Saturday, July 4, 2009

Definitions for the Perplexed: "Pre-Published"

STOP SAYING THIS.

If this continues, I'm going to lose my anonymity fast, because I will be the editor at pitch sessions singing loudly with my fingers in my ears.

It's not like "pre-med" or "pre-law", because publication is not a degree you can earn. It's not like "pre-cancerous" because if you fail to get your unsightly manuscript checked by a doctor, it won't turn into a published book.

Who needs to describe themselves like this, dammit? People with such fragile egos they can't stand not to have something to brag about yet? You're also "pre-dead," you know. And pre-my-foot-up-your-ass.

You're not fooling anyone but you.

55 comments:

J. L. Bell said...

I, too, have long been pre-insane about this.

Anonymous said...

Pre-law and pre-med is ridiculous too, actually. Not all "pre-law" and "pre-med" students actually get into law schools or med schools, and even if they do get into a school, a great deal will fail out or drop out.

Just saying...

sharigreen said...

You're also "pre-dead," you know. And pre-my-foot-up-your-ass. -- Ahahaha!

HWPetty said...

I'm pretty much going to start using "pre-my-foot-up-your-ass" with reckless abandon now... mostly directed at my husband as a warning.

AHAHAHAHA... cant.stop.laughing.

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

Thanks, EA! LOL! I needed a good laugh. The "pre-dead" part really cracked me up. Happy fourth of July!

Joe Iriarte said...

*shrug*

I've never used the term, I don't think, but I know people who do. Instead I refer to myself as a writer, but not as an author.

We all have our little affectations, and this one's relatively harmless, if you're not, in fact, trying to fool anyone with it. The people I know who call themselves pre-published don't use the term thinking to impress anybody. In fact, it seems to be a bit of a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment of the fact that, while they're serious about writing and publishing and working toward their dreams, they have not yet sold anything.

Nicola Morgan said...

I so totally agree. There's an unpublished person I know who uses it all the time about herself. I'd like to say that her faith is touching but it's not: it's deluded.

Word verification: preog. Not joking!

sciencegirl said...

yeah, but at least pre-med and pre-law really does mean you've studied the relevant prerequisites!

Anonymous said...

Pre-published is like a commanage. We all graze there for free until we find a green field with a gate that can be nudged open.

BuffySquirrel said...

Just so y'all realise...I am pre-Nobel-prized.

christine tripp said...

OK, am I the only one who has never heard of (or at least can't remember hearing) this term/title?
Now, of course, I will probably hear it used everywhere and it will bother me immediately.
So, if you have one book published then spend years, without success, trying to push a second, should you title yourself, "Post-Published":)

Sarahlynn said...

I decided against becoming a doctor, but when people ask me what I studied in college, I sometimes say that I was pre-med. At least at my school - which has an affiliated medical school - there is no "pre-med" degree or anything close to it (though many pre-meds major in Biology, I majored in English). "Pre-med" describes a course of study like a major but with required classes across many disciplines (biology, chemistry, physics, math, etc.) So for those who are familiar with such things, "pre-med" is a perfectly good description. Just saying...

I never describe my novels-in-progress as "pre-published," though.

Uma Krishnaswami said...

I think that when you use up valuable (and limited) writing energy on self-definition and euphemisms, you're not using that energy where it ought to be used--in firing up your writing.

Angelica R. Jackson said...

The first time I saw "pre-published," it was very tongue-in-cheek and it worked---as a joke. But I think somebody saw it and went, "That's the label I've been waiting for!" It pops up on forums now and just bugs me.

Anonymous said...

New writers presume this presents them as precocious instead of preposterous.

Also: who cares?

Anonymous said...

Anon, pre med indicates a particular set of courses one will be taking in undergrad, and pre-law indicates intent. And whether you failed or dropped out (and I went to law school at a top 10 law school and didn't know anyone who failed out-not a single person--and only a handful who dropped out) it would still be accurate because it means pre LAW SCHOOL. Not pre-LAWYER. So once you got into law school, you've accomplished your goal. But still, it is only a statement of intent in undergrad--shorthand for "I plan to go to law school." So not really ridiculous.

I suppose pre-published is shorthand for not published, but since it's not shorter, it sounds stupid, as in trying to put a good spin on things in a different way than pre-med and pre-law do. Those only sound stupid if you're just saying them to get laid but actually, say, suck at math, or have a 2.9 gpa.

Anonymous said...

Seriously - why? I read this last week on Janet Reid's blog too. I guess I'm a lot of "pre" things myself. Maybe I should start advertising that I'm pre-retired or pre-stinking-rich, or maybe even pre-size two... how annoying is that?? Clearly it's pre-mature to advertise something so optimistic as pre-published.

Anonymous said...

Can you reply to queries in the voice of Inigo Montoya (The Princess Bride)?

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/pre-published?qsrc=2446

"I do not think it means what you think it means."

Miriam S.Forster said...

