Thursday, October 20, 2011

Maybe Your Writing Really Isn't Good

A lot of writers dive all over their blogs and discussion boards complaining that the publishing industry is simply short-sighted and doesn't know their butt from a hot rock. They received a rejection and it was clear that the editor, agent, or both were just not open to trying something new and giving their book a chance. In other words, the rejection letter stemmed from the way the publishing industry is out to "only make money" and to "screw the writer." I do find it interesting, though, that these disgruntled writers fail to take one thing into consideration.

Maybe their writing is a piece of garbage.

When I worked on my first Master's degree, I studied the role of student, curriculum, teacher and environment on student learning and literacy enhancement. This idea stemmed from a business model that did essentially the same thing when looking at the success or failure of a business. The conclusion was simple. All of the factors had to be in alignment for student learning to take place. In other words, if something was going wrong in the classroom, the teachers had to look at themselves, as well as the parents actually looking at their own kids as potentially being the issue.

I bring this up because the same holds true with publishing. We have editors, agents, readers and writers all as variables to contend with. Obviously, with larger number of variables comes a larger challenge of being published. But, with that said, if something is not going right, we have to look at all of the areas. And yes, that means that writers have to look at what they are writing and what they are doing.

I don't care if your "beta-readers" have loved your story. This is a small selection. We have to remember that publishing is a business and I don't care if your earlier reviews from Bodfish, California love your story, the question is whether or not the general public across the nation is going to be interested in buying your book. If not, I am sorry to say this, but we aren't going to be interested in your book.

I keep saying this but I will say this again. Publishing is a business. In business, the goal is to make money. Publishers and agents are not here to work for you in a "pro-bono" style approach. If your product is not going to sell, then we won't take the approach. And  note, I am not saying whether the publisher or agent can sell the project, I am talking in the broad sense of the word here looking at whether or not your project is marketable.

We are also in a new time now where things are changing. Your readership is constantly looking for new ways to acquire books and reading material at a "cheaper cost." Craigslist, Ebay, Redbox DVD rentals and even the Used bookstores are all on the rise. Even the e-market is doing that with readers willing to willing to wait for a "discounted" version of the book to come out. You cannot deny this. Even many authors do this. What they fail to realize is that all of these moves are having a trickle down effect for the authors. Again, reduced or no money for the publisher and therefore no money for the authors.

The point of all this is simple. Rejections are part of this business (there was that word again). There are a lot of you out there and only so many places that are looking. Your writing has to be good, but please, don't go and blame others for the failure of your book to make it to the top. That failure may stem from your ability to write. And yes, it may be some of those other factors as well, but you cannot forget yourself.



  1. Indeed! I cringe when I read blogs- or even social media updates- in which a writer bemoans how unfair the universe is because they've received rejections. First of all, I am of the opinion that talking about your failures is a bad business move (as is public self-pity). Second of all, yes, use the opportunity to figure out what you need to do to improve. Belly aching isn't going to change the publishing industry- and I don't care what anyone says, self-publishing won't either.

    Craig Newmark is a glorified pimp and eBay is rife with stolen goods. I don't think much of people who use them- and yes, I'm on a budget myself.

  2. Thanks for this post. I agree, writing is a business and it should be treated as such. In my day job, if my marketing strategy isn't creating opportunity for my company,there's something wrong with the plan. Period. The same rings true with writing.

  3. I play an online game that's been free for the last year while they worked out some bugs. Recently they announced they were going to start charging for the game (which they've always said they would do when the time was right). The player base threw a tantrum over the news. "But this game should be free".

    I look at that the same way I look at writers who complain about publishing being all about the money. We all have to pay the bills, including literary agents and book publishers, and if we can't sell our product...the mortgage company isn't going to let me keep my house just because my beta readers liked my story and it might sell some day.

  4. My biggest fear is that my writing isn't good. I know I have good story ideas but ideas don't sell - the writing does. So many people talk about self-publishing and I even think about it because it appears to be the easy path. Then I read reviews of self-published books and am terrified that it reflects my future. I think that e-books make it easier for just anyone to publish a book and sadly brings down the entire publishing world.

  5. It's hard on the ego, to accept that you may be the problem - but it is the only way to move forward.
    And even if it werent the writer's fault, publicly stating that fact will only make things worse.

  6. Rejection letters and critiques (can be seen as one and the same thing) should be viewed as gold. They are indications that something needs to be tweaked. I don't agree that the whole manuscript is garbage, but writing is a learning experience, a journey that never really ends. When someone tells me, "I think it needs...", I pay attention and go back to see where I can use these little nuggets of gold to improve. Even if an author chooses to epub, if he/she is smart, they'll still play by the rules and up their game as much as they have to. E or self-publishing shouldn't mean it's okay to publish a less polished product. So, reject or critique away-I'm watching and learning. :)