Lately I’ve been having conversations with people about being published.
No, not those people – not the useful, prestigious ones like agents, publishers and Netflix.
I mean normal people – friends, relatives and such – who flatteringly think that my stuff is good and so I should try to get traditionally published.
Accordingly, I’ve been thinking about whether I actually want to be traditionally published. On one level, yeah of course I do. Boasting rights. Tick of approval. Money. Fame. Etc. Who wouldn’t??
On the other hand…and there’s a lot of fingers on that other hand. I write because I like writing. I like producing literatuah and then reading it over and going, yeah, that’s good, that hits the spot (my spot).
So suppose I do decide to try to get an agent, this is how it’ll go. First I’ll have to write a bunch of self-promoting crap to convince them not to put me in the slush pile – an author bio about how marketable I am (not) as a writer, a pitch about how (not) marketable the work in question is, possibly a run-down on what best selling authors/books I consider my work to be similar to (none), maybe a precis of the plot. To this I’ll attach my work – formatted in 12 point Times New Roman double space with headers containing name/title/word count and all the other frigging stupid requirements with which the manuscript-reading fraternity like to tease us. Including a cover letter to publisher/agent detailing (blah blah blah, did I mention I hate filling in forms?).
Now I send it off. To one publisher/agent at a time, because apparently they can’t bear to be dealt with en masse. And I wait. After three weeks to three years, I then receive a rejection letter saying my work isn’t what they’re after. If I’m particularly diligent (and they’re unusually quick), I’ll get lots. During all this time, my work will languish unread. By anyone. Also during this time, I will get more and more downcast about the value of my work, and spending time on it will cease to be enjoyable. What’s the use, I’ll begin to think, if no one who MATTERS thinks it’s any good?
But just suppose some crazy publisher/agent accepts it? Well then there’s the money, fame, recognition – and lovely, lovely editorial changes. Like, if I’ve put a gender diverse person in, or someone with naughty opinions, they might insist that I dilute it or take it out. Nobody wants another JKR on their hands, right? I’ve noticed that prize-winning novels these days tend towards the morality-tale/virtue signalling side of things. Since I’m more in the ‘if you don’t like it don’t frigging read it’ mould, that might be awkward.
And worse – what if they like it as it is and want another one? I don’t do same same. Genres annoy me. I don’t like pressure. My literary recipes are always experiments and as such, unpredictable.
And the money? Somebody I knew who (unaccountably, given he wasn’t much goodl) got published, said he ultimately earned about two thou. Which is more than what I earn, but hardly a massive reward for the masochistic ego-fuelled journey that is traditional publication. As for the fame, publishers are increasingly – so I hear – demanding that one markets oneself. Screw that. Sitting in bookshops waiting for someone – anyone – to want you to sign their copy of Whatever by Me isn’t my idea of fun.
So WHY would I choose to do any of this? To me it’s kinda like that fisherman story. In short, management graduate dude turns up to Mexican fishing village, says to fisherman, you should think Bigger. Get more boats, more equipment, maybe some minions, do like I say and eventually you could be Rich! Then what? says the fisherman. Then you can spend your time fishing and lying on the beach. Er, right, says the fisherman, and just how is that different from what I do now?
As it is, I enjoy writing and I feel like I’m good at it. I have a modest readership. I could use some extra money (who can’t?) but that’s not a big motivation for me. I’m not greatly drawn to fame or recognition. I suppose it would be nice if people reviewed my stuff in magazines or wherever it is people who matter talk about books and said, Rose writes a treat. Then again those people generally have horrible taste, as per their glowing reviews of lectures on correct thinking masquerading as novels.
I would like to be able to say to my relatives, ‘I am a real writer! As evidenced by…winning something or my latest book being available at all good bookstores’. I would like to be able to say, ‘See, all that messing around was NOT wasted!’
But…is it worth it? Still on the fence, personally, and likely to stay there due to inborn indolence. How about you?
Speaking of publishing, my new historical adventure novel – All The Evils, sequel to Pandora’s Jar – is coming out in mid-January. Set in sixth century AD Constantinople, it’s about a woman who finds herself at the centre of events during the worst sports riots in human history.
I’ll be looking for reviewers, so if you’d like a thrilling free book in return for a review, get in touch with me! englishrose659 at hotmail.com and I’ll send you the details.
Oh, how true. you’ve hit several nails on heads here. I heartily subscribe to every word of this post.
You do? I feel vindicated 😁
Yes, been there. Got the tee shirt, as they say – do they still say that? Anyway, yes, your mind-journey through the world of “publish or not” is very familiar, and we come to the same conclusion. Apart from a very few A-listers, even your published writer makes embarrassingly little for their efforts. You don’t need to be published by the corporate media to call yourself a writer. If you need someone to say it (and I’m sure you don’t) you’re a writer and a very engaging one. Thumbs up!
