One of the hardest things to do is to publish a book. Condensing all of one’s thoughts and feelings into pages and chapters is no easy feat, and yet those who start often can’t stop. For the procrastinators out there, there are plenty of excuses: “No one reads literary fiction anymore,” or “I can’t bear the thought of rejection,” or “I just don’t have the know-how to get a book published,”. Well those excuses are over. Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee, released 55 years after the acclaimed novel To Kill A Mockingbird, is a great example of why right now is the best time to publish your own book. The release of Go Set A Watchman confronts many of the fears and insecurities writers tend to have about their work.
What we can learn from Go Set A Watchman
Age: It’s never too late
You are never too old to publish a book. While some in the literary community seems to be fascinated with young authors, authors who have lived and experienced more of what life has had to throw at them have more experiences, regrets and memories to draw from. It’s never too late to start channelling your passions and create something substantial. Harper Lee released To Kill A Mockingbird when she was 31 years old and at 89 years old she has released Go Set A Watchman.
Inadequacy: Everyone has something meaningful to say
Mark Twain said, “Comparison is the death of joy.” As a writer do not be consumed with comparison as it leads to feelings of inadequacy. The quickest way to not write a book is to compare yourself to someone who has. If you find yourself asking the question: “Will anyone be able to relate to what I have to say?” the answer is yes. Don’t question your worth. You don’t have to live a grand lifestyle, or to have been swept off your feet in a whirlwind romance to write something meaningful. Use your surroundings, your family and your own experiences as inspiration. That kind of writing is always more believable and authentic than the “Tall, rich, dark stranger just changed my life” sort. Go Set A Watchman, like To Kill A Mockingbird, is set in Alabama where Lee was raised. Lee drew inspiration from her small town and the simple way of living there, yet her books are being bought in the hundreds of thousands all over the world. Some readers have never been to the States and yet they can empathise with the themes and character’s in Lee’s novel.
Market: People are still committed to a good (literary) story
Although it may appear that everyone is consumed with reality television and social media, many people are still willing to invest into a good book. Not only that but a literary work of fiction can storm the charts!
Go Set A Watchman in its combined print, electronic and audio formats has sold 1.1m copies in the US and Canada (pre-order and just one week of sales). In the UK, Go Set A Watchman halted E.L. James’ erotic best seller Grey‘s reign at the top of the book charts. According to The Bookseller, Go Set A Watchman has sold 207,000 copies since it was released on the 14th of July (just 10 days ago, at the time of writing). Pretty encouraging stuff!
Rejection: not an issue today
A reasonable fear that many emerging authors have is that they might put all this work into a book and it may never get published. When Lee first started out, the landscape of the publishing industry was very different. Even as recently as 10 years ago, authors would submit their work to literary agents, who would reject 90%+ of work that came their way (this still happens today, find out more here), then those agents would pitch to editors at the big publishers, then those editors would pitch it to their bosses and finally, if you’re very lucky you would get a publishing deal. The circumstances around the manuscript for To Go Set A Watchman are unclear, but it seems that, for whatever reason, after Lee had finished writing it she didn’t feel ready to share it with her agent, editor or publisher let alone the world.
Thankfully, this is 2015. It has never been easier to self-publish and to do it to a really professional standard. No longer do authors have to languish for months or even years, waiting for replies from literary agencies or trade publishers. Go Set A Watchman is published by HarperCollins and is an international success but so is Still Alice by Lisa Genova and it was self-published. It spent over 40 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and has been translated into 25 different languages.
Access: It’s easy now
After Lee dropped out of law school and moved to New York, she really struggled. She took a job selling tickets for an airline and wrote when she could, although her time was limited. This is something that a lot of writers can relate to! However, she managed to use her contacts, namely famous composer Michael Martin Brown, to get her an agent and support her writing. Luckily, you don’t need celebrity pals to get your work published these days. Self-publishing has opened up the market for authors to get their work directly in the hands of their readers. Even if you have no industry contacts, you can still have a well-edited, beautifully designed, high quality book for sale all over the world and gathering reader reviews by worthing with professionals like us. If you want to find out more about self-publishing, our free guide to self-publishing is a great place to start.