Any article, magazine, book or website on the craft of writing will tell you what a difficult state the publishing industry is in. While writers now have the option of self-publishing, and publishing in electronic formats, we are worker harder than ever before and and for less money (and prestige).
These days only the biggest names in the publishing industry make enough money to live on, and while some authors are respected, just as many aren’t even noticed. The phrase ‘everyone has a novel in them’ both democratizes the writing community while also making it harder to get your voice heard. The idea being that it is easier now than ever before to publish, but the overall quality of writing is also lower.
But is this true? These days writers have to invest far more of their time, energy, skills and—yes—money to see results. Mentoring happens in creative writing classes and through editorial/mentoring services which most writers pay for with their own funds, because it’s important to them to increase their skill set. Of course, the most valuable contribution any writer can make to their career is to put in the time, working on their own stories and pieces as much as possible, experimenting, editing and discovering what works best for them. And reading widely and insatiably, of course.
I remember being obsessed with J.D. Salinger when I was a teenager, not just The Catcher in the Rye but also his other books: Franny and Zooey, Nine Stories etc. When I finally got my hands on his biography by Ian Hamilton, aptly titled: In Search of JD Salinger, I quickly devoured it. As most people know, Salinger was a recluse who lived an isolated life in Cornish, New Hampshire. After his initial success, he withdrew from the public eye entirely, but continued writing (though he stopped publishing). Only since his death have his unpublished manuscripts been brought to the attention of the public.
These days, you couldn’t be a writer and do that. Well, not one that anyone would take any interest in anyway.
An author platform and social media presence is crucial, and promotion of your work will often come through these channels. This is not easy to embrace, especially as many writers (like myself) are introverts, perhaps shy about participating in the necessary self-promotion and marketing required to publish today.
So, to come back to the initial question, why write? When I look at the question logically, I can’t find an answer. But, I know that writing is important to me. Through writing I can communicate—or attempt to convey—how I see the world, the people who live in it and what I think is important to take note of. I can attempt to tell the stories I want to read/hear, which I think people should pay attention to. Will these stories ever be read or published? Maybe. Maybe not. But I still have to take the chance in telling them, because if they aren’t written down and created in the first place they will never exist.
Of course, now that my first novel, The Forest King’s Daughter, has been published, this may increase my chances for having my second novel published. But even if it had never been published, I would continue to write, for myself, because the act of discovering and telling stories is part of who I am.
What about you, do you write for yourself, or primarily with the aim of publication? What is your experience of the publishing world today? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment below.