It’s like Tinkerbell, a writer needs people to believe, otherwise we fade away. So thanks 👍
Oh yes, you describe this struggle well. But the key word there was, “traditionally”. You are a published writer. Writing – at least, fiction – isn’t my area, but traditional _everything_ has been corrupted by popularism and capital interests, especially with the Internet, although that has given us “ordinary” folks the ability to publish for ourselves. The downside is that if we want to compete in the new market, we have to take on the roles of publicist and marketeer, digital designer, etc., and then – even if we can face all that – there’s the danger it starts turning us into One of Them.
And it’s our egos, largely, driving this (or we’d work in the local supermarket). About twenty years ago, an editor friend invited me to write a chapter for her anthology on counselling, a low-volume print run with a small publishing house, for which I would be remunerated to the tune of a few quid and two shiny copies! I was thrilled to discover later that the British Library makes it a point to keep one copy of every book (traditionally) published! I am, in fact, a “published writer”. My awful chapter, the biggest heap of postmodern bunk imaginable, is in the British Library. So, ner.
You’re right. The key word is traditionally. And woo hoo being represented in the British library! Was it really that bad, though, your chapter? I take it you’ve changed your views on counselling since writing it?
Yeah. I got into a very New-Agey way of thinking back then, and this chapter was essentially my manifesto for human spiritual awakening, dressed up as actual philosophy. Still, it probably was less boring that some of the other chapters. :))
Every word of this. 1000%.
When I write something, when I type “the end” I am truly at the end. Getting an agent and then a publisher would probably mean having to make revisions to make them happy, to make the story what they think it should be and I’m just not interested in that. The story I wrote is the story I wanted to write.
Exactemente! Keep your filthy editing hands off it!
exactly; concur totally. My one addition is, for me, an inveterate tinkerer, I find I have to publish because that stops my constant need to polish my little writerly turd so I self publish, press send to Kindle and move onto the next book. If my mum was still alive, I;d even have a reader but, hey, I can cope with absence of fame.
Oh and good luck with the sequel – doesn’t that bugger up your anti-repeat declaration a tad or is the new book a none genre compliant sequel?!
Yes, same. I like to get them out and move on. And yeah you’re right, a sequel does bugger up my anti repeat declaration. Although it’s voluntary, which counts…no one demanded another book 😊
I understand well your sentiments about the guardians of traditional book publishing. Congrats on your new historical adventure novel!
Thanks Rosaliene 🙂
I have heard what you’ve written echoed by someone else when she had her first book published. I don’t know if she had more than one published, as we lost touch, but I remember her talking about the hoops she had to jump through once it was accepted for publication.
That’s interesting. I’m only guessing, as it happens.
On Point ❤️👌
Thank you ☺️
Glad you liked it ☺️
Every time some well-meaning friend, relative, or passerby tells me I need to stop dicking around and write something for publication and I’m in the middle of a brain fart that makes that actually sound like a good idea, I know it’s time to take a break and review the process.
I won’t here, but you know as well as I that if you spend the next two years writing The Definitive Best Novel Of The Decade and EVERYONE loved it, it would be at least YEARS before the first copy showed up anywhere. That’s just how traditional publishing works.
If that doesn’t break me loose of the idea, a quick visit to any library or large book store does it. Using your method of wandering around blindfolded and just picking a book, what are the odds that you’re going to pick one you’ve ever heard of? Or that anyone else has? Of the hundreds or thousands of new titles produced every year, ALL of which real agents and publishers thought were winners, how many really get into that book-store window, or are turned into yet another “rescue Matt Damon” blockbuster film?
(Side Note: World War 2, Mars, wormholes — we’ve spent a bazillion dollars rescuing Matt from stuff. We should make him stay home.)
Then I notice there ain’t but a few Neil Gaimans or Stephen Kings in the world. And it takes me about 2 seconds to realize that I’m not, followed shortly by the realization that writing as an occupation for the rest of us is an ass-beating grind of uncertain prospects.
So, I just write for me and for whoever happens to be interested enough to read any of it, because I do love it. But I also know I’d be driving a stake through its heart if I decided to turn it into a real job.
Oh, yeah, and, also I’d starve. So, y’know, there’s that.
I just noticed that the date/time stamp on my last posts to you were December 25. It’s only the 24th in my neck of the woods, so I rudely didn’t wish you a Merry Christmas. So I’m fixing that here.
Hope your day is 100% of what you want it to be…
Ha ha, thank you, and no it wasn’t! I ate too much at lunch, my sisters each made a pavlova, and I wasn’t capable of having any! But I hope you did better:)
Agree with everything you say. Also Matt Damon is a trouble magnet, so I second your suggestion. I could never write a Jack Reacher novel or Game of Thrones (mind you looks like neither can George RR nowadays). One day I’ll leave a little shelf of my novels to my daughter, and she’ll keep them for sentimental purposes. Season’s Greetings!
