Sounds like the lyrics to a not so great pop tune in the early 1980s when will I, will I get published? Ooo ohhhh.
It is in fact a paraphrase of a tweet I read. The writer then went on to say that they had been writing a book for five years. Although it doesn’t say whether it was fiction or nonfiction or even hint at what genre it was. What they did say was it hadn’t sold a single copy. They hope one day that they will get an editor to look it through. Then lamented about how much money they had spent on it.
It got me thinking if I was a friend to this person what could I say that may help them.
Of course to get there I had to go through a process of a dozen things that I could do that would not be helpful.
The most obvious unhelpful thing would be to point out that my writer friend’s comments is a bit like a great chef. One who has trained for years and worked their butt off to become a great chef, producing food that he felt could be served to royalty or at least some A list celebrities. So he creates a room to put out this banquet. He refuses to tell anyone about the room or the wonderful mouthwatering ingredients used or the hours of preparation. So the food is never eaten and the medal from grateful patrons isn’t awarded but the thoughts of how he hoped it would still haunt his dreams. I really felt that would be a really crap thing to say and really not helpful.
Neither did I feel it would be helpful to mention that in the US there are somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books published every year, depending on which stats you use. Now there may possibly be half of those that are self published and are likely to sell about 250 copies. Especially if you are a complete unknown. Michelle Obama on the other hand is going to knock that into a cocked hat and so is Brittany. We all hope that isn’t going to happen. They said that about Trump becoming President and Brexit. So I bear that in mind.
Then again there are the stories that come from nowhere that resonate with the Zeitgeist and go on to sell millions. Remember that story about a young boy who is actually a wizard? I’m guessing that can happen, but the odds are stacked against you. I’m not sure that any of that would be helpful either so that hit the bin.
I think this is almost helpful. Traditionally published books still overwhelmingly dominate the physical market, as well as nearly half of the digital market.
Yeah, there is a market that is true and it is thriving. That’s two positive things.
And___traditional publishers are also the best way handsdown to get your book into a bookstore, an actual building with doors and customers mingling as they deliberate over their next read.
I could almost feel a bit of momentum building up as I found something else. If you are writing non-fiction the traditional way is much faster and there is less need for a finished and edited manuscript.
I take a timeout aka making a couple of phone calls to his inner circle and discover they are writing fiction. My hopes rose and almost immediately dashed when their inner circle contact confirmed it wasn’t literary fiction. I cursed knowing that now I couldn’t let them know that literary fiction also does well through the traditional publishing route.
Then I am struck with a flash of inspiration. Writer friend, I think I know what to say that will help you. Let me ask you this, are you or are you not a writer? They confirm that they are.
Now does writing also include activities such as thinking about writing, reading about writing and creating a notebook filled with prompts to inspire writing. To which I said ‘Bloody excellent’ (BOOM Mic drop and writer friend exits stage left).
‘OK friend of mine I have always valued our friendship because you’re the one that never fails to find a silver lining no matter what. What the actual fuck friend?’
Naturally I’m crushed that my flash moment has fizzled to barely a spark. However I take a deep breath, smile and hoped that they felt me giving out vibes of only love and positivity.
Publisher. Did you seriously miss the fact that of all the words that I used to describe you as a writer please tell me how many were Publisher.
Then I saw with my own eyes my lovely writer friend have a light bulb moment followed by what may well have been shame. I keep smiling and sending more vibes of nothing but positivity.
So did I find something that was helpful or not? He lost his words after that and so we went with a bear hug instead. I took that as a yes.
By way of a PS I felt that a followup email was appropriate.
Look, all the stuff the other day. I meant every word of it and I’m so happy that I was able to find something helpful for you.
Putting that aside for a moment let me give you some rhetorical questions that I think will seal the deal. No more statistics, no more market talk or spending any further time on things that are not writing.
If you broke your story down to the bare bones would it reveal that it was structurally and thematically sound?
Is it compelling and filled with inspiration and shows you are a good writer?
On the websites and socials of your top three are there sufficient indicators to provide you with assurance that your story fits with their recent publications or happen to specialise in your genre?
If you can answer YES to yourself on all of the above then just those factors alone make it likely your manuscript is going to be one of those in the 10% that an editor or publisher are choosing to invest a bit more work on.
Lastly I just have to tell you that I couldn’t be more proud of you as a friend of mine that has written an actual book. Do you have any idea how many weeks I can eat out on that fact alone not even if I don’t know the answers to any of the questions above.
Love you writer friend.