This one is going to sway a little off topic. I am not going to discuss my book series, its characters, or the pending release of the next book in the series. I am going to discuss about which so many writers vent and lament: the writing industry. Specifically, I am going to discuss the difficulties of getting published.
My first work was an espionage thriller about a pending terrorist attack on the United States. I invested over seven years, literally, researching and writing. When I finished the manuscript in 1997 my agent shopped it around numerous publishing houses. The results were pretty consistent: the concept of a terrorist attack in the United States is unrealistic and, thereby, not publishable. After the horrific attacks of 9/11 I was told the topic was, understandably, too sensitive to publish. Thus, I placed the manuscript in my closet where it still resides. After that I started work on my Dark Lands fantasy series.
Dark Lands occupied two years of writing and editing before I acquired a new agent to shop it to various publishing houses. That is when I became aware of the proverbial “Catch 22” in the writing industry: you cannot be published unless you are already an established author and you cannot be an established author unless you are already published. It was formerly not that way, but too many publishing houses lost money on authors, politicians, and entertainers whose stories and memoirs failed to produce. With too many such investments not coming to fruition, these aforementioned houses began taking the philosophy that they would only sign established authors, or politicians and entertainers who, though they may not be able to write, have a “guaranteed following”.
Ironically, this tact cost, and is still costing, publishing houses. The “guaranteed following” is not always “guaranteed”. Recently, a certain female politician, who may or may not be running for President of the United States, released her memoirs and the book sales did not meet expectations. Further, publishing houses are remaining with authors whose ideas are often becoming stagnate or retreaded and their respective audiences are fading. The proliferation of this has resulted in the evolution of self-publishing houses which, as a whole, are chipping away at not only the larger houses’ profits, but opportunities as well. Good, solid, authors who could not get the time of day with established publishing are self-publishing and finding an audience. I have often said there are authors out there right now who are far better than anyone who has ever put pen to paper, but because they are not established, the larger publishing houses will not invest in them.
However, there is another element precluding the advancement of new authors and that is the agent. Agents are the concurrent gatekeeper and key master of the publishing world. If you do not have one, then your chances of getting noticed are nominal. The problem is that agents too tend towards the “established author” philosophy. Those that do not are often predators who take advantage of desperate writers. I highly recommend that those shopping for an agent visit the “Preditors and Editors” website, http://pred-ed.com/. Even if you have been published there are still agents who just will not believe in your work. For example, I was Blessed to have a smaller publishing house take on my series. Alas, the house eventually folded. When shopping my book around after the aforementioned closure I made sure I let all potential agents know I had been published, received a five-star ranking on Amazon.Com, a four-star ranking on Barnes and Noble, and a list of positive reviews from other book review sites which I shared. I was met with a “not interested” reply. I had sold hundreds of books in a small amount of time, received great reviews, and I still could not garner an agent. Frustrating, but that is the writing industry in a microcosm.
If you pursue Accounting, Medicine, Law, Teaching, or any such field and are in the top of your class, you will get the opportunity to practice almost anywhere; not so in world of Writing. You can be the best at what you do and never be published. As was alluded it is not what you know, but who you know that suffices. The writing industry is one that can frustrate, depress, and crush at the same time, but if you are writing it is because of a passion, a story you have to tell. Keep writing, if not for you then for that one chance that your story will be read and it may very well change the life of that reader. God Bless.