Yeah, that’s right. Good, old-fashioned, stubborn optimism.
Publishing is biased. Agents don’t always go for skill or talent or promising careers. They choose books that they would like to read, but they also choose books that they know will sell. Yes, you heard me right. Agents aren’t just readers. They’re business people. They make a living from books, so it’s in their best interest to represent books that will turn a profit.
Unfair? Probably. Why does James Patterson always get a front row seat at a bookstore when the debut novel of this unknown author got raving reviews? Because his name sells. He has an audience that will buy any chunk of paper with his name on it. (Think of it like this: you have a favorite restaurant. A similar restaurant opened up down the street. you know you like the first one, but you aren’t sure about the second one.)
Truth: the publishing world is changing. Because of the indie markets, agents and big house publishers have had to adapt or go under.
Truth: the markets are flooded. Fewer people read than don’t, and everyone’s vying for those people’s attention and money.
Truth: a lot of indie books are bad. Because of this, a lot of publishers still turn up their nose as self-publishing, literally because anyone can publish anything, regardless of how badly written, typo-ridden, poorly structured, or cliche.
You, the author trying to break into the publishing world, will face the chain-link fence which literary agents guard, beyond which lies the dream of publication. Supposedly, only the “best” make it through. But, as the indie market has proven, the “best” isn’t determined only by agents. It’s determined by readers. (The Martian.)
You could try your hand at the chain-link fence and the alligator pit, or you can take the trolley to the self-publishing park. It’s got a water slide, direct deposit, and a no-stress/no-contract system. It’s also extremely overcrowded. Even though places like Amazon try their best to keep it organized and clean, it’s a tough job.
Have you enjoyed my metaphors so far? I have. This post has been fun.
Back to the point – you have to remain optimistic. If you let yourself become bitter, and stay bitter, writing will no longer be fun. It will be a glass ceiling. It will be a iron-gated room. It will be a reason to beat yourself up and say you’re “not good enough.”
Writing should be fun. Why else do it? If you’re looking for the fame and fortune, you took a wrong turn on Career Avenue. Make a U-Turn and hang a left on Acting Boulevard. If you’re looking to make a quick buck, keep going until you pass the Dairy Queen, and head down Insurance Salesmen Road.
Most writers, minus those with well-name careers and a generous following, work a day job. Why? Because when you sell a book you’ll get a payment. You won’t have a monthly income. My advice on this is to find a day job that allows you to write. I work part-time, which works out great in my schedule now, but I know that I’ll have to graduate into full-time to support myself financially. Eventually.
Writing a book is hard. Selling a book is also hard. Trying to break into publishing the traditional way is hard. Self-publishing is easy, but marketing your self-publishing book is like bowling blind-folded.
Despite all of the odds, staying positive is key. If you stop trying, if you give up, you’ll never get there.