Dear Rose and Asbestos Dust,
I enjoy your conversation here and concur with you regarding the many disincentives and hurdles that the likes of us would invariably face in attempting to be a published author via the conventional avenue.
Yet, there are even more to discourage us from publishing in the conventional way, because far too many contents (whether fiction or nonfiction) published in most if not all conventional books and journals tend to be highly limited in scope, format and feature, mostly presented in monochrome or greyscale and rarely in colour; cannot include large or complicated illustrations, maps, charts, schematics and/or statistics; unable to incorporate audiovisual contents, videos, animations, pop-ups, hyperlinks, comments, revisions, extensions, user interfaces and other real-time, dynamic or interactive components, let alone social media integration; and ill-suited or ill-prepared to deal with highly innovative, interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary and/or mixed media works, not to mention that there continue to be few or no referees and reviewers qualified or knowledgeable enough to evaluate them properly and cogently without intellectual oversight and bias. These issues are highlighted in one of my latest posts entitled “👁️ The Purview of SoundEagle🦅: A Multidisciplinary and Consilient Approach to Critique and Creation in Art, Science, Poetry, Music and Ideas 🖼️📰📜🎶💭“, available at
By the way, this particular post may provide some fresh ideas for your future endeavours. Please enjoy!
Most of my written works and also musical compositions are still unpublished. I probably already have enough materials to last me another 20 to 30 years of self-publishing.
Once again, thank you very much for composing your thought-provoking and reflective post regarding why you don’t want to be traditionally published.
May both of you find 2023 very much to your liking and highly conducive to your writing, reading, thinking and blogging whatever topics that take your intellectual fancy and creative whim!
Thank you Sound Eagle. I hadn’t thought of it from that perspective.
Wow! So I’m not alone out there after all. I am exactly at that point where I have encountered the dreaded Book Proposal and Query Letter, and it’s terrifying! I have a first draft of about 300 pages of non-fiction, and though I’m still editing, I’m pretty happy with it. Friends and relatives to whom I’ve sent excerpts have — predictably — all raved about it. But do my own marketing? Where would I even begin? So, at the crossroads, still deciding. Truthfully, blogging is way more fun. Have you considered presenting your book in a series of blog posts? Hmmm . . .
Yeah, it’s not easy. Dunno if you remember the part in Little Women where Jo sells her book to a publisher – no query letter, no nothing. Just plops it in the mail and then a few weeks later, congratulations, you’re a star. Maybe we should have been authors in the era when most people were illiterate. Less competition. And yes, I have, but I don’t feel it works – plus also being free to read. One thing that did work for me is a facebook ad with a link to an excerpt. Btw I’m looking for quality authors to promote with, so if you’re interested (and I do have a small following, website, mail list etc) maybe we could work together.
I askyself this all the te.I definitely know how to keep readers interested,and I’m very creative,so why not?
Yes. If you’re confident you’ll break through, and you have the stamina, I reckon by all means give it a whirl.
Thank you for not adding to all the slush out there. As a reader I appreciate that…
Ha ha no I’m sorry I’m adding to it. Just not traditionally. Which is worse. That said, my stuff is great ☺️
I just ignore most indies, so it’s not adding to my pile, so it’s all good 😀
Best of luck…..
That sounds exhausting!
I feel like wattpad would be better because at least it’s not a painful process that sucks all the joy out of writing!
Definitely. Although Wattpad is mostly teenage fan fiction. Oh well 🤣
😂 oh no! Why not try kindle unlimited? I’m sure that comes with it’s own set of problems but it would probably be a lot less painful!
I feel the same ambivalence. I want to be published, but don’t want to accept anyone else’s editorial changes. And yet, I could use an editor–just one that I can fully control! Unfortunately, editors are hard to control.
A robot editor, perhaps?
I think it’s good if you’ve got the material and a theme or topic that vibes with the public that you seek publication; find your market and approach publishers who are sympathetic to your material —
I think it’s admirable if you can be bothered, and all power to you!
I’ve had 5 or 6 collections published, including three chapbooks; it’s worth it —
How about you? I like living in the moment, writing a blog about what’s happening now, and chatting with people virtually in the comments. Writing, editing, publishing, marketing a book is too much work for me right now, maybe ever.
Yeah, I’m not sure why I ever wanted to do it. Habit, I guess 😉
I won’t argue for or against traditional publishing. It’s the route I’ve gone down but it’s not right for everyone. I would argue, though, with a couple of things you’ve said. First, no one anymore submits work to only one agent or publisher at a time. That’s dead, and none too soon. Having said that, though, the submission process can still take forever. Second, the process of being edited can be fantastic. I admit, not every writer loves it and not every editor is good, but my experience is that it’s like that moment when you’ve been singing solo and someone comes in with a harmony: the sound gets richer.
That’s a great way of looking at it. I’m very much a solo singer but I can see what you mean.