Tonight we attended a little celebration for a friend of ours who has just had her first book published. She has been writing since her teens and has been married with kids for quite some years, so it has been far from an overnight success. She has been serious about her craft, has been part of writing groups and conferences, run and judged writing competitions herself, employed editors and agents to refine her work and has won numerous competitions, but it has taken decades and many, many rejection letters to get to this point.
And it was a combination of both luck and skill that has brought her to this point. She is excellent with language and always got positive feedback in her rejections. Publishers appreciated her writing, but she wasn’t able to find anyone who could accept her genre of writing. Until a publisher asked if she had anything else and she discovered an older story of her’s was exactly what they were looking for. Now she has been published by a subsidiary of one of the big six publishers.
I have had a chapter published in a book and am just about to have my sixth journal article published, all on library related topics and by library science publishers, but it was never as difficult as this for me. Then again, I never had this big a publisher or this broad an audience to reach and I also had some hefty demonstrated professional expertise and years of blogging behind me to help.
Matthew Reilly tells how he had to self-publish his first book, as no publisher would take him on and now of course he is an international best-selling author (and a lovely guy too), with a big publisher publishing his awesome stories.
I don’t know what the situation is in more mainstream non-fiction publishing, but it seems that becoming an author in fiction at least, is just as difficult as becoming an actor, except that most would be authors are not working as stereotyped waiters until they get their big break.
So when I see a new author come out in a genre I enjoy reading, I think I will be better able to appreciate exactly what they have gone through, be more likely to give them a try and be more likely to recommend them to a library user (even before I have tried them). After all, they have had to go through so many reviews, re-edits, rejections and more, that to being actually get published, especially by one of the big publishers, must mean that it is very good indeed.