I have made no secret my desire to get my work out in print but there are days when I wonder if I’ve got the chops to actually make it. I’ve had several established (see published) authors tell me that I have what it takes. The interesting (to me at least) thing about that is most of them have not read a single word of my prose. If they haven’t read my work how can they honestly say I have what it takes?
I actually asked that very question of one of my author friends. He is a writer with five books out and I have known him for a few years now. I trust his opinion. When he said I had what it takes I was troubled. After all, like most people he has never seen my writing. When I asked him how he could make such a statement he had this to say: “It’s not the quality of your work as much as the quality of your persistence. You have the fire to see this through. Eventually you will prevail.”
Now I am paraphrasing what he said a little and while it boosted my spirits I still had doubts. I have submitted my work and I have a nice collection of rejection slips. Still it doesn’t feel like I’m making any progress. I’ve thought long and hard about the problem and I’ve come to a conclusion. There is one major barrier to getting published and that barrier is me.
Let me explain.
I am a procrastinator by nature. I also tend to focus on one (major) project at a time. Add a pinch of self-doubt and you have a recipe for problems. I won’t call it disaster. That would be too harsh, but it certainly slows things down.
Case in point, last year I did something that worked very well. I sent out nine query letters to publishers for one of my books. I got three positive responses to send in more of my work. I sent the work into those three and waited. That may sound normal because it takes time for publishers to scrutinize a submission.
The problem was, I didn’t do any more market research. I should have had another nine ready to go when I sent the third submission out. I didn’t. Instead, I waited to hear back and lost lots of time. I fell away from what had worked and went back to my haphazard submission style. I’m still stuck in that rut.
Then I wrote a story specifically for a publisher thinking I knew exactly what they wanted. Since they were sure to accept, I didn’t bother with market research or sending out queries. It turns out I didn’t have quite the understanding I thought I did. Fallback position? Haphazard submissions.
Now are you starting to see why I consider myself a barrier?
What I need to do is formulate a solid plan and execute it. And I will once I’ve got the edits done on my current manuscript (remember I mentioned my tendency to focus on one project at a time?). Actually, I’ve got to break out of that habit and start the market research now and get those books on a more chartered submission path. I don’t have to stop editing (or writing) to do that.
While you may be seeing a bit of a trend, there are other things a writer (say me, for example) can do to oneself to scuttle the chances of publishing. For example:
- Let fear get in the way of submissions. What if they don’t like me?
- Tweak a story continuously to get a good enough quality product to actually interest publishers. Of course, it’s never good enough, is it?
- Not know the market (this is a key one: who is out there? what mediums? where do you find this out?)
- No guts, no glory or lack of determination.
Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom. There are also things you can do to increase your chances:
- Meet people: publishers, agents, other writers.
- Know your goals and plan with them in mind.
- Just send your stories out.
Looking at that list, I’m not as badly off as I could be. I know several publishers, many writers and a couple agents. That has helped. I am also very single-minded in my ambition. I will get published. And once that happens, I will get published again. There is no doubt in my mind (most of the time). And I am sending my stories out.
Are you a barrier or an enabler?
I sent out “Mik Murdoch” again to a publisher I know. I’m also busy editing my fantasy novel. I expect the fantasy novel edit to be done by the end of March. I’m also recording the next episode of “Get Published” next week.
How are you doing?