As an author you have to believe in your book. Experience has taught me that if you don’t, nobody will. Still, there are ways of believing in your book while keeping your ego in check. Given the ego we’ve seen along Pennsylvania Avenue these last few years it may come as little surprise that even some wannabe authors can nearly match it. The line, as professionals draw it, is balancing between the importance of your work with the realism that few books sell well. Your best approach, as author, is humility. Many people don’t read the professionals. You quickly learn this if you’re in an editorial role. It is normal to receive emails from authors telling you how important their work is, some even claiming it as an even on a cosmic scale (I am not joking).
I often consider how much pain authors could spare themselves with just a tiny bit of research. If a publisher has turned your book down twice already, don’t submit it a third time. (You already crossed the line the second time you sent it.) And don’t send your proposal with a list of demands. What I’ve noted both on this blog and elsewhere is that editors value professionalism. We don’t like turning down books. We don’t want to ruin a prospective author’s day. There are, however, safeguards you can use to prevent the worst kinds of disappointment. Rule number one is check your ego at the door. Do you know how many books have been published? Do you know just how difficult it will be for your book to get noticed? Take a reality check.
Also, scale your expectations. How many bestsellers have come from university presses? If you’re after bestseller status you need to aim for a trade publisher. This is pretty basic stuff. Those of us who publish in the academic world do believe our books are important, but many of us also know that they start only small conversations. Biblical studies isn’t exactly a growth field. We talk amongst each other, a collegial little group for the most part. And to keep things on the collegial level it is helpful to remember that we’re not publishing for ego. We’re publishing to try to move knowledge ahead, even if just by a micron or two. Good writing, I was once told, is simply clear thinking. Getting that writing published is part of a conversation and conversation only works if we are willing to keep our egos on their leashes.