Monday 18th May 2020
The interesting thing about publishing is that it’s so individual. I think it’s very easy when you are looking for an agent or dreaming of publication to think there’s some linear path. Writers will tell you that you need to write a book, send it to agents and wait through all the rejections until someone says yes or you write another book and repeat the process. Yet when you ask them about their publication journey they’ll more often than not say “well here’s a funny story” and proceed to tell you how their path to publication bent one of these rules.
I don’t think they’re being dishonest, I just think the exception to the rule is more common than they realise. And everyone’s exception is different. In the absence of an absolute, it’s probably the best advice to give.
I do get a bit annoyed when writers dismiss unpublished writers’ questions as people looking for a magical formula. I think most serious unpublished writers are a little more savvy than that. They’ve done their homework and know that this disparity exists.
Because every publication story is different it’s easy to attribute these anomalies all to luck. I certainly think that luck plays a factor, but a friend of mine always argues that the luck of being in the right place at the right time is more often than not of having made a decision to be in that place at that time.
The truth – if there is any singular truth – seems to be that the path to publication and further success is as individual as the books the authors write. I’m lucky to have a bunch of friends who are all published. I dismiss the notion some make in that the only way to make it is be an insider. These were like me when we first met – all dreaming of publication – and over the years their careers have progressed faster than my own.
I get to hear all the stories of what’s going on in publishing. I’d like to think that’s made me very realistic on the challenges being an author throws at you – from finance to the business of trying to get books out there into the world.
And yet, I’ve always told myself that I want to push the envelope. If I’m able to defy the odds to actually get an agent, then I also want to defy the odds to create some great work published. That means trying to get a massive series out in a world where even trilogies are now a challenge. That’s embracing a traditional approach whilst trying to have the contractual freedom to do something in the self-publishing space if I so want.
It’s not going to be easy. I may fall on my ass at the first hurdle, or the second, or so on. But I have to try. And I have to adapt when things inevitably do go wrong.
That’s a lot of ambition, and I’m not going to lie: some days I question it. Sometimes I question it for long periods at a time.
So when I’m feeling full of doubt, one of the activities I like to do is to visit the blogs of authors whose careers I admire. I go to the blog archives, go to the oldest post and read forwards. Often these start way back before the author was published: “I’m writing this story”, “I got this rejection”. If you love the stories it’s interesting to read a little into how they got created, to see the context in which they were written.
As they progress you’ll get the inevitable “squee, I have an agent” post.
It’s only as they get more and more successful that they become more guarded and posts become less about process and hopes and dreams, and more about news and book launches.
Along the way there are challenges. With hindsight you can read between the lines, and see how they dealt with them. As someone trying to chart my own career I find it interesting to read. There are posts that resonate with my own career.
But most of all, it serves as a reminder to me, when I need it, that these titans of the industry went through many of the same challenges as me, that they’re human, that they had failures before they had success. It reminds me that it’s OK to have big dreams.
One of the reasons for starting The Climb was to document the writing of my books. Maybe someone reading this one day will find something that resonates with them or loves chapter 2 of book 2 and is fascinated at how it came together during lockdown.
But most of all, I hope it’ll be validation that it’s OK to think big.
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