Tuesday, April 20, 2010

State of the publishing world

For many of us who write and would like to be published, we have some big stories about the current state of the publishing industry, our chances at getting discovered, the vast number of people who seem to be writing books and trying to get published, etc.

There are several issues to consider here. First, if you're only writing to get famous, it's a long, hard road to get there. You'd be better off probably as serial killer or bank robber or drunk driver or sleeping with the underage daughter of a celebrity. I'm only half-kidding. In our culture of scandal and sensation, you're more apt to get your 15 minutes of recognition from big crime than from a well written novel.

Second, if you're writing to get rich, fiction is not the way to go. About 5% of American novelists make big money: they write mostly true crime, romance, and currently vampire young adult books. Or they're non-fiction writers of books on how to get rich or how to get thin, which sell millions of copies to the credulous.

But let's say you're love to write, don't mind (or even crave) the solitude and hard work, have been honing your craft for a long time, have gotten some good feedback, and working with a good text and developmental editor. Well, your chances of success are reportedly about the same as they've been for decades. Agents and publishers are still looking for innovative stories that are well written and entertaining. They're even actually publishing more of them than ever.

And while it may appear true that more people are writing books than ever before, more people are doing everything than ever before because there are more people. And if you hang around writers, well, it seems as if everyone you know is writing a book (or talking about writing a book) but they aren't, not really.

So if you want to get published, write, edit, revise, write. Send your short fiction or poems or essays off to contests, send your work to agents and publishers, grow a thick skin for rejection, and keep writing.

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