In my time as an author attempting to be published, I’ve looked through many articles written by recently published/agented authors discussing the process they went through to get to the point of having an agent. There are a few blogs out there that like to collect these stories, under the consideration of being inspiring for those of us who have not yet reached that milestone.
However, when I read these stories, I find them much less than inspiring. In fact, I find them rather discouraging. Now, when looked from afar, I suppose the concept of inspiration can be seen. Here you have an artist who struggles and struggles, spends years upon years trying to find someone who is interested in their work, until one day it finally pays off. However, it’s an inspiring tale of dedication on the author’s behalf, not all that inspiring to say we all have a chance. In fact, it sounds a lot more like the story of a person who buys a lottery ticket every day of their life and then finally, years later, actually gets a win.
However, those winning lottery ticket stories generally mean attaining at least a small fortune. Landing an agent almost never does. In fact, landing an agent means absolutely nothing monetarily. Once you get to that point, there’s still the need to revise and revise and revise your manuscript even further from your initial revisions until you and the agent agree it is completely ready for submission to the publishing houses. And then, once you get on submission, you have another giant waiting period as you hope to hear back from these folks, which could, very easily, just turn out to be another giant batch of rejections, causing the agent (perhaps with your agreement) to decide it’s not the time to sell your book.
Which means, these inspiring tales of getting an agent could mean absolutely nothing. And when you add in the fact that (from my minimalist research) the median advance received by most authors today runs around $5000. . . well, you’re hardly winning the lottery. And there’s a heckuva lot more work involved. And, many times, it seems like your odds are about the same.
I hate reading these stories. I want to read them and feel hope, but when I read them, it just makes me feel even more like a small fish in an enormous ocean. The odds stacked against an aspiring author are jaw-droppingly large. And the payoff isn’t all that great. I mean, when you consider all the time, effort, and emotion that goes into the process of writing and selling a book, $5000 hardly seems worth it. Sure, it could mean that selling your next book would be a whole lot easier, but there’s no promise of that either.
This has led me to a horrible epiphany. Aspiring authors (including me) are either massively misinformed, or clinically insane. I believe I fall into both of those categories. Now, I never expected to get rich off of writing. Sure, I harbored some dreams about it, but it was never something I expected to get. But the question really comes down to why one would battle so hard to get published, when the possibility of return on your time investment is so minimal. Prestige? Maybe. Although, honestly, book signings or writer’s conferences aren’t exactly something that get me too excited. And I have a hard time believing either of my currently written books will be able to stand the test of time to leave some sort of legacy alive for myself. Perhaps prestige is why some authors fight the difficult fight, but I can’t see that it is the reason for myself.
I have no clue why I do it, and, reading these inspiring stories of others, I have a hard time seeing why they do it as well. Some are obviously looking for recognition. Others seem much more interested in the aspect of writing than the accolades they could receive.
Yet, no matter how much I feel in despair about the idea of actually overcoming the odds and becoming one of the few who make it to the final round and, after getting published, still have to work their day jobs, I can’t quit. Which means I’m insane. I hate the selling part of the process, the possibility of return is improbable, and yet, I can’t stop trying, no matter how much my heart breaks at every turn.
Heck, I even did try with Buddy Hero. I started going the self-pubbed route. It didn’t satisfy this overwhelming need I feel inside to actually win this battle. And perhaps that’s it. I hate to lose. I don’t care about the money, fame, or accolades, I care about winning. Some internal part of me saw the odds stacked against me and decided it must be my Everest. It’s an odd feeling, knowing that I’m going into the unknown, and am certainly not supplied with enough oxygen. Every step has me wishing I could turn back, but I see that summit ahead and keep reaching, stumbling with each footfall. I want to quit, but I can’t. The need to win has overwhelmed me. Perhaps if I had been better equipped with the knowledge of how impossible it is to win this battle, I wouldn’t have started, but now that I’m in the thick of it, I can’t stop, no matter how much the battle eats at me.
This is what I have to remind myself in order to keep my grip on that last piece of sanity. I’m continuing on this road because of how impossible it is. I want to be able to tell myself that I beat the odds and came out the other side alive. And I will, I promise I will. I just might lose all body function somewhere along the way. 🙂
Anyways. . . read an article this week about an author who took 4 years to finally get an agent, working again and again with the same agent who just kept requesting partials until she finally decided she was interested enough to read the whole damned thing. This author beat her head against the wall so many times until the wall finally gave way and she won. . . at least a portion of the battle.
I don’t want to beat my head against the wall. I want to better my abilities, improve my technique, and overall, understand how to beat the odds efficiently, instead of being the rat in the maze who keeps taking the wrong turn. And I will. I just hope it doesn’t take me 4 years to do it in as well. My wife would probably kill me.