Getting published - ugh. I'm currently trying to get a couple of pieces of work published, and the process is absolutely abhorrent to me. I realise that it's something that I need to get over, but the act of approaching literary agents or publishing houses and trying to sell my work is very much contrary to my nature. I'm a poor salesman.
These days it seems to take letters outlining the story, each chapter, the overall plot and the motivation behind the work to even catch a publisher's eye. A minimum of three chapters is also required, and I get this bit - I mean, who wants to read - or even receive a piece of work if it's pretty darned crap? A letter, however, seems to be an obstacle between the author and the publisher, and I would suspect that a lot of poor quality proposal letters (some of them no doubt my own) come between great pieces of work and the public eye.
Even worse - and this is where my underwear catches fire - many publishing houses require - nay demand - that aspiring authors read a certain number of the publisher's typical publications and be ready to basically report back on those works! What the effing hell??? At best this is an attempt to weed out authors with whom no professional rapport is likely (a dubious strategy at best) and at worst it's a cynical way to boost sales. Either way, such a requirement is irrelevant when it comes to ascertaining whether a person's efforts are suitable for that company's publishing standards, goals and ideals. It becomes yet another obstacle for authors to painfully clamber over (the vast majority of us are working and writing in our spare time, which means that there is little time left to force ourselves to read books that we might never otherwise even pick up). The work is where the focus should lie; the quality, potential and relevance of a book or essay or article (or whatever) will surely speak for itself - I really don't see why an author would be required to be an established acolyte of a publishing house in order to be accepted.
I have three main problems when it comes to approaching publishers or agents:
1. For me, writing is about being creative, even when I'm telling true stories (which I seem to do a lot of). The creative act of putting thoughts onto paper (or the inter-web-net-thing) is where the joy lies for me. Anything to do with the process of getting published which takes time away from that is therefore automatically not welcome. Many other things in life are irritating or frustrating, but there is something about trying to meet the demands of people who will most likely reject my work which seems especially annoying.
2. I resent (perhaps foolishly) having to write letters and other things about what I am sending to be read, especially when no two publishers seem to ask for the same thing. Some will, for example (and rather outlandishly in this day and age) only accept paper manuscripts rather than emailed documents, while some will only accept email. Some ask for a synopsis and two chapters, while others require an overall outline and three sample chapters. I want to write and I want people to read what I write; I don't want to have to sell something if it doesn't fit with the publisher...surely reading a sample will tell them if there is potential? Being a curmudgeon about such things is not proving to be helpful.
3. I have low self-esteem. This may not be immediately apparent from the stuff I put down in the blog (or maybe it's very apparent; you tell me), but here is where I talk to the wide world as if I were speaking in the safety of my own home, and where differences of opinion are safe to be around. This is where I write opinion and then run away (metaphorically) to hide until it's safe to come out again. Because it's a monologue and because I very rarely receive feedback (here or elsewhere) about what I do, fundamentally I don't really know - and therefore struggle to believe - whether my stuff is actually enjoyable. I don't aspire to be a literary genius (what's the point in aspiring to the impossible?) and I'm grounded enough to know that what I write will probably never be great (once in a while I may accidentally slide sideways into something approaching 'good', but those occasions are rare), however I do have hope that what I write may be enjoyed by others. The statistics for this blog seem to indicate that more people are coming on board to read my ramblings, so perhaps I'm doing something right. Nevertheless, pushing myself forward into a publisher's spotlight is quite scary and a little tense, most of all because rejection is what publishers do most of, and rejection is something that I, like so many others, am very uncomfortable with.
These objections - were they to surface - would surely result in me being regarded by a publisher as a 'difficult to work with' kind of author, and as such my work may subsequently need to be of a very high standard for such difficulties to be worth overlooking. Which, given my comments earlier about how I regard what I write, is rather worrying. The soothing therapy for this concern is for me to write, but this does have the problem of leading me full circle. I have lots of stuff to write and to hopefully publish - climbing that mountain of writing letters of query and proposals is proving to be the most difficult thing to overcome. There's a thing about mountains: I like them from afar but I have no head for heights.