Endings and Beginnings: Good Riddance, 2017

See full issue for 2017 12-25

As the world spirals down into a dark abyss that I’m certain we’ll never bounce back from (I now understand why old people are always yelling about “those damn kids”), the year is coming to an end. I had high hopes for 2017. In some ways, those hopes were met. In others, not so much.

But what we care about is publishing, right? Right. So, let’s talk about endings and beginnings in the publishing world.

At the end of every year (or the beginning), I think it’s important for writers (or anyone, actually) to take stock of what they’ve accomplished, as well as how far they have to go. It helps refocus our attention on the important things (like actual writing) and it sometimes allows us to decide what goals we need to let go of. (like that one where I’m a super-famous, multi-millionaire, bestselling author with a slick movie deal and hordes of fans)

I’ve had to take stock a few times in 2017, because I was forced to figure out how to proceed after a few setbacks. Publishers close every day, but this year, it seemed like every time I signed with a publisher I was excited about, said publisher closed its doors. In my circle of friends, we like to refer to me as “The Publisher Killer,” because of this unfortunate luck. For a few months, it seemed like every time I went online, I got bad news. A story I thought I’d sold was now unsold.

It’s easy to get discouraged and I did. For a while. Then I dusted the icky from my pride and I reassessed my publishing plan, which is a bit of a mess right now.

The publishing industry is constantly changing. I’ve said that before, I know, but it merits repeating. I see a lot of authors going all doom and gloom about setbacks, vowing to never go traditional because this publisher screwed them, or to pack it all in entirely, because what’s the point of it all? Look, if you can’t adapt, you may as well get out. If you can’t be positive when the shit gets real, you won’t survive. It’s like anything in life. You must take the good with the bad and make whatever it is you like to make when you’re handed a bag of lemons.

What I do each year is make a list of where I want to be in the next 365 days, where I wanted to be at the end of the previous 365 days, and then I ask myself a few questions:


  1. Am I being realistic? Are the goals I set (will set) even achievable? If they are, great. If they aren’t, that’s okay too, as long as you are aware of how unattainable they may be. You won’t be destroyed when those goals are never met if you admit to yourself they’re a little lofty.
  2. Is my plan possible? This means, are you being ridiculous in how you plan to meet your goals? Can you achieve what you’ve planned in just one year? This is where a 1 year, 5 year, and “someday” plan package is useful. “Bestseller” status is not usually a goal that can be met in a single year. There are many steps between now and then that have to be taken. Break down your “someday” goals into bite-sized pieces. Sure, you might meet some of them early, but it’s not as overwhelming when you accept that you probably won’t.
  3. Am I doing the same thing over and over again without getting the desired result? The old “definition of crazy” is a good thing to keep in mind. If you’re doing the same shit year after year, and it’s not working, then why would you continue? Look at your plan. Is there anything in it that hasn’t worked in the past that you keep doing? Odds are, it won’t ever work. Change it.
  4. Do I know what I want? For many years, I thought I knew what I wanted out of this publishing adventure. Turns out, I had a vague idea “to be published,” but that’s only part of what I hoped to achieve. I mean, I was published, but there was no lasting satisfaction, because it’s not the only thing I wanted to achieve. If you don’t know what you want, you’ll never get it, right? Sit down. Make specific Decide what it is you want 2018 to give you, and then it’s easier to make a plan that ensures you get it.
  5. Am I succeeding? If you don’t keep track of your progress, you won’t. And don’t be hard on yourself. Reassess monthly, or every few months, just to make sure you’re on track. Make adjustments to your publishing plan as needed to get yourself back on the road to where you want to be. Oh, and celebrate even the smallest success. You’ve earned it.
  6. Why am I doing this? Listen, if you’re setting a goal that involves pleasing or impressing other people, I think you need to reassess. Your goals should make YOU happy. No one else.
  7. Am I excited? This is probably the most important question I ask myself. If I’ve set goals that don’t excite me, then I’m not exactly motivated to achieve them. If I’m doing anything that doesn’t make me eager to move forward, then what’s the point? If you don’t love writing, publishing, and all that comes with it, it’s pretty hard to push as hard as you’ll need to push to succeed.


None of this has anything to do with skill, talent, or anything relating to “should” you publish a book. I guess that’s a question you should be asking before you venture onto this road at all. If you haven’t put in the work to know how to write well, or you haven’t bothered to learn about marketing, or you’re in that La-La-Land of ego, where you think you’re the shit and everyone should be grateful you’ve chosen to gift them with your words, then you need to stop. Step back. Find yourself a big old dose of reality and choke it down.

 The rest of you, I hope 2018 treats you well and you hit a few of those targets before 2019 creeps over the horizon.


Renee Miller

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