I like to think of myself as an easy-going person. Things don’t get me riled up like they do some people. I have endless patience and but lately I have found more and more things that irritate me. From a writer’s point of view, the publishing world is a scary one, full of secret traps and pitfalls. It is very easy to get lost, or worse, ruin a writer’s reputation with a single mouse-click. It does take a certain level of fearlessness to be a writer today. The odds are stacked against us.
Hurdle #1: Society
We Americans are living in an increasingly illiterate society. Attention spans are shorter, reading levels lower. It is astounding the number of young men and women who graduate from high school without basic knowledge of English grammar and reading comprehension. As writers, many of us find we are having to dumb ourselves down to accomodate the lower intelligence levels of many potential readers.
Now, I am not saying that every person suffers from this same fate – not at all. But there is an increasing majority of people who don’t understand basic language. I don’t blame teachers at all – the teachers can only do so much with the stock they are given. I blame the government’s standards (in which teachers are now required to be primary caregivers as well as educators) and parents’ lack of interest in their children’s lives. Again, not all parents – the parents who are involved typically see children with better reading skills, and for that I commend them.
But it saddens me to know how many young people cannot appreciate what I do just because they don’t understand it.
Hurdle #2: The Industry
The major publishing houses have always been a bit elitist. We get that, and you know what? It’s their right to be. Agents make a killing from potential bestsellers, but will often pass on books because they aren’t looking at artistic merit – they are looking at saleability. It doesn’t help that the price of books seems to be skyrocketing. I remember when I could buy a hardcover book for $15. Now, that same book will run you $28-$40. And you aren’t buying a story anymore…you are buying a name.
On the flip side, small presses are springing up everywhere, promoting e-book sales and higher profit margins for authors.
The good news? You don’t have to have an agent.
The bad news? You don’t have to have an agent.
It’s a double-edged sword. Many small presses will accept anything that comes across the proverbial desk, which is good for those being published, but bad for the industry as a whole. Manuscripts that should be rejected for any number of reasons get through, thereby clouding the market for those that deserve a spot, and adding to the already harsh stigma that e-books aren’t real books.
Plus, we e-book writers never know which side of the blade we’re on. I can’t tell you how often I wonder to myself whether I’m one that just got a contract, or one that actually can write.
In short, to work in the e-publishing market, you have to have very thick skin and be prepared to take the world on head-first.
Hurdle #3: The Publishers
Publishers are extremely busy people. While each of us has a sense of personal connection to our own writing, publishers, sadly, do not. They are professional business people, and while they do provide us with opportunities, they still have to be able to sell what they buy from us. They do not have time to coddle each of us and stroke our egos. They have to put together and move product.
As authors, we work according to their timelines. The sooner we accept that, the better.
Hurdle #4: Other Authors
Remember, kids… we are all authors and working together (hopefully), but we are also competing in an increasingly competitive market. People only have so much money, and those who are better promoted and have larger resumes are typically going to pick up purchases first.
I know as a new author, I have been extremely lucky to pick up the following I have, and to have sold the books that I have sold. It doesn’t happen that way for everyone. I thank my lucky stars every day that I’m making even a little bit of money, but it isn’t like that for everyone.
It’s a cutthroat market, fast-paced and often without mercy. Work with your fellow authors, but remember that your personal success hinges solely upon your efforts.
Hurdle #5: The Critics
Take a look at the “review”. I know where it came from and who posted it. It’s listed as “Anonymous” because it’s someone I know that is much closer to me than I care to think about, and said person doesn’t want me to know who it is. It was done out of spite, because this person feels the need to demean me publicly.
That, my friends, is jealousy talking.
What each writer needs to learn – what it has taken me months to figure out for myself – is that you have to enjoy the good reviews, and take the bad ones with a grain of salt. There are many, many people in this world who find immense pleasure in running down others. And it happens for any number of reasons. Jealousy is a big one. “Failed” or unpublished writers tend to be the most negative toward those who are published.
I look at it this way: I am published. I am making money. I have met a life-long goal, and continue to keep moving forward. So what if someone who doesn’t like me said something mean online? It was my first book… and I’m only going to get better.
Example: Blood Doll – it has a five-star rating on the B&N website. That makes me happy.
So in the end – those road we writers have chosen is not an easy one. It is not a fun one. But it’s what we love, and if to chase a dream means I have to be a little batty, then so be it.