Saturday, January 10, 2009

It's been a while, but today I decided I'd revisit this long-neglected shelf of my computer.

Today's thoughts whilst walking the dog in driving rain and freezing winds followed a slightly unsettling evening with a group of published and unpublished writers. It was an interesting event, but unsettling because once again, I was reminded of the mismatch between the art of writing and the industry of publishing. Here was a group of apparently well-informed, enthusiastic and committed writers - but when faced with the realities of the industry which offers them the ultimate accolade - a publishing contract - some of them were almost resentful.

Questions from the floor shed little pools of light, brighter to some in the audience than to others. The panel of agents agreed on most things - largely from the baseline assumption that each writer's career, each book, each stage of the manuscript differs from person to person.

But still, these writers wanted a formula for success in finding an agent - some believing that in securing representation, publishing contracts would follow thick and fast. There was a great deal of misinformation and inappropriate expectation in the air. But there were also stout hearts amongst the optimists, and I don't doubt that there will be success stories to come.

Interestingly, many of those present were already published, but often by a small publisher, and for no financial gain. But for some reason that seemed not to count. They were dismayed to discover that contracts with large publishers don't often come with much financial gain either.

I felt that we were shattering some dreams, if gently, and I left feeling heavy-hearted about that. I'd love to be able to persuade writers that success isn't only measured in terms of a publishing contract, in seeing your books in a bookshop promotion, in reading reviews in the more respectable press. Surely writing for its own sake is important, and in so many ways.

But of course that kinds of writing doesn't pay the bills - for either me or the writer.

So I suppose today's walking thoughts were all to do with responsibilities.

They're weighing rather heavily at the moment.

1 comment:

the Amateur Book Blogger said...

Danuta Kean said recently that writing seems increasingly considered an 'everyman's subject' - as if everyone can write. But although everyone can to some extent paint, not everyone would expect to get £600 for one of their watercolours. It seems some writers need to be more realistic about its financial aspects. A major prize-winning author I interviewed recently said she received £300 for each of her first two books' advances from a reputable publisher. That's how it can be in reality. It's a bit like American Idol mentality - all too often people expect too much reward for too little talent and hard work. And sometimes we do need the Simon Cowell's of this world to make us face it - it may feel like shattering dreams, but it could save people from a lot of time and effort they would find more rewarding spent elsewhere. It's a tough job - but don't feel bad about doing it.