Real talk. I’m wearing my brave pretty well these days. I’m putting myself out there. I’m writing well and consistently. I know it’s good. But friends, you know the part where I actually land an agent and get a publishing contract? This is not going very well.
It seems like all my friends are getting published or landing agents – every which way. It’s exciting, and I’m so honored to be a friend to each of them. But then, over here, there’s me. And I feel this deep today. I am the one who [still] doesn’t have an agent.
I am the one who has a manuscript and can’t get anybody to read it. I am the one who has gotten eight rejections in the past four weeks.
Maybe you’re in this situation, too. Maybe you’re the writer with no agent. If you are, my friends, I’ve got some words.
Don’t wait for a literary agent to give you permission to speak your mind.
Don’t wait for a book contract to give you an excuse to hire a babysitter.
Don’t wait for fame to give you the responsibility to do great things.
Item One: Do it Yourself
I’ve spent some time in my life as the underdog, trying to push ideas that are less than palatable to the general consciousness. Friends, I was born into rebellion – this is not grafted on, it is inherited – and I know all about drawing outside the lines.
So, please, hear me when I say this. This is truth. We can do it anyway. We can just do it, like the Nike slogan. Nobody has to wait for permission, to be a writer.
I watched my mother self-publish her book on self-sufficient living twice. Not once, but twice. Once before it got picked up by a big publisher who paid her a six-figure advance, and then again after, after she had been dropped and forgotten. (And then wasn’t she glad for that stipulation that rights would revert back to her?)
In the first round, that she started herself, by force of will, it sold 300,000 copies. In the second round, that she started herself, by force of will, the numbers ticked up to 750,000, and they’re still going.
We can publish our work ourselves. And sometimes that is exactly the right thing to do. If nothing else, it breaks our chains.
Item Two: Wiggle Your Way In
Okay, so does that mean that we don’t bother with traditional publishing at all? Does that mean we get out of the painful work of sitting through rejections, knocking on doors, hearing “Thanks, but no thanks?” (Yay!)
Nope. Not for me, anyway. I am still knocking on doors. I still want in.
There is such a thing as nepotism in every field. This is the way that people give jobs and opportunities to people they know. It happens by accident, even if it doesn’t happen on purpose. The “in crowd” is a thing. And sometimes you’re in it. And sometimes you’re not.
The trouble with nepotism is that it favors historically dominant groups. When I look at published literature that is comparable to what I’ve written, I often find that the author is a white male with higher education. Not to knock the white male intelligentsia…some of my best friends are the white male intelligentsia….but friends, change is on the wind.
When we press into the “in crowd,” we bring our own friends and our own ideas with us. And I want to join that press. I don’t want to hear the old lie, that the “establishment” is closed to me and mine. I want to open those doors, and that means I have to open them first inside my mind.
Item Three: Better, deeper, more.
Nepotism is a thing. But do you know what else is a thing? Hard work is a thing. Perseverance is a thing. The actual quality of the work is a thing.
In the authentic and creative life, the work comes first, before the recognition. And the purpose of the work is something other than obtaining recognition.
The purpose of the work is truth and beauty. And the truth will out.
Work, work, work. Make it better, better, better. Make it more true, and more true, and more true…and more beautiful. Craft a work that people can’t put down.
When you yourself know the quality of your work, then you’ll be able with confidence to promote it. You’ll be able to knock on doors with full fists. You’ll be able to shrug off rejections without losing your sense of direction. You’ll be able to self-promote and self-publish in whichever order – like juggling — and nobody but your own self will determine what your work is worth.
Yes, nepotism is a thing. Yes, the stroke of fame is deeply intertwined with luck. Yes, the voice of the crowd is not the most intelligent voice.
Does that mean we going to let that silence us? I don’t think so.
Does that mean we don’t try any more to get published? Nope.
Does that mean that we measure our worth by this yardstick? Absolutely not.
Go on, warrior. Do your thing. Do it so well that they can’t possibly ignore you.