Writing is a tough gig. It’s full of doubt, uncertainty and rejection. It takes courage, persistence and a willingness to be humble when you’re told your work needs work. The biggest barrier to success is when a writer clings to the sad belief that they’re some kind of special snowflake being denied their destiny of greatness by [insert convenient excuse here].
Guess what? Nobody is owed a publishing contract. Not for any reason, be it gender or age or ethnicity or eye colour or any external measure. And more often than not, work is rejected because it isn’t good enough, not because there’s some vast conspiracy to keep the author down because of [insert convenient excuse here].
Yes, sometimes other factors come into play. Various kinds of discrimination. But that’s life. Some decisions suck. Some people suck. Things aren’t always fair. Problem is, get too cosy with that worldview and you will absolutely end up standing in your own way – especially since discrimination isn’t as pervasive and monolithic as some people believe.
Anyhow, that’s what I think. And here’s what Sarah Hoyt thinks, a writer who works in both traditional and non-traditional publishing modes. I think she talks a lot of sense.
Bottom line? The job of a writer is to tell the very best story in the very best style of which he or she is capable. That involves much self-criticism and the seeking of honest feedback on the work and the willingness to rewrite and rewrite until you’ve done your job. After that, you send the work out into the world and cross your fingers that someone thinks it’s a good fit for their publishing house. Or you publish it yourself, and hope the reading public thinks it’s a good fit for their enjoyment.
Beyond that? Nothing. Readers don’t owe writers a damn thing. And getting angry because readers don’t like the ‘right kind of books’ i.e. ‘the books I am writing’, and scolding them, and sneering at the books and writers that they do enjoy? That’s juvenile and counterproductive. It’s arrogant and elitist and frankly pathetic. Writers write. We don’t get to decide what readers want to read. But if we’re lucky, we find ourselves standing on that patch of ground where what we’re writing is what they want to read.