It has been both a good year and a frustrating year for my writing.
It's been a good year because I'm gainfully employed in being creative for a purpose. My job as a Communications Officer has me creating press releases, reaching out to donors, writing up current events, and promoting upcoming events, all in service of a cause I believe in. I've taken advantage of my old fanzine production experience to create bi-annual news magazines, and I'm being paid for it all! There are few things better than being paid to do something you enjoy doing, working in a cause you believe in. I am blessed to have been able to make an income from writing for the past few years, now.
However, the fact is, my fiction has been a source of frustration. While I'm pleased with the quality of my stories, I simply haven't had much success in finding a market for them.
It's not like I wasn't warned about this. We've heard the tale of how Madeleine L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time was rejected by twelve publishers before finding a home. But what people in the industry don't warn newcomers about, I find, is that quite often the hard slog of searching for an agent or publisher, querying that agent or publisher, sending a manuscript to said agent or publisher, and waiting for a response, before starting the whole process again upon a rejection, often doesn't go away. Those twelve times Ms. L'Engle submitted A Wrinkle in Time to publishers? That's gone up, and it applies to published authors. I've heard tell that authors are rejected on average forty times before finding an agent, these days, and without an agent, many publishers just won't look at you.
The industry has gotten harsher in recent years. Thanks to the pandemic, publishers have consolidated their listings, and themselves. The pandemic is why my novel, The Dream King's Daughter, will not be published, even after having it accepted and a contract signed. The marketing budgets of the industry have been slashed, and almost all of it goes to support the top sellers rather than the struggling mid-list.
Though I'm afraid that this might be seen as whining, and I know that all of these feelings will be whipped away the moment I get some semblance of a bite, I do think it's important to say out loud that this part of being a writer is a soul-crushing experience. Most of us did not get into this industry expecting things to be easy, but it can be so discouraging to find how hard it truly is to keep making progress, even after you've "made it" selling that first novel.
I am also aware that I have been absolutely privileged to have my fiction be been published as much as it has. I remain proud of the recognition and reviews I've received and grateful for the friends I've met along the way. I just don't want it to stop. I have considered self-publishing, but if finding a publisher is hard, think of how much harder it is to find an audience without the resources of a publisher behind you. I'm no Arthur Slade. I have neither the name recognition nor the marketing gumption to pull off what he does. But maybe it is a way to go.
I don't want this to come across as whining. I have success to look back on. I am currently doing work that makes use of my abilities. I've even put out fan fiction. The simple exercise of writing gives me joy, and I'm not going to turn my back on that. But I think I need to write this because I know there are people out there in the same boat, facing the same frustrations, submission after submission. Even after getting a book published, that's no guarantee that you'll get the next book published, and that's a harsh reality for anybody to face.
But maybe it's a little bit easier to know that you're not alone. Maybe it will help to remind yourself how much you love to just put words down on paper, or electronically onto your ancient blog (which might become relevant again once Elon Musk utterly kills Twitter, who knows?), and send them out not knowing nor particularly who else will see them. Because writing them down and getting them out is a good feeling. I know it because that is what I'm feeling now, and I can't see that urge ever going away.
But as I move into 2023, towards my fifty-first birthday, I am going to have to think about how much longer I want to continue the submission-rejection cycle. I don't have nearly as many days left to tell these stories as I used to, and I need to think about what I want to do about that.
Because I like to write, and I like to have an audience. And I have stories in me, and I have some of them on paper.