"Pre-my-foot-up-your-ass." BWAHAHAHAHA... *falls off chair*

You know, sometimes I wish I was anonymous so I could write stuff like that.

Cole Gibsen said...

This post just made my day. Thanks :)

Emily Kokie said...

Thank you! I hear this term too often, and every time it takes all my self-control not to rant.

I've never seen it used ironically or for jest.

In my experience, it has always been used by aspiring authors who have been aspiring so long they are embarrassed to say they still have not achieved publication, and young aspiring authors who picked it up from the aforementioned been at it so long group.

And it may not be misleading, per se, but it verges on self-delusional - that kind of wish-fulfillment, think positive thoughts, envision what you want in order to make it happen...kind of lying to yourself to make yourself feel better kind of thing that drives me up a wall.

Please, aspiring authors, do not use this.

And AE, very funny and direct post.

mb said...

My husband likes to say that there's a fine line between a positive mental attitude and denial.

Lynne Kelly Hoenig said...

You know, we're all going to start using the term at conferences now to see what editor puts her fingers in her ears and starts singing loudly.

Auntie Flamingo said...

I think I pre-peed my pants. Glad I didn't post-pee them. Too funny EA. Thanks for the laugh.

Anonymous said...

(Sigh...) Am I the only one to have claimed this highly esteemed title? Has no one else ended up in drawn out wait before the release of their first book as lists are shifted and release dates scamper further away?

I wasn't a village idiot wandering the woods waving a manuscript in the air hoping a publisher would fall out of the trees to my feet.

But during my 2 year wait - long after the contract was signed and the deadline accomplished, I did refer to myself as 'pre-published' (and the equally impressive: 'almost-kinda-sorta published'.)

Is there an name for those of us who end up in publishing purgatory?

The list bump crew?
The seasonally disordered?
Any suggestions?

Miriam S.Forster said...

Anonymous 8:07-

I'm in the same boat you were. It hasn't been quite two years yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if it took that long. (small publishing house changed their name--all new acquisitions pushed to the back burner.)

I have no idea what to call it, so I don't use the term "published" that much. I just say I sold a book. (although "published, sort of" is also a favorite)

Anonymous said...

A long time ago (1990s) unpublished writers were known as newbees or wanabees. then, as the PC (not the computer) age dawned, these terms were verbotten and the kinder, gentler term of "pre-published" was coined.

Now this term is 'not-to-be-used.'
Please suggest an new/ better term.

Eilonwy said...

I am a pre-published author living in a pre-clean house with my pre-civilized children. I am also pre-rich and pre-skinny. My life looks so much more promising than it did earlier today,if a tad more preposterous.

myimaginaryblog said...

I think I'm going to start referring to the teen girls in my neighborhood as unwed future mothers.

Ebony McKenna. said...

That's like people sending a pre-query to agents.
:-)

Confession time - I was trying to cheer up some of the members of my writers' group by suggesting they think of themselves as pre-published.
Guilty as charged.

Marie Devers said...

Today, Publishers Weekly announced this: http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6669024.html?rssid=192, so at least you'll have all of the people who use this term in one convenient place :)

Haste yee back ;-) said...

Does this mean if you're the introspective type, you're pre-head-up-your-ass?

Haste yee back ;-)

Hope Vestergaard said...

Don't you mean pre-plexed, E.A.?

Ivy said...

Ha-ha, thanks so much, you made my day with this pre-my-foot-up-your-ass.
I too am a wanna be writer, but didn't get farther than having two 100,000 words novels, and doing my research/learning now...the fact that you have written something and consider yourself an author already is hilarious. Pre-published? Right. Who is your pre-publisher!?

Mara said...

I'm not actually nuts about people calling themselves "published authors" either. It always seems kind of pathetic. I mean, you never hear successful writers refer to themselves that way. "Hi, I'm J.K. Rowling. I'm a published author."

christine tripp said...

I mean, you never hear successful writers refer to themselves that way. "Hi, I'm J.K. Rowling. I'm a published author."


Your right Mara, though she may have done so before everyone KNEW she was a "published" author.
That term doesn't bother me, in fact I use it, "published illustrator". It's a long road to actually get to that place in your career and, sadly, if you just say your an author or your an illustrator, most people roll their eyes (or they ask you if you have had anything published and then you may as well have said, published author in the first place:)
Other titles that could be used are Professional or Working. Personally, I like Professional but some people take exception to it, too "full of yourself" perhaps?:)

BuffySquirrel said...

There's nothing wrong with "unpublished" for those who aren't published. Those between selling their book and seeing it published, hmm, I can see why they might want to call themselves "pre-published", except that it won't be exclusive to them.

Single people could become pre-married; married people would be pre-divorced; babies in the womb are pre-born; and all of us are pre-dead....

mb said...

In all fairness, I do know where this comes from. I blame small talk, people at parties asking what you do. "I'm a writer" is all very well, except that the next question is, "Oh, and are you published?" A negative answer makes the other person's eyes glaze over and also rubs more salt in the wounds of the constantly-rejected. I imagine someone came up with the response, "I'm pre-published" just for something less depressing to say.

