by Thomas Stone
This little piece is about publishing, not writing, and the thoughts contained herein are my own gleaned from personal experience and a lifetime full of doing things my own way. Seeing as how we are all distinctly different from one another, what I have to say may not be for anyone else. Yet, there are some universal truths I may touch upon, with a little luck.
Getting published is not all that hard if one has the right connections. Like the old adage goes, it's not who you are (or what you do), it's who you know. This is oh-so-true in the world of publishing.
To be clear, I refer to the world of fiction publishing which is different from that of nonfiction but the adage scripted above still goes. Nonfiction is probably an easier route to publishing. If you are knowledgeable on a topic and can write three coherent paragraphs on the subject, someone will pay you for it. It doesn't have to be correct and the writing doesn't really have to be very good -- if you send it out to places where you have groomed connections and acquaintances whom you've stroked and cajoled, at the very least they will take pity on you and buy your words as filler for their ezine.
The truth is, one can be an ordinary hack, even a cut below the ordinary hack, and still get paid gobs of cash for painful-to-read narratives if one has the right friends.
But, that is not the type of approach most of us take. We might think we actually have something to say the world wants to hear and we might think our superior intelligence and our honed writing skills will vault us from obscurity to first place on the New York Times Best seller list. Alas, that's not the way it works, either. Most of us are not the writers we think we are.
The good news is we do become better with practice. Lots of practice. Additionally, one must be familiar with the genre in which they choose to work. That means generally a good writer, maybe even a great writer, is a voracious reader with an unending appetite for knowledge and an overwhelming curiousity.
Now, the sad truth is that one can be a great writer and never get published. Perhaps he has no need of either fame or fortune. Fat chance there, eh? In my early teens I recognized being a paperback writer was a marvelous way to make a living -- one could stay at home all day, keep one's hands clean, avoid manual labor and over-fatigue, and maintain some sort of control over a product that had very little overhead cost. That was the dream, except I had to work extremely hard for many years until I took the fearsome leap into the unknown and began to write full-time. At that point, I accepted poverty as a lifestyle. I accepted the loss of family and friends who insisted I was wasting my time when I could be sitting in a cube writing computer code every day. I accepted no more vacations, dining at fancy restaurants, expensive clothes, even health insurance. Yes, all that went away and when my first four books did not sell, I had to return to the marketplace and sell my soul for a few bucks. And the one day, when things seemed bleakest, my books began to sell and they sold for two years until the cash spigot finally slowed to a trickle. I still get a little from royalties every month, but it certainly is not what it used to be.
Would you like to know why? I'll tell you.
Although I am writing the best prose of my life, my stuff isn't selling anymore. The reasons why are simple and already succinctly stated above. I have eschewed networking. I do not hang out with other writers or editors and I don't send out out hundreds of query letters every year. I am terrible at the business of publishing my work. I do not care to polish the backsides of New York editors and pretend to be someone I am not. I have opinions that are miles away from the opinions of the mainstream publishing gurus. I do not maintain popular political and/or philosophical opinions. And yes, often I blog about my differing opinions.
Don't do those things if you want to be published or make thousands of sales.
However, if you want to be an honest writer and tell the truth as you see it, then you may take the route of self-publishing. If you work at it, you will succeed to some varying degree. Make no mistake about it, it turns out to be real work. Don't forget the marketing, either. It's not enough to have Amazon post your book for $5.99 a pop, somehow you have to get the word out that your new science fiction epic is available in either ebook, paperback, or audio. You must entice people to read your book and actually reply with reviews which you hope and pray will be positive.
Writing your masterpiece is merely the first step. The really unpleasant, soul-killing part is the marketing. Somewhere along the way, if you find yourself asking if that is what you really want to do, then it's probably not and you would be better served sitting in that cube I personally abandoned years ago, writing computer code.
Good luck to you. Remember, try your level-best to be nice to everybody even when it seems none of them are nice to you. Karma works both ways.