There are various aspects of the book publishing industry that make for interesting conversation: e-book royalty rates, bestseller lists, content marketing… but when push comes to shove, the most interesting aspect of the industry, by far, are the writers. Where does the passion start? Where does the inspiration start? Where do the great ideas start? Where does it ALL start?
With the writer.
God bless ‘em. I honestly don’t know how they do it. Believe in themselves through all the late nights of writing, neglecting family members/chores/sleep/food. And then they actually have the nerve to think that their writing is good enough to be published. Well! That takes a certain amount of moxy, don’t you think? Which is why writers and authors are such fabulous people. They’re smart, driven, wild risk-takers and I can’t think of a single group of people I have more respect for.
There are a wide variety of paths that folks take to author-dom. Some have been “writing since I was six,” others work hard at getting short fiction pieces published in small journals and finally complete a novel, work the system until they secure an agent, and maybe even get a book deal. Some are professionals in their field that feel their message deserves a larger audience. Some become so completely obsessed with something they can’t stop until the whole story is on paper.
But there are so very few that rise to the top, and most must know this. And yet they pursue. What would we industry insiders do without these people filled with hope and passion? We may be savvy marketers, business people, networkers, but a painful few of us can actually write a book. I tried it once. The whole thing was so fraught with difficulty I won’t ever try it again. Suffice it to say, it’s really freaking hard to write a good book.
I think we all need to be sending them fresh flowers on a regular basis. But in fact quite the opposite is going on. Unpublished folks are first forced to grovel at the feet of agents and beg to be read. If they make it through that iron gate, they will toil for months waiting to find out if a book deal is possible. If it is, they will quite happily take a $5,000 advance for World rights (ouch!) just for the privilege of getting published. They will be beside themselves if they find out an ad campaign is in the works, or a book tour is planned. They will not, at any time, figure out how many hours it took them to write that book and thus figure out the hourly wage they are being paid for said project.
Oh, I suppose the system is set up, rightfully, to weed out writers and projects that for some reason or another fall below the bar. But then there are these folks: the non-fiction writer who manages to teach the reader something new and entertain them; or the fiction writer who creates indelible characters woven into a glorious plot line, all with a unique and readable voice. They’re out there! They are the artists this entire industry revolves around. And I’ll tell you what, as an agent, I’m looking under every rock.
And when I find one, curiously enough, they send me flowers.