Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Test of Traditional Publication, and How You Defeat It

The day after I announced my book deal, a steady stream of messages started rolling in from aspiring writers. How did I do it? What steps led to me getting a deal? Did I have any advice that might help them break into the biz? Which type of flour is best for a lemon chiffon cake? 

That last one may have been unrelated, now that I think about it.

It was surreal, though, to suddenly be in a position where other creative types wanted my career advice. After all, wherever we may be in the process, we’re all in the same trenches trying to make this crazy lifestyle work. As the questions continued to roll in, though, I realized that there was one piece of advice I gave to absolutely everyone. Well, two if you count the lemon chiffon thing, but I’ll stick to the writing advice for now. What I told them was…

Traditional publication is a test of will and endurance. Now, on the surface that may seem obvious, but many aspiring writers jump into this without knowing how much of a test it will be. The idea of a “gatekeeper system” has been debated a thousand times over, so I won’t reexamine the usual bits. One thing the system absolutely will do is challenge a writer’s level of commitment. That part is beyond debate. It tests how much we really want to do this. How many times are we willing to face the dragon before we finally slay it? Ten? Twenty? A hundred? Five hundred? 

Whether or not it was designed to do this, the traditional publishing business will make most aspiring writers quit before ever selling a page. So, how do we avoid becoming just another statistic? We keep getting up, drawing our sword, and charging at the dragon no matter how many times it kicks us out of its lair. We pit our will, our determination, and our passion for books against it, determined to keep swinging until we finally cut our way through. That is how we defeat the test of endurance - by enduring

We fail the test when we give up, pack it in, and decide it’s easier to become an accountant instead. 

Of course, we’re also constantly working on the craft and pushing to get better. We’re making ourselves a valuable part of the writing community. We’re acting like working authors long before we ever get a deal. This is important because all the endurance in the world won’t matter if our writing isn’t up to snuff. Will and endurance, though, are the engines that keep pushing us to do it all. Without them, we’re going nowhere. 

Are you ready to slay that dragon? Then suit up and get writing!


  1. So true, Ryan. Someone said the difference between writers and people who want to be writers is writing. But I think the difference is also not giving up! Be a damn weeble. Weebles wobble but they don't fall down.

  2. So dead on. I've met a lot of writers recently who admit they're still garnering the courage to start submitting, so there's a lot of obstacles we place in front of ourselves before we even get to the streams of rejection letters.

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