There was a time, not too long, when a publisher would nurture a promising author’s talent. Books would often be released on a writer’s potential, forgiving their yet to be fully realized skills. Publishers, editors, and agents were the first bastion of hope and support for those of us longing to share their words.
This approach to publishing has, in my lifetime, gone the way of the IBM Selectric typewriter, DOS, and Atari gaming system. In other words, it’s highly unlikely a publisher today will bother with an unknown writer unless they are 100% sure they have a best seller in their possession. Subsequently, many traditional publishing houses have sunk to the level of Hollywood, which is so obsessed with blockbuster revenues that they churn out the same crap that sells over and over again. The “geniuses” of tinsel-town are even making remakes of remakes, for chrissakes! They’re so afraid of taking a risk on producing something original and worthwhile.
I’m going to defer (yet again) to John Irving, who admitted in a 2010 interview that if he were trying to publish his first novel today he “might be tempted to shoot” himself. He goes on to say, “I think it’s much harder to be a young writer, a writer starting out today, than it was when I started out.” Mr. Irving then explains how his publisher/editor told him that, in today’s market, he would not publish Irving’s first novel, Setting Free the Bears. Oh, how telling that is!
From my own experience, as you may know, a few of the agents and publishers I first approached told me that while I was competent as a writer, even had potential, my work was not marketable. No one was willing to take a chance on me and help develop my so-called competency into something better and something the market would bear. That, as you may know, was when I turned to self-publishing. I know my first book is rough around the edges; it could’ve used another revision, or two. At the same time, in it are the seeds of a promising writer. I also know my second book was exponentially better, even worthy of a bestseller list. In many ways, I feel my next book is better still. Better technically; more marketable. But what do I know? I thought The Quieting West was marketable. I still do.
While I’ve come to realize that I am my own first bastion of hope and support and I alone must believe in and defend my potential, I am not the last. As a publisher, I must continue to reach out to readers like you. As an author, I can only keep writing, and grow an audience by offering books worthy of their time and investment.