appreciation for being unpublished! And yep, I'll write whether or not I'm published, just because it's fun. .

  7. This is hilarious! Loved how you don't have to worry about writing the second shitty book. :D

  8. @J.Rose - completely agree - that's when I knew I was in this for real, when I realised I was going to do it anyway.

    @Julie - Me and you both!

    @Jennifer - In truth, Jennifer, I've already started the second shitty book to take a breather from the first, but I do intend to go back to the first, hopefully with a fresh perspective, more critical distance and energy.

  9. Two of my ex-flatmates are published novelists and yet, though flung up into euphoric regions when initially picked up, neither in any way feels "authorised". What quickly happens is a new set of insecurities arrive - some of which you mention - but a big one you didn't is not getting shortlisted for any of the various prizes. This is usually the only way a new writer will get his/her books into the shops. If you're not on these lists it's likely your book will sink without trace. Then comes the second demoralising factor - your book doesn't sell. Certainly true that no one's heard of James Killick or Glenn Haybittle but how many people have heard of David Flusfeder or Talitha Stevenson who between them have published nine novels? Being published alone still isn’t good enough to convince acquaintances you’re a proper writer, especially with so many self published writers about nowadays; your book has to be on display in bookshops to verify you as a bona fide author.

  10. Oh no, Glenn, so you're saying being published is just as depressing?? You're right tho, getting published is not the finish line, that's why I think it's dangerous for writers to think of it as the ultimate validation - as you point out it can be quite the opposite.

    Prior to publication it's difficult to associate tangible worth with writing, and I think there's a temptation to imagine that once it is possible to do so (i.e. when the book's in print and up for sale) that validation will follow. How infinitely more crushing then if no one actually buys it.

    I think the validation has to come from somewhere closer to home - you have to like what you do first, and if others like it too, then that's only for the better. Thanks for the great comment, Glenn.


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