dearieme points me towards this illuminating post on the subject of authors getting published. It makes for grim reading if what you expected was something different:
As you might imagine, I often hear from wannabe professional writers who have finished a book-length project and are horrified to discover that getting it published is harder than writing the damn thing. I offer them the sagest bit of wisdom I possess, which is that perseverance counts more than talent. A harsh message perhaps, but essential to incorporate in your world-view if you want to take up the vocation.
It only gets worse from here.
It’s especially troublesome if you produce something original, something that doesn’t fit into a tried-and-true marketing template.
I came by this knowledge the hard way, having been fucked around by morons in the publishing industry my whole career — not to put too fine a point on it.
The truth is, you are producing work that nobody asked for and that no one especially cares about.
That last part is particularly important.
You have to grind away at this lonely business day-after-day to get the job done. The only thing that avails to keep you going is your own conviction that it is worth doing.
Which to be fair is the case for anything. From memory, nobody paid me to learn Russian.
Thus, the second morsel of wisdom I offer wannabes is to give up seeking validation from friends and relatives. I never ask friends to read my works-in-progress.
I quit doing this early on because, frankly, only one person was interested. Which only goes to amplify the point that nobody asked for it and nobody especially cares about it. That said, the one person’s feedback has been extremely helpful. Plus all of your comments on the excerpt, of course.
I sent the manuscript out to two editors who had expressed some interest in my work over the years. The first guy, Daniel Menaker at Harper Collins, had a snit when he learned I’d made a multiple submission — a no-no for authors in those days — and told me to get lost.
Publishers really are arrogant shits, aren’t they? They turn people down by the million but get all snotty if you submit your proposal to anyone other than them.
I finished my latest “book” project last year around Halloween. In late December, my publisher turned it down. I’d been with The Atlantic Monthly Press, part of the Grove-Atlantic group, for seven books, starting with The Long Emergency.
They eventually published my four-book World Made By Hand series of novels about life in a small New England town after the sort of economic collapse I described in The Long Emergency, a natural progression for me. I sensed they were none too happy about the project, but perhaps the chance that the series might be picked up by a cable network kept them on the line. My advances sank with each book. In any case, they never offered a kind word (e.g. “Hey, nice job… I enjoyed it….”). They did absolutely nothing in the way of marketing the books.
If an established publisher isn’t going to bother marketing your book, what is the point of using them in the modern era? To get it on a shelf for a week before pulping the lot? And being dropped like a stone without warning appears to be a part of life in the writing world.
So, when I handed in A Safe and Happy Place last year, they dumped me just in time for Christmas. My current agent didn’t want to try to sell it elsewhere, either. He said it was “off my brand” of hard-hitting polemical non-fiction and no other publisher would want it.
Like a lot of so-called professions – recruiters, letting agents – literary agents seem to be very much fair-weather friends, happy take their cut when things are going well of their own accord, but unwilling to put in any effort when things get more difficult.
If his publishers won’t market books and agents refuse to do their job, it’s hard to see why anyone would choose to go the traditional route over self-publishing these days. I suspect in the coming years we’ll see more and more examples like Andy Weir’s The Martian, which was self-published and then snapped up by a traditional publisher when they realised it was doing exceptionally well (it is worth reading, miles better than the film). As I said, fair-weather friends.