Yesterday an anonymous commenter (hey there, Anon! Stop being passive aggressive! We're open to dialogue here, I promise) called my post on how trying to get published is like waiting in line at Disneyland "condescending."
First, I'm physically incapable of being condescending as I literally look up to pretty much anyone over the age of twelve. (Speaking of short jokes, yesterday my daughter said, "Tomorrow's short day at school!" My husband raised his eyebrows at me and said, "Are you the guest of honor?")
Second, I'm guessing what happened was this. Dear Anon, never having read my blog before, popped over following a link. Anon saw the following: Young idiot debut novelist who is a NYT bestseller telling other writers to quit asking to cut in line because she'd already put in her time and now it was their turn. Dear Anon, who is probably writing and querying and dealing with those frustrations (which are infinite), most likely thought, "What do you know about the line?"
Friend, I know plenty. I didn't just fall into getting published. It wasn't all some big, happy accident story that makes aspiring authors want to rip out their hair. I got a degree in English with an emphasis in editing. I wrote a book. I queried that book for a year. I read hundreds of other books. I wrote another book. I queried fifty agents. I got one. That book went on sub and nobody wanted it. In the meantime I had written two other books. I picked one of those, I edited it, it went on sub, and everybody wanted it.
It was an incredibly happy ending years, and years, and years in the making.
So yes, I know something about lines. Please don't think "This is all easy for HER to talk about from where she is now." I have been where you are. I was there for a long time. I have not forgotten.
Of course it was never my intention to imply that aspiring writers need to quit whining and just wait. I was actually trying to point out why sometimes it takes a long time and sometimes it doesn't and that it never makes any sense. It was meant to be encouraging. Another commenter even pointed out that it was overly optimistic to say if you wait in the line you will get on the ride.
Brutal truth time? Yup. It was overly optimistic. The vast majority of people writing who hope to get published will never get there.
Too much honesty for a Wednesday? I think so. But there it is. Publishing is an industry. It responds to a fickle, ever-changing market. It's an industry that is currently in flux, with many publishers bleeding money because of outdated sales systems. It's an industry that is shifting and adapting daily to the changing business landscape. Books. Are. Products.
And not every product can or will find a place in the market.
You are not the gatekeeper. Nothing beyond your own writing is up to you. The industry does not care how many years you have spent dreaming of being an author. It does not care how many manuscripts you have worked on to get where you are today. It does not care how much time and energy and desperation you have logged pursuing that dream of seeing your words in print in a bookstore.
You can write your entire life and never get published.
You can write your entire life and never get published.
The odds are against you. It's sad and infuriating, but it's true. So here is my question: Are you writing to get published, or are you trying to get published because you love writing?
If you said yes to the first part, you are in for a world of pain and frustration. You've set your sights on something you literally cannot make happen on your own*. I'm not saying it'll never happen. If the entire point of your writing is to get published, you may very well succeed. But I'd imagine there is very little joy in that, because once you're published, what's left? Deciding you must be a bestseller? Deciding you must get a film deal? Where is the contentment? Where is the fulfillment in what you do?
However. If you are trying to get published because you love writing, never lose sight of the why. Don't get so focused on having a book that you lose the reasons you write those manuscripts in the first place. Writing is amazing. The best writers I know write because without writing they would be lost. They write because of the sheer giddy joy of creation. They write because they genuinely, unabashedly love telling stories. They stick it out through the frustrations of drafting and the agonies of edits because they are deeply committed to what they are doing. They move forward from rejection and failure because to quit writing is unfathomable, even if some days it feels like they would be far saner if they just gave up. They perfect their craft because it's important to them that what they are writing and expressing is written and expressed in the best possible way.
Yes, you should understand the industry. Yes, you should be smart about the elusive and mythical "market" to help your manuscripts and books have a shot at getting published. Yes, you should know how to get published and do your best to get there. Yes, it is okay to want to get published with a desperate, aching need that other people will probably never understand.
Just please, don't let the pursuit of publication (at any stage) kill your love of writing. Publication isn't up to you, but a love of writing you can keep and nurture and be nurtured by for your entire life, regardless of whatever else happens.
In the end, with a book deal, without a book deal, it's still just you and the words on the page. Do you see them as a means to an end, or an end in and of themselves?
*Excepting self-publishing. Please just assume all of my talk of "publishing" refers to traditional publishing, not because I have anything against self-publishing, merely because I know nothing about it.
And, yeah, way too much heavy for a Wednesday, what with all of the other things going on in the world that we can and should be feeling bad about: