As a writer trying to break into the world of books, I often feel lost. I didn’t get a degree in English. I hardly even took any English classes. I know my way around dissection tables and crime scenes better than I do a Jane Austen novel. My choice of study was bad decision making on my part.
I want to be published. I want to share my books with the world and give someone else the escape I needed as a teenager. It’s a desire I’ve never denied, but only recently tried to fulfill. So far, I’ve discovered that writing is far harder than I ever imagined.
Entering the strange waters of the writing community is sort of like navigating a boat via Renaissance era sea charts. There are parts of the map that are unclear, unwritten, or just plain wrong. Calm waves turn into treacherous storms. Sometimes, you drift into dangerous waters expecting a monster to rise from the depths, only to find the space beneath your bow to be as empty as the starless sky.
I have felt this way every time I have written a query letter. I send it out, hopeful for a positive response. Eventually, I get a rejection letter. Somehow, those hurt less than that seventh week of silence. Not receiving a reply is always worse to me. At least with a letter, I know they read something.
That being said, I’ve tried to keep an open mind. It just takes one yes, and this next time, I know my book will be polished and ready. The only thing that’s keeping me from being completely happy with my future prospects is a thought, slowly inching its way up from the back of my mind: Am I making a mistake?
I’ve depended on the internet for a lot of answers (I don’t know a lot of writers in my personal life). My most recent search dug up some rather unpleasant answers to questions I’ve always wanted to ask.
For the first time, I’m wondering if traditional publication is something I want to pursue. I always wanted to make a living writing. I never expected to make millions, or even a middle class wage. But I wanted to make enough to afford a small home someday. I wanted to raise a family. I thought that this is why people pursued traditional means when it came to getting their books out on shelves. The companies would advertise their book, and together they could sell copies all over the world.
My research, however, revealed that this is not the case. Some authors look like they get almost no advertising at all, despite their pursuit of traditional publication. If you are one of the gifted few, you get tons of press. If not, you’re right back where you started. Worse, sometimes these companies take your book and turn it into something else entirely.
I understand that publication, in the end, is a business. But to me, if feels like the written word is turning hollow. We’re giving up progress in the name of money, and originality is being traded for popularity.
I want so badly for my book to reach others, but I’m afraid of what will happen if I sign it over to someone that only sees it as a way to line their pockets. If they carve out the heart of my book, all that’s left is pretty words, strung across a page. I can’t think of anything sadder.
I’m stuck at a crossroad and fearing that I don’t belong anywhere in the writing world. But even so, I feel like I can’t give up quite yet. I may not know enough to make a decision, but someday I will. That day could be tomorrow, or it could be ten years from tomorrow. Either way, it will come.