28 Things I’ve Learned About Publishing

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28 Things I’ve Learned About Publishing

Written by John Boyne on the January 26th,2020

I published my first short story 28 years ago, in 1992. Eight years later, I published my debut novel. I’ve learned 28 things about publishing in those 28 years and here they are:


  1. There are no geniuses; there are only hard-working, committed writers doing their best each time.


  1. There are no ‘instant classics’; there’s the occasional book that, with luck, might be remembered in 50 years.


  1. Just because your 1st novel gets published does not mean your 5th will.


  1. Before everything else, a reader wants a good story.


  1. There are no inaccuracies in fiction; it’s all made-up.


  1. A novel is not better because it took ’10 years to write’. Nor is it better because it took 10 weeks.


  1. There’s not an editor on the planet who does not want to publish quality books.


  1. Writers know the value of their own work. A good/bad review doesn’t affect that.


  1. When you hear of a massive advance for a debut, that’s the exception, not the rule.


  1. Writers who form collectives are making a terrible mistake. It’s a solo job.


  1. 95% of what your editor tells you is probably right.


  1. Prizes are nice but too many writers are obsessed by them.


  1. There is no such thing as a muse; there is only discipline & focus.


  1. 99% of film rights sold never come to anything. Until it’s in the can, don’t crow about it.


  1. If you’re a man who doesn’t read women, then you’re not a books person at all.


  1. If you’re a woman who doesn’t read men, then you’re not a books person at all.


  1. If you’re a person who doesn’t read translated fiction, then you’re not a books person at all.


  1. On stage, the writer who’s been publishing the longest should read second, even if the other writer has sold more books.


  1. A writer who criticises another writer publicly comes across as envious & attention-seeking.


  1. Anyone who says ‘I’m writing a crossover novel’ is writing a bad novel. That happens organically, not deliberately.


  1. Writers of so-called popular fiction are just as committed to their craft as writers of so-called literature.


  1. Occasionally, you’ll find yourself at the centre of a storm for something you’ve said or written; this will pass.


  1. Authors who add ‘hilarious’ biographies cheapen their work.


  1. The team at your publishing house work incredibly hard. If the book doesn’t take off, it’s not their fault.


  1. Any writer who says they ‘hate’ writing should retire.


  1. Anyone who tells you why you’re wrong to have liked a particular book is an idiot.


  1. Many of the emperors have no clothes, but there’s nothing to be gained by calling them out.


  1. All writing is experimental.
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