35 Things You Don’t See When You Buy A Book #AmWriting #Writer #Author

#author #writer


The idea for this post came to me after I did some research on the ‘overnight literary success myth.’  I have always been intrigued by the term and the notion that success JUST happens to authors. Surely there is more to overnight literary fame than meets the eye?  Once you type this myth into Google you can expect to see an array of interesting articles and blog posts on the subject.

This research into the myth of authors being hailed as ‘overnight literary successes’ led me onto the iceberg” cliché, which I found in a fab article. It was an article from the Huffington Post:

The tip of the iceberg, which rises out of the water, is the part that people see. But underneath and invisible is a huge mass of ice that had to be built-in order for the tip to rise up to visibility. The part that we rarely see is the hard work, failure, criticism, rejection and sacrifice below the surface that created the conditions for the iceberg to rise above the water.’


Published or self published books are the tip of the iceberg, which rises out of the water. Using this wonderful iceberg cliché I thought about what you don’t see when you buy a book either in a shop or online.

So, I decided to pull together a list of all the things you don’t see when you buy a book. This is the stuff that lingers below the surface.

For noting: I have catered for both traditional publishing and self publishing journeys.

  1. Several books written prior to this one. Even if the author was unpublished prior to this one, it is unlikely that the book you are holding will be their first novel.
  2. The author leaping about with joy, after receiving a spark of inspiration for a new book idea.
  3. The idea for the book starting to grow and take shape inside the author’s brain.
  4. Hours spent by the author daydreaming about their new book idea.
  5. Pages of scribbled notes on the idea, once it has grown too big for the author’s head.
  6. Endless cups of coffee or tea drank by the author, whilst sat staring blankly at their notes and asking themselves “can I turn this into something?”
  7. Hours of book research on their chosen subject. This will be composed of buying books, Google searches, listening to podcasts, listening to interviews, watching films, talking to people, interviewing subject matter experts, reading blog posts….
  8. The author’s attempt at a first draft.
  9. An emotional breakdown at 30k words on the first draft. Whilst sobbing and wedging slabs of chocolate into their mouth, the author will ask themselves “can I find a way to carry on?”
  10. Emails from writer friends urging the author to carry on and not give up.
  11. The joy and elation once the author has finished their first draft.
  12. The tears shed when the author is forced to lock away their beloved draft for a period of time.
  13. The look of horror and disgust when they take out their first draft, after resting it, and spotting ten things wrong with the first page.
  14. Hours spent wading through writing technique books and listening to writing craft podcasts.
  15. Hours spent building their author platform on social media.
  16. Months spent rewriting and revising it until it doesn’t resemble their original draft.
  17. Hours of procrastination spent by the author watching Netflix, staring into space , online shopping, tweeting and spring cleaning their house.
  18. The excitement experienced when the author sends out their draft for an initial review. This also includes hours of daydreaming and visualising their reviewers reading their draft with faces of pure joy!
  19. The many tears shed by the author when the feedback returns and they realise their daydreaming time was wasted.
  20. The months spent revising it and sending it back out for review. This cycle of review and then revise can go on for months and sometimes years.
  21. Tears shed over their first paragraph which, after many revisions, still doesn’t sound right.
  22. The challenging search for an agent and sending out query letters. This will also include hours of daydreaming and visualising the agent with a face of pure joy whilst reading the author’s draft.
  23. The pain and suffering experienced when the author is inundated with rejections.
  24. Hours spent by the author crying over the rejection letters.
  25. The amount of wine, cheesecake and ice-cream consumed by the writer in order to numb the pain of rejection.
  26. The summoning of inner strength to carry on in the face of literary adversity.
  27. Emails and messages of support from writer friends urging them to carry on.
  28. The days, months and years spent revising the book and sending it back out to agents.
  29. Hours spent by the author deliberating about whether they should self publish.
  30. Hours spent by the author choosing a book cover designer and wading through potential designs.
  31. Hours spent painstakingly formatting the book.
  32. The blood, sweat and tears lost during time spent with professional editors.
  33. Hours spent pulling together a marketing plan.
  34. The sleepless nights and the nightmares about the book launch.
  35. The many dark literary moments when the author dug deep and carried on. 


I am sure there might be some points I have missed out, so please let me know and I can add them into my list.

If you are thinking about purchasing a book today, stop and think for a moment about what has gone into producing that book. Remember the book is just the tip of the iceberg!

Have a great day!


Photo: Upsplash

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Lucy Mitchell lives in South Wales with her husband, her two teenage daughters, a giant labrador and a gang of unruly cats. Lucy is the author of the award winning blog, BlondeWriteMore and was a Featured Romance Author on Wattpad. When she’s not working or writing, Lucy can be found listening to audiobooks in a muddy field with her dog or sat outside her local pub in the sunshine enjoying a glass of wine. Her debut novel Instructions Falling In Love Again is OUT now and already pulling in some fabulous reviews ❤️

78 thoughts on “35 Things You Don’t See When You Buy A Book #AmWriting #Writer #Author

  1. A pretty comprehensive list Lucy!
    Time, sweat and blood…. no one really appreciates how much of these are shed to produce many literary efforts! X

  2. Thanks for keeping it real! For self-published authors you might want to include hours spent marketing putting together videos promoting the marketing, hours on making clever revisions to Meet the Author on amazon.com… and last but not least checking rechecking and yelling at the sales tracking reports for self-published authors when the line does not move!

  3. Lols and reality both at the same time. Indeed the life of a writer is a fluctuating graph of emotional outbursts and rising suns. Perfectly jotted points. This will be on our minds now before we buy a book. 🙂🙂👌👌

  4. the loss of self respect as you and your PJs literally become one organic living cell – I have bed socks that have recently been diagnosed with depression from not being washed for months…. As always amazing list Lucy – I trust this isn’t interfering with the book writing!!

  5. Excellent synopsis of a writer’s life.

    This is just too accurate — except for the cheese cake. It’d be more chocolate. I’m looking for the camera you put in my home. Can’t find it yet. 🙂

    The only point you may have forgotten is this (for Indie books): Marketing is best left to professionals. After you’ve tried doing it yourself for a few years, you’ll see that the professionals are highly underpaid. 🙂

  6. So true … so very very true … I once read if most writers calculated the time they really spent on writing their novel they would earn less than 11 cents an hour.

      1. Most writers .. not all … others (not naming anyone) write repetitive stories for children and become millionaires overnight. I started out writing poems and got so many rejections from one magazine I thought “Oh blow you” sat down at my computer typed a few interesting unrelated words on the page – posted it – almost maliciously – and they published it! I earn’t $75 and lost a third of it in tax!!! 🙂

  7. Great list Lucy and reinforces that authors should be a lot less modest than they are.. As someone who offers free promotion I find it all the time. The advent of the Ebook was great and it has opened up publishing on an international level for us in a way print books could never do. However, it does mean that the pricing of an Ebook somehow undermines the writer’s role in the process.. All of the above is very true for all book formats and yet the writing element is reduced down to barely any monetary value at all. In effect we are saying that a books value is only in its printing. I have included in my Blogger Daily this evening.. great piece. thanks.

  8. The ‘iceberg’ applies to so much in life; all the hidden struggles, hard work, sheer determination… a great list Lucy. The media attention of so called ‘overnight successes’ decries the hours and hours spent by dedicate writers honing their craft. Well done.

  9. Hi
    A very concise list.
    While not published I still have been through some of those points on the list.
    So much time and effort goes into a book, the iceberg analogue is a good way to describe this.

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