Getting published is every writer's dream. It's what we want, it's what provides the motivation and gives us the spark to keep going - and keep writing and submitting until we finally crack the big one: a publishing deal, a proper one, with a trade publisher who will promote our books for free - and pay us royalties every six months for the rest of our lives!
Now that's the dream, right?
But how close is this to the reality of being a modern working writer?
Certainly having a bestseller can change your life. Desk bound introverts can become movie moguls (Dan Brown). Single-parent mothers can become very rich media celebrities (JK Rowling). And advertising executives can become household names (James Patterson).
But having a bestseller is not the only definition of success.
Just because the average person in the street hasn't heard of a writer doesn't mean that they aren't rich and successful.
As authors, we get this all the time. You're judged by the fame of your work. If you say you're a writer and the stranger you're talking to doesn't recognize any of the titles you throw at them, they seem to be of the opinion you're not really an author!
Which is crazy. And it's a trap that we, as writers, must not let ourselves fall into.
There are literally hundreds of thousands of professional writers out there who make a living, many are even very rich and successful, but whose names wouldn't raise an eyebrow.
Not everyone can be in the media spotlight. All those TV and movie writers out there who get paid by the script or series get very wealthy doing it - but you don't see their names plastered all over the tabloids.
Look at the average publishing list of ANY publishing house - and you'll see at least 100 names you don't recognize to every one that rings a bell. Do think these 'unknown' writers are unsuccessful?
Why do we associate success with fame? And fame with success - when clearly some people are famous just for being famous - and not particularly talented?
I think we need to get over this idea. Because it's the only way to see our own success in perspective.
If someone could wave a magic wand, what would you ask for?
Financial independence brought about by writing? Most writers I know would give their mother, grandmother, and firstborn for JUST this, never mind fame or a chat with Oprah!
Which brings us back to getting a publishing deal. Because sometimes writers are very disappointed by the reality of having a deal with a trade publisher.
Rather than being the end point at which a writer can relax, kick back and enjoy a steady flow of money inwards, most new writer's experience is very different.
Getting published is not an end point - or even a starting point most times - it's a signposton the journey of a writer's life. It's just one of the many signposts that indicate your success.
Other signposts might include winning a writing prize or self-publishing - or giving a talk about yourself or meeting with a movie producer. There's no particular order of things that you MUST follow in order to achieve writing success. It doesn't work like that.
You are the best judge of your success. You decide whether you're getting somewhere or you're not.
Many writers I know start writing and releasing ebooks AFTER their publishing deals - for two main reasons.
1. Fame and riches do not necessarily follow from having a publishing deal.
2. They look at internet writers of Kindle books and notice that, far from being 'lower' on the pecking order, they're better off and more respected nowadays.
No longer is there a stigma attached to writing for the net - nor with self-publishing. In fact, technology has revealed the secret that publishing companies have been holding on to for centuries - that THERE IS NO SECRET.
An independent author has just as much chance of creating a bestseller than does a publishing company, most of whom grub around in the dark wondering what will sell - rejecting authors out of hand for no good reason - simply because they don't really know what they're doing!
Most publishing companies HATE writers because we think we know what we're doing - and we don't listen to them. They like to give us the brush off because they have hundreds of other projects that don't make money - and don't have time for another that might.
The writing industry is entirely geared to say 'no' first, last and everywhere else in between.
Sure we've had great success - but we sometimes feel that the hacks who are supposedly there to help writers, basically lack the passion and commitment that are the prerequisites of being a working artist. They just don't get it.
I guess the point of this article is to encourage you not to think of agents and trade publishers as the be all and end all of your life. There are a hundred, maybe even a thousand, other fine ways of becoming a successful writer.
And, like us, you should be targeting those too!
Rob Parnell's Writing Academy
Your Success is My Concern
“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster.”