Book publishing reminds me of the 1982 animated film The Last Unicorn, in that the industry is aspirational and dreamy but can also be nonsensical and anachronistic, not to mention strangely paced. (A prog rock children’s cartoon? Starring Alan Arkin and Mia Farrow? In 1982? But I digress.) Going in, the best gift a writer can give themselves is this: expectations management. You should expect uncertainty—a lot of uncertainty. Expect that you will need to be patient. This field, book publishing, is a lot like a literal farm field in that satisfying and sustainable success grows slowly and from the ample manure of failure. This is true not just at first, when you are getting established, but all the time, forever.
At my agency, Neon Literary, we care so much about clearing the fog around this industry that we publish a detailed weekly Substack called “How to Glow in the Dark.” It is available via subscription, but if yet another newsletter fee is not practical for you right now, we make the occasional post free to all. We also regularly feature the odd tip or two from old newsletters on our Instagram, @neonliterary.
—Anna Sproul-Latimer of Neon LiteraryPortrait: Emily Berl