Anonymous said...

Anyone here pre-Pulitzer?

anachred said...

These people must think, for some reason, that they need to say they're unpublished.

So, there you go. Candy-coated version.

I'm just going to assume it's obvious unless I say otherwise, and be pre-published in my own little writing closet where no one is listening to be cheesed out.

Angel Bluestocking said...

This made me laugh out loud.

How naff, although I must confess that when I started sending MS off I tended to feel the need to 'apologise'or explain my lack of pedigree. Now I realise it's sad and desperate, and the words 'this is my 'debut novel' say it all.

Anyway,thanks to your blog - I shall make sure I never put this or anything similar.

Glad to have found you.

Anonymous said...

At a conference I attended not long ago, almost every author speaker said it took ~10 years to break into the industry. My first book will hit the shelves soon, and it took me - you guessed it - 10 years. At no point during that time did I not take myself seriously as a writer, though it was difficult to face the question of my writing accomplishments (from peers or those in totally different industries) without some amount of shame. I don't think I ever actually used that term to describe myself, but I'm not surprised that some do. It's easy to laugh at the the "wannabes" and "newbies," but don't forget the amount of chutzpah and stamina it takes to get published at all. I admire people who take themselves seriously.

Joe Iriarte said...

Good post, Anon. Congratulations on your book.

Beth Terrell said...

I know people use it to describe themselves now, but when I first started hearing it, it was being used by published authors to describe aspiring authors in the room. It was meant as a kind of "attaboy" or "don't give up." Unpublished, while accurate, sounds a little too final, a little too much like so many of those others "uns": unwanted, undesirable, unfortunate.

"Pre-published" is the sound of hope. There's an implication of commitment to it: "I plan to do whatever it takes to get my work to a publishable level and become a professional author."

It always sounds a little bit hopeful yet tongue-in-cheek to me. It doesn't bother me at all.

Jane Smith said...

I blogged about this today, and linked to this post.

"You're also "pre-dead," you know. And pre-my-foot-up-your-ass." I felt just like that the first time I heard the term, but was too surprised by it to say so. Now I have the perfect response. Thank you!

writtenwyrdd said...

Hahaha! Loved your post. As an unpublished novel writer (with short story credits) I wouldn't have used the term, but when I see it I find useful, like the bell on the cat, warning the mice away from possible ego issues.

Christina said...

I don't think I've heard anyone say that, or maybe I wasn't listening very well. Either way, I like the singing editor idea. ^_^ Cute. Maybe you can make a jingle to go with it.

Leigh Lyons said...

I think the only time it's allowed is the space of time between the editor has approved the final draft and it's going to print. Any other time the person listening to a "pre-published" author should be allowed to sock him/her in the mouth.

My brother says it's okay speaking in hinesight. "In my pre-published days,..."

Leslie said...

It's no dumber than "engaged to be engaged."

Oh, wait.

That's dumb too.

Lili said...

See, I'm trying to think of a situation where I would have any use for the term anyway, and I'm coming up blank. My first book came out two and a half years ago, but I have never once used the phrase 'I'm a published author' and I don't intend to. Ever.

What do these people do? Go around saying, 'Hi, I'm Joe and I'm a pre-published author' to everyone they meet?

Stephen Duncan said...

I know I'm post-timely, considering the original post, but before I read this, I was pre-laughing my ass off.

Jen J. Danna said...

Bravo! I went to my first writer's conference last year and was confronted with this term almost immediately. I thought it was ridiculous, so I found that your post was not only dead on the money, but utterly hilarious ('pre-dead'...I need to remember that one...). Thanks for calling a spade, a spade.

John Wiswell said...

That was an inane way to put the complaint, but most uses of the prefix "pre" that require a hyphen are obnoxious. "Pre-published" is further presumptuous. It presumes you're going to be published at all.

Christine Tripp, don't you mean, "Hi, I'm J.K. Rowling. I'm a post-published author."?

Anonymous said...

There is a French term "Prépublication" or "prepublié". It refers to the original publication of a story, poem, or novel in a magazine, journal, etc., before being collected in a book.

Anonymous said...

There's nothing wrong with considering yourself as pre-published as long as pre- is a term used correctly.
Honestly, I don't see where it's that significant to create such annoyance.
Perhaps some writers use the term as a way of hope and positive thinking, and others use it as filler.
Either way, I doubt it's a delusional reference.
As a fiction writer, I find it much easier to create interesting characters than write about myself.
I think agents, publishers, and editors should take that into consideration instead of judging the person writing, they should judge the writing material. You never know who you might be passing up; the next Stephen King, maybe?


pre-
  a prefix occurring originally in loanwords from Latin, where it meant “before” ( preclude; prevent ); applied freely as a prefix, with the meanings “prior to,” “in advance of,” “early,” “beforehand,” “before,” “in front of,” and with other figurative meanings ( preschool; prewar; prepay; preoral; prefrontal ).