Wednesday, December 05, 2007

How Much Does It Cost To Get Published?

Alas, it's finally happened. The inevitable awkward cocktail party conversation I've heard about so many times, but hoped never to experience. The one where you're chatting away with a woman you barely know, but she knows you're a published author because her husband knows your husband so she wants to hear the details. "Great!" you think, "a new reader!" You try to sum it up your book in a nutshell, explain that it's available in the bookstores (It is? Yes, it is. You mean like Borders and Barnes&Noble? Yes, like Borders and Barnes&Noble), and then you drop a coy little comment about your literary agent and take another sip of your drink.

So now it's her turn, and you're listening to how she's had a book stuck in her head forever, and how she knows it would be a huge success if she could get around to writing it. How she knows the perfect artist to do the illustrations, and how Nora Roberts has got nothing on her. And then, a question that took me completely by surprise: "How much does it cost to get published?"

My first thought, I swear, was "Is she asking how much I spend on paper and office supplies?" And then I realized that she was assuming I was self-published; that I'd paid someone to publish my book. While I have absolutely nothing against self-publishing or print-on-demand publishing, what surprised me the most was that it obviously hadn't occurred to her that anyone could get published any other way.

"I don't know how much it costs to get published," I said, very politely. It wasn't this woman's fault that she'd misunderstood. "My publisher paid me," I told her. "They bought the book."

Her eyebrows went sky high, and I could see the skepticism in her face. No more questions about publishing, and she immediately changed the subject. I was left feeling like I'd said something wrong, and even though we chatted for a while longer, I was relieved when she moved on to chat with someone else.

It was weird. It was awkward. How strange not to be believed when you've achieved something that you worked so hard for.

My husband claims that you're never a hero in your hometown, and I think he's right. I think that woman at the cocktail party made an immediate assumption that I couldn't possibly be a bona fide author simply because I move in the same circles she did. How could the woman who shops at the same grocery store she does be a published author? Ah, well. Her book is still in her head, while mine is on the shelves. Clean up on Aisle 3.

1 comment:

Audra said...

I have a different question how did you find/get found by a publisher to get paid?