Want the Scoop on Writing and Publishing?

From a New York Times Inside the List story by Elizabeth Egan headlined “Want the Scoop on Writing and Publishing? Ask Emily Henry.”:

Aside from lighthouse tending, writing may be the most solitary profession. You can’t turn to a colleague with a gripe or a silly question; you work alone. You have no official job description or employee handbook and, sorry, you’re not getting an evaluation. Needless to say, these conditions are subject to circumstance, but most authors stay the course with a combination of guts, Googling and infrequent glory. The ones who appear in this column have arrived — for the moment.

Last summer, when Emily Henry’s adult debut, “Beach Read,” promoted her to best-sellerdom, she extended a hand to other writers climbing the ladder. On Instagram, where she describes herself as “#1 NYT best-selling dog in a human body” Henry invited followers to ask questions about the publishing process. Her answers are available in a series of saved stories on a variety of topics: Revision, First Drafts, Literary Agents, Writer’s Block, Dialogue, Characters and — my personal favorite — Pep Talk 2.

“Books are puzzles,” Henry reminded a writer who complained of feeling “majorly” stalled. “Sometimes the pieces snap in in the wrong order but keep walking past it every so often and eventually you’ll see what you need to do!”

The vibe is equal parts support group, pop-up salon and master class, with Henry as a casual, first-name-only teacher. She explained the motivation behind her social media outreach: “I was thinking back to my first debut in the young adult space, how lonely that can be. You have this feeling the whole time: I’m the only one whose dreams are being dashed or things aren’t working out as well as I’d hoped, or my publishing team is too busy for me. No one prepares you for what to expect.”

Henry wrote four young adult novels before “Beach Read,” so she was familiar with the insecurity that goes hand with publishing what she described as a “quiet midlist title.”

“There’s this mentality that you have to fake it till you make it,” she said. “I’m in a position where I have incredible support from my publisher; I have a great team. I don’t feel like I’m biting the hand that feeds me to talk frankly about how things work. I wanted people who were about to enter the industry or newly in it to feel the comfort of, This is OK. This is normal.”

Elisabeth Egan is an editor at the Book Review and the author of “A Window Opens.”

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