Life in the Big Ocean
As an Author-in-Waiting the thing I am most often warned to prepare for is rejection. Every writing book or magazine maps out the hugely competitive ocean that you venture into when contemplating a swim in the waters of the fiction novel.
Evidently, agents are out to get you and publishers plan to humiliate you. It seems that everyone is looking for a reason to say 'no.' They are the sharks and you are the lowest possible bottom-feeding scum.Logically, I know this is B.S. as the entire system is dependent upon the scum at the bottom of the food chain. Immortality of a kind may be obtainable in print but taxes aren't the only inevitable consequence of life. Sooner or later, old authors must shuffle off elsewhere and whilst a cash cow can bring in healthy numbers and column inches, a dead parrot can't attend book signings. Sooner or later, the sharks must look lower in the food chain for their next meal.
This brings me to the point of my argument. Eventually, they'll reach you. Eventually - with a bit of luck and a following wind - you'll be looking into the eyes of the sharks and weighing up their offers. This is where the story finishes right? You get a deal and it's 'happy ever after?' I'm not so sure. In my experience, failure is easy. The tricky thing in life is success.
When you evolve from a 'would be' to an 'is,' things change. Expectations and deadlines must be met. Your ability to determine your next move becomes a thing of the past. As an Author-in-Waiting, you can dream the dream but as an Author, you must live it. The real world is never as fluid as the imaginary one. Just as there are unlimited possibilities for a story when you first start to type but the options are few when it comes to your final edit, so your options when starting on the journey towards publication stretch out before you like a never-ending red carpet but once you've been fished out of the ocean, you can only be served up to the public in a finite number of ways.
Dish of the Day
The general guidance is that you must become a brand. Your particular style of writing must be labeled. Once attached to your own name, this style is the one in which you must continue to write. You are branded 'literary', 'commercial', 'chick lit novelist', 'crime novelist' etc and that is where you must stay. There are exceptions to the rule but they are relatively few. The sharks want their brands and you must become one.
Welcome to the Goldfish Bowl
You want fame? Really? Why? Personally, I want to be successful. I'd love my work to be enjoyed and maybe even admired but the only fame I want is for my work not myself.
Of course, it doesn't work that way. People are interested in the people behind the books. They want to know how much of the work has come from your imagination and how much is the bubble-and-squeak leftovers of your own existence. They want to be able to say:
'You know Mr X in that novel? That was based on Mr Z from down the road.'
The idea that writing is a creative endeavour suddenly disappears once you are published. Fiction fails to exist. Everything is autobiography. Hunger for the 'real' back-story means your personal life is up for grabs. Bye bye anonymity.
Steps to Success
You can't fight all this. It's a business. It's a machine. Without the publicity, the books won't sell. Without the sales, the publishers won't survive. Without the publishers, we all have to work much harder by going the self-published route.
I can't change it, but I can prepare for it. I've thought through my good and bad points; worked out the markets on which I'm best placed to focus, and put aside pennies for an outfit for my first interview. When success and I finally meet, I'll be as prepared as I can for the next step. Will you?