I have given a lot of thought to those 15 years, and what I learned from that huge mistake of turning down the offer from HarperCollins. I’ve wondered why I would have been so willing to subject myself to being treated like a commodity, as the major publishers tend to do, rather than working with people who value your work for what it is. And one thing became clear. It’s not the money, although that certainly helps. It’s more a matter of being taken seriously, of having your efforts validated. It’s about avoiding that feeling of meeting writers you admire and having them dismiss you because you’re an unknown author. I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve experienced this, and it’s an awful feeling.
Most published authors can tell you a story like Russell Rowland, if not worse. Editors quit, agents move on, publishers change directions, reviewers only pay attention to big houses and big books, it goes on and on. If you’re an aspiring author, Rowland’s long, winding road is a cautionary tale.
Readers, who enjoy his books are likely to say, “He should have been treated better than this,,” or “If a successful author has to fight to a contract, what chance to those of us right out of school have in this business?” The answer is always “Slim to none.”
A friend on my Facebook list, who is very well known, honestly reports on her weekly writing activity, including rejections. Rejections? What’s wrong with the people who are reviewing her work for possible publication. She is more well-known than Roland but still has to fight for every sale.
Publishing has always been this way though, it appears to me, it’s much harder today than it was 25 years ago to have a manuscript considered by either an agent or a sizeable publisher. I don’t know why. Perhaps publishers were losing too much money considering everything. Or perhaps it’s more difficult now because profit margins are smaller and everyone wants to be a writer.
Dorothy Parker once suggested that if you have any friends who want to be writers, one of the best things you can do is “Shoot them now, while they’re happy.” When I was a college teacher, several students asked about their odds of becoming successful authors. None of them liked my response and (so far) I haven’t seen any of their names on a bestseller list.
I like writing, but it’s somewhat of a curse; as long as you know that, you’re ready to go.