Imagine for a moment that you can write a story — any length, any genre — and when you are finished you can make it available for the whole world to read. You need a very small amount of money to do this, for computing and technology-related costs. You need some understanding of technology, but nothing prohibitive, and people online will help you learn what you need to learn for nothing other than the satisfaction of doing so.
Hold this idea in your mind and linger on it. You write a story, and the whole world can read it. There is nothing between you and your audience….
Now consider this:
The sheer book-length nature of books combined with the seemingly inexorable reductions in editorial staffs and the number of submissions most editors receive, to say nothing of the welter of non-editorial tasks that most editors have to perform, including holding the hands of intensely self-absorbed and insecure writers, fielding frequently irate calls from agents, attending endless and vapid and ritualistic meetings, having one largely empty ceremonial lunch after another, supplementing publicity efforts, writing or revising flap copy, ditto catalog copy, refereeing jacket-design disputes, and so on — all these conditions taken together make the job of a trade-book acquisitions editor these days fundamentally impossible. The shrift given to actual close and considered editing almost has to be short and is growing shorter, another very old and evergreen publishing story but truer now than ever before.
From the point of view of an author considering doing business with a publishing house, this is the kind of behind-the-scenes look at the book industry that has prevented me, for most of my writing life, from ever really trying to break in. Yes, I’ve made a few attempts, but at some point — and fairly quickly — I’ve realized that the game is so heavily weighted against me that I would be better off buying a lottery ticket. [ Read more ]