The unmentionable alternative

I am constantly struck by the idea that writers “give up.” What does that mean, exactly? They stop writing? They stop submitting? Or they stop writing because they’re so disheartened by the submitting? My bet’s on that.

Keep on submitting and you will get published.

By “writer,” I mean good, unpublished novelists who don’t, for whatever reason, catch an agent and/or editor’s eye. I’m not talking about the people who don’t hang out on agent and editor blogs, learning every query trick in the book (some of which are flat wrong to some agents and golden to others). These are the writers who assume that the problem is with them, not with the odds.

Write a better book next time.

Oh, fuck that. It’s odds, folks, whether you want to believe it or not—and the odds get worse every week. And that write a better book bullshit? How do you know the one you just wrote is bad?

You don’t.

And then some of you will crack under the discouragement and say, “I write crap.” And you’ll stop submitting. You may even stop writing.

I did that.

I didn’t write crap, per se. I wrote slightly off-tick that didn’t hit the romance formula bullseye exactly right. Yeah, I said it. There’s a formula. I couldn’t hit it, and the misses were near enough that it was sickening.

willworkforfood243x301This is not an anti-traditional-publishing rant. This is about writers, about you and your work and how much faith you have in it.

Why are you basing your goals on decisions someone else has to make? And, by extension, why are you waiting for validation based on odds that aren’t in your favor? And why are you acting like a job applicant?

You’re not powerless.

But somehow the idea of taking control of your work and presenting it to the public/the readers/the (gasp) curators is “giving up.”

Because “money always flows to the author.” Fuck that, too.

Yeah, you’ll have to assume some risk. Deal with it.

It pains me to see good writers on agent blogs talking about “when I’m published someday,” because “it will happen if I submit enough and don’t give up” and “I just have to write a better book next time.”

Stop thinking that way and start believing in your product.

Stop thinking you have no power.

Stop thinking like an employee and start thinking like an entrepreneur.

Go make your own damned job.

Update: To clarify, I’m using the term “curators” to describe the self-appointed task of the people who consume the work, like it, and recommend it to others, i.e., the readers/fans, the people who make being The Lone Artist all worth it. I’m not using the term as it has been tossed around the internet for the last year.

18 thoughts on “The unmentionable alternative

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  • November 10, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Yes and no. There are some writers who aren’t there yet-think the ones who don’t realize what people says belongs in quotation marks. They need to write a better book.

    Incredibly talented writers I know who write books slightly off formula that assures them a Slot?

    Yes, going it alone IS an option. -But some of us look at that SB post and cringe at all of the OUT THERE work involved.

  • November 10, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    There are some writers who aren’t there yet-think the ones who don’t realize what people says belongs in quotation marks. They need to write a better book.

    Yeah, but… Again, how do they KNOW? And I contend that they don’t, either way. The good ones don’t really know theirs is good and the not-quite-there-ones don’t, either.

    But some of us look at that SB post and cringe at all of the OUT THERE work involved.

    I guess then it becomes a matter of what’s more tolerable: the work involved or the constant rejection and the chipping away of one’s self-esteem one form letter at a time.

  • November 10, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Debbie Stier’s presentation at BEA during the 7x20x12 session included the advice Jane Friedman gave her, which was effectively, “Go make your own damned job.”

    It’s a poignant message not just for writers, for everyone who works in publishing.


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  • November 10, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Thanks, Guy. I think it’s especially important to lay the foundation while times are bad so that when things are on the upswing and people have money, you can be prepared.

    I know authors don’t like to think of their books as “products,” but I do. That’s not all I think of them as (i.e., babies, work of my heart, art?), but they are, also, a product. And I’m selling it.

  • November 10, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Moriah, I’d go further still and say that hard economic times are the richest pickings for those who position themselves well in any business sphere, because traditional businesses are too rigid, and have too much inventory weighing them down to respond with a quick course change. So when the upswing comes they’re on teh wrong foot – just like a car that’s been waiting at lights – when the lights go green can’t catch the one who comes from behind & doesn’t have to stop.

    Don’t disagree with anything. Been agreeing with you for a long old time. We need to get out and do.

    At Year zero that means 7 full-length books on the freemium model, an anthology totally free, a second anthology that will, IMHO blow several cobwebs away in the literary world; it means a series of live gigs is underway; and it means our T-shirts are being designed. We might talk lots, but there’s no grass growing under our feet 🙂

  • November 10, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    hard economic times are the richest pickings for those who position themselves well in any business sphere

    I agree completely.

    We need to get out and do.


  • November 11, 2009 at 7:28 am

    Nope. I just couldn’t do it myself. I’d have to hire someone out and that would break the bank for me. Have I and will I do things myself and create my own damned business? Well, I have, but I also know my limitations and my personal priorities. I have no more time in my day to give to learning that stuff.

    You know what they need? A self publishing package. Drag and drop, click these buttons et voila, you now have soemething to send off to POD.

  • November 11, 2009 at 7:46 am

    Dude says that B10mediaworx will do it for you

  • November 11, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    You’re right. I’m going to do a blog post on B10mediaworx.

  • November 16, 2009 at 5:08 am

    I completely agree Moriah & coincidentally I blogged on the same thing last week. Just like any other desirable (& therefore highly competitive) job, writing requires you to make a special offer – better than everyone else. It’s just not good enough to sigh and wait for your knight in shining armour to come & publish you. The hustle is part of the writing process. You may not like it, but that doesn’t make any difference. Writers must stop thinking, ‘some day my prince will come’, and start figuring out ways to ensnare him.

  • November 16, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    This post is exactly what I needed to hear. I started to try to get my novel published a couple of years ago and after many rejections I gave up. Only just recently did I decide to start writing again and to try to publish my novel myself.

  • November 17, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    Lovelyn, thank you so much for your comment! Love getting new people’s perspectives.

    You are far from alone and the fact is that rejection of good work and good queries has nothing at all to do with whether you’re a good writer or not. That’s where I see the frustration happening.


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