My maudlin little post yesterday about knowing when to throw in the towel (I still don’t know when that is, lol) garnered this response from an author who’d like to remain anonymous (for reasons I’m sure you’ll understand when you read it).
Being a writer is a little like being a crack addict—or like being in love with an abusive spouse that you just can’t find the balls to walk away from. Over the last few months I’ve received more than a few rejections. Matter of fact, I haven’t sold for quite some time, and not for a lack of trying. I realize that the market is tighter than ever and selling is harder than ever; I am far from naive about the publishing business—and maybe that’s the real problem. But after a spate of recent rejections I found myself wondering if, to be blunt, I was just writing too smart, putting too much thought and care into the proposals I was crafting.
“Too smart” is probably not the right phrase. Maybe the word I’m looking for is complex, as in “too complex” or simpler as in “simpler, more basic storylines” or even trope as in “writing more to trope and trying less to be unique and truly creative”. Because you see, even when I did “the same but different”, as in the same as what everyone else is writing but different, apparently my different was too different.
And when one sees people selling and selling… and selling and publishing and one knows they can write rings around those who not only continue to sell, but end up with six, seven, even eight books out in a year, it does make one wonder. Especially when you receive rejections from an editor who just doesn’t like your voice or your writing and you’ve read some of the books this editor has published and to be frank, they suck. They’re mediocre—at best—and either this writer can’t write or this editor can’t edit. If the authors of those books had been your critique partners, you would have kicked the manuscript back to them and told them to start again because holy fucking hell, that was some nasty vile shit. Not that I would ever say that to any of my critique partners because they’re all damned fine writers.
And when your critique partner tells you that you write better than a well-known NYT bestselling author, it makes you stop and ask, “What am I doing wrong then that I can’t sell another book?”
To be frank, it’s demoralizing.
Time and time again, I find myself wondering why I don’t quit and sadly, the only answer I can come up with is this one: sticking with it might be demoralizing but quitting would be humiliating.
I hate myself for not having the guts to quit, for not having the balls to yank down my pants and show you the moons of my ass while lifting both my middle fingers and then walk away—forever;
I hate myself for loving what I do so much that I’m willing to take beating after beating after beating.
I hate myself for the bitter taste of pride in my mouth.
I hate this business that can get away with paying authors advances that are no higher than when writers like Nora Roberts started out 25 plus years ago. Yeah, there are houses out there paying 2000.00/book advances, 3000.00/book advances, 4000.00/book advances and writers saying yes. We should all be ashamed for saying yes. We should all be ashamed for bending over and saying, “stick it to me and don’t bother with the lube!”
I hate this business because the amount of money you’re paid per book directly ties into the amount of promotional love you get from your publisher. If you took that $2000.00 a book deal, you’re fucked. All the promo is on you and that measly-ass two grand they paid you…there is nothing and I mean not a fucking thing you can do with that two grand that will get you noticed. Instead, what you should do with that two grand is take your kids to Disney World. For real. The Magic Kingdom makes everything better.
I hate this business because there are only two major book chains left in the U. S. and publishers have to pay booksellers for premium space in their stores.
I hate this business because one of the most powerful people in publishing is the head buyer for a major book chain.
I hate this business because retailers…OMFG RETAILERS have the power to change a cover or a title. People I am not making this shit up! And it is not right! Not right at all!
I hate this business because, more often than not, it’s not about what’s good or even what’s great, it’s about what’s marketable and what we can sell the most of. RIP CHICK LIT.
I hate this business because publishers pay booksellers to promote books that sell instead of letting booksellers promote books they love or books that they feel need or deserve a little pimpage. Am I the only one who sees the irony in that? Sure it’s a bookseller’s job and a publisher’s job to make a profit but books that sell are going to sell regardless. What about the books that don’t sell? What about the books that get no attention? I mean, what’s the point of pimping Danielle Steele when she’s got a built-in following? Yes I’m thinking of a recent book-pimpage video I watched)
And honestly, when’s the last time you bought Danielle Steele? Right. You’re not her target audience; your grandmother is.
I hate this business because for many writers, it’s about quantity not quality.
I hate this business because even after you make the New York Times, publishers still aren’t satisfied. They want more and more and more. Congratulations, your last book sold a million copies and you made the NYT. Next time you need to sell 1.25 million and you need to hit higher on the list—and oh yeah, stay on the list longer.
You want to know who the true vampires are? The motherfuckers who look at profit and loss and bottom lines and then turn around and fire damned fine editors because…they can get two, or maybe even three, for the price of one. The assholes who have turned publishing into…Hollywood. You know…that place where imagination used to reign supreme and classics like ET and Star Wars were made. That place where they’re now so desperate for movie ideas, they’re pillaging all the really bad horror movies of the 70’s and 80’s.
A final word of caution: To all you aspiring writers out there who are just dying to break into New York publishing, who think you’d sell your soul for a book deal, or even an agent, who scoff at people who try to tell you it’s no better on the other side of the fence. I know you think you’re smarter and more clever and more educated about publishing that many of those who went before you, and that when you sell, it will be different, better somehow, but the cold hard mother fucking truth is, it won’t. You’ll be as fucked as the rest of us. No wonder Hemingway was an alcoholic.
‘Scuse me while I go shoot up.