The title of today’s blog came in a question that was much less confrontational but significant nonetheless.
In the context of describing the extremely limited amount of money they could spend on writers conferences, online classes, training materials, etc., the writer summarized by asking, “How can an unknown writer with very limited resources expect to get their writing published?”
This is a great question. But it’s not an easy one to answer.
In fact, I wrote about it in an earlier post. Since that was published, the purchasing power of the dollar has decreased by 30% due to inflation (click on this Inflation Calculator if you want to be depressed). Thus the question takes on seemingly more significance today.
Before I weigh in, I’d like to be sure to bring caution to the conversation. This isn’t a diatribe about the haves and the have-nots. It’s not a political conversation. It attempts to address something that flits around the room’s periphery when writers gather and express their frustrations with the “system.”
Investing in a Calling
There is some truth to the adage that “you have to spend money to make money.” But for some, that is not always an option. Unfortunately, I’ve met some writers who have spent tens of thousands and still have had no results. So, it really isn’t a thing to “buy” your way to publishing success. That idea is a myth.
Investing in a career isn’t even a blink when considering the cost of a college education or a technical school. But writing feels different. It is art. It is passion. It’s not a “day job” for most. And yet, I have author friends who would beg to differ with that notion.
Should you spend the money on learning all you can about writing with excellence? If it is within your means? Absolutely. If you can’t afford it, there is an awful lot of information on the Internet that can teach or at least suggest the best way (this blog is one). Buying a book on writing a great novel might cost $20 (shameless plug linked here) but could transform your work in progress. If the funds aren’t there, check the library; the only cost is the trip to pick it up or borrow the ebook version using your library’s system.
The Selection Process
I do believe and must believe that if you write an incredible book, it will likely be discovered by an agent or an editor and, hopefully, the marketplace. But we never ask to see the balance of your bank account. We are hunting for the quality of the work and the sales potential (aka commercial viability). Every agent and publisher is looking for the next big thing … always.
The challenge is that we see so many ideas that unless something is extraordinary, we move on to the next one in the proverbial pile.
I’ve heard the writing industry described as ten thousand writers in a field, each flying a kite … in a storm. Lightning does strike, but it looks haphazard and capricious. It may look that way, but in reality, there is intentionality on the part of the selection. In a world where there are a billion stories and 10,000 new books released in English each day (online and otherwise), it can be overwhelming and distressing.
It is something we wrestle with each day. I know authors who pour time, talent, and resources into their writing. Some get that book contract only to have the book fail in the marketplace, and their career ends after one book. I’ve seen others strive and work and achieve significant financial success. I know an author who once earned over six figures in one year only to have that career unravel and now cannot get a publisher for their work. The variety of success or failure is astounding … a little bit like that lightning storm metaphor.
Ask Yourself Why You Write
It sounds simplistic to say, but it is ultimately an exercise in trusting in the sovereignty of God. It could be that your love of writing and efforts to that end have continued to grow your dependence on Him.
You may pour your writing into your family. Your stories may delight them, and that can be enough.
It also can be something you simply love to do. (Some paint, some garden, some volunteer, some cook, some write!) And that can be enough.
Aspiring to be a published author can be a model to your children about devoting time and energy to something you love. It can be an inspiration to your friends and others you know.
If it happens that someday you find an agent or a publisher who loves your story? That will be a day of grand celebration.
But until then, write for His glory.