Friday, August 6, 2010

TUTAW: Not Everyone Makes It

It's been a while since I wrote one of these. So long, I had to rack my brain to remember the meaning of the acrostic The Ugly Truth About Writing.

Nature gives us plenty of examples of "the survival of the fittest." Probably one of the reasons macro-evolution seems to work at first glance. Salmon, rabbits, sperm...whales. Just kidding. I meant sperm. In fact, almost everything that exists does so in large numbers because life is hard and things die in all manner of ways. I've figured out rabbits are the popcorn of the wild kingdom. Not terribly filling unless you eat two or three buckets' worth. Poor little bunnies.

The concept applies to people, too. Not that we're getting eaten, but that in any given situation very few "make it." Not every good sports' player makes it into the professional world. Not every job applicant gets hired. Not every writer gets published.

Nowadays, the odds of getting published are better in some ways and worse in others. Someone determined to see his name in print can always self-publish. The Internet has opened up a whole new way to connect with that niche market you want to reach. According to...oh, what's his name...Seth Godin? you only need a certain number of devoted fans to maintain you. The trick is keeping them happy enough to remain devoted.

However, the same Internet that opens possibilities to you opens them to others. More people than ever may dream of publication, and now they can submit as easily as you can. The market is flooded with baby writers looking for a break.

Of course, I'm speaking of people determined to get published. I haven't taken into account writing skill, storyline, marketable audience, or any other factor.

The fact is, you can be a fabulous writer with a great book, but if you never submit, you can't be published. And I've read enough horrible books to wonder how many of the authors are related to the publisher or sleeping with the editor. There is no other explanation for how they got printed.

I've become convinced of two things.

First, getting published requires perseverance. P.A. Baines of The New Authors' Fellowship is a perfect example. The man has written for 14 years (if I remember correctly) and is finally getting his first book Alpha Redemption published by Splashdown Books. Congrats on that, P.A.  He persevered and soon he'll be a published author. The hard part will be Book II. Good luck with that.

Second, sometimes it doesn't. We've all heard about the lady who tells her book idea to the guy in the elevator who ends up being the head of a major publishing company and she gets published without even sending a query letter. Hey, it's the exceptions that prove the rule, right? Don't assume that'll be you, though, even if you spend your free time loitering in the elevator at major publishing companies.
Fact is, most of us who write will never get published. We'll get eaten by something along the way, even if it's only our own indolence.

But that's how it is. As Tom Hanks said in A League of Their Own: "Of course it's hard. If it was easy, everyone would do it."

Frankly, I'd rather see the prize go to someone who worked for it than someone who happened to be in the right place at the right time. But I'm funny that way.

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