Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Tips to Set Your Own Publishing Pace

by Cindy K. Sproles @CindyDevoted

Once the manuscript is complete. It’s been shopped. Sold and awaits publication. You can lean back and take a breath. Or can you? What’s next? In this post, we’re going to discuss some hard things for you to hear, but I want you to learn the truth and not live on assumptions.

Writing is a difficult business. Like acting and singing, sometimes it’s just being in the right place at the right time (hence, why conferences and networking are so important.) New writers tend to fall into the “romance of writing” without seeing the “work of writing.” 

This leads to discouragement or, even quitting. It is with great love and a burning desire for you to succeed, that we launch headlong into some heart-to-heart information.

Set Your Own Publishing Pace
1. Writing is not a fast process: In my early years, there was no self-publishing. Writers had to pound out hard work and jump through hoops to become published authors. I miss this for many new writers. I’ve said a hundred times, bloody knees are worth the bandaids. For every disappointment or fall you take, you are learning a) the craft of writing, b) how to manage rejection, and c) you grow to teach others following behind you with great experience. 

In the years of doing acquisitions for publishers, I was always saddened that new writers would lay great stories in front of me, but the work was not up to publication standards yet. It could be, with just a tad more work, but at that moment, it wasn’t. When these writers were rejected, they just self-published (which is fine, if you go back and bring the work up to the level it needs to be for publication—many times, that doesn’t happen.) 

The work gets self-published. Sales are about 150 books, and they fizzle out. Think about the work it took to write that book, rush it to publication, only to have it buried in the millions of books on Amazon. I once heard Mary Kay Ashe (founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics) say in a speech, “Much greatness is lost if not for just a few more hours of hard work.” I wrote that down in my life book because it doesn’t matter what your effort is put into, the lack of just short of a few more hours of hard work, applies to anything we do in life. If you self-publish, do it right and with reputable publishers who do the work well.

Understand, for you to grow as a writer, it’s going to take time and nothing in this business is fast except deadlines.

2. Small Houses vs Large Houses: Many new authors get their start with small publishers. There are several reasons. 
  • 1) Many times, small houses do not require you to have an agent, 
  • 2) they are great places to get your feet wet in the industry, and 
  • 3) there may be a few more open spaces to publish great stories. Larger houses require a larger platform, sales performance, an agent, and a superb story. 
Small publishers generally do not have financing to offer an advance where large publishers can pay an advance on your sales. 

The truth, though unfair as it is to those authors who really do work hard to sell their books, is that publishing is a numbers game. When you are an author in a small house, the dollars are usually not there for much marketing or a deeper arm into industrial distribution, i.e. that hands-on person selling the book to the retailers. This means that you can still have a great book published that will receive some exposure, but usually not enough to bring in the sales numbers agents and larger houses are looking for in a sales history. 

Unfortunately, larger houses and larger literary agencies may pass because the sales or platform is not large enough to help recuperate the cost of publishing the book. As much as even publishers wish it wasn’t this way, publishing is still a business, and to be able to pay an advance or larger royalty percentages to authors and agents, publishers have to be able to first, pay the costs involved in publishing the book. Publishers want to be able to maintain the ability to pay those advances – it’s a perk and an incentive. Secondly, they need to continue to invest in future books that will bring that return again so the circle can continue.

There are pros and cons to working with both sized publishers, but it is important to know that publishers aren’t money-hunger mongers either. Deciding on five books to publish out of the hundreds reviewed is harder on the publisher. Authors just have to wait. Publishers must absorb the cost of running a company and turning enough profit to keep up the work. They are equally as disappointed to say no to a good manuscript than an author is to receive the rejection. Before you take aim at a publisher for rejecting your manuscript, understand the agonizing process they must go through to whittle down submissions, then offering only a few contracts when they want to offer many.

On the other hand, be an author who works overtime to help market and sell your book. The more you do, the more your sales climb and the greater that needle raises on the scale toward receiving a contract with a larger house. 

3. Author Career goals: Here’s where your feelings may get pressed, so know that these words are meant with the greatest intention. Don’t be satisfied with the first phase of your writing career. Don’t plan on living in the footprint of a smaller house or never having an agent forever. Small houses are wonderful—don’t misunderstand, but always set the bar to the next level for your career growth. Earlier we stated that smaller houses don’t always require a writer to have an agent, but don’t set that phase of your career as your standard. Reach for the next level. 

I’ve heard authors say, “I’ve tried to get an agent but none are interested.” My rebuttal to that is simple. It should tell you something about your command of the craft, even if you have published books. If you have several books published through a smaller house, and you’ve had a great experience, then challenge yourself to grow to the next level. Work on your skills so that an agent looks at your work and raises a brow. 

The better you know the craft, the more it shows in your writing—and the more it is noticed for new and bigger opportunities. Never just settle for publication. Strive for excellence. When you author for a small house, bust your chops to do a superior job for them, for they’re breaking you into the industry. Show your appreciation by working hard to write, sell, and market and when greater opportunities come along, they will rejoice with you knowing they had a hand in getting you a start. 

Goals are important. Set a pace for yourself, add those goals. Attain them. And your career will blossom.


Cindy K. Sproles is an author, speaker, and conference teacher. She is the cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries and the executive editor for christiandevotions.us and inspireafire.com. Cindy is the lead managing editor for SonRise Devotionals and also Straight Street Books, both imprints of LPC/Iron Stream Media Publications. She is a mentor with Write Right and the director of the Asheville Christian Writers Conference held each February at the Billy Graham Training Center, the Cove, Asheville, NC. Cindy is a best selling, award winning novelist. Visit Cindy at www.cindysproles.com.


  1. Thank you for a good dose of honesty that is based in reality. Rejection is difficult. Learning is often difficult. Achieving your goal is worth the effort; and the longer you delay in striving to reach that goal, the longer it will take you. I've long believed, "The bad is what makes the good better." Go for the best! God's blessings; and thank you for your candidness and kindness Ms. Cindy.

  2. Thanks. Glad you found benefit in the post.

  3. "Strive for excellence." What wonderful advice! No matter what the publishing decision, as authors, we have to take 100% responsibility for what we produce.

  4. Excellent post, Cindy. Thank you for sharing.