I try not to complain too much. Really, I do. I complain to Mark and to my parents but aside from that, I really don’t complain too much. Especially, you know, considering . . . .
But I am so frustrated and discouraged by the “industry” right now that I need to vent. There seems to have been an “American Idolization” of the book publishing world. Just like in music — there was a time when all that mattered was whether you were good or not. If you had a great voice or a unique talent, that’d be enough. Now you need the looks and the big personality, the online presence and the ability to market yourself — the whole package (or you at least need to be willing to be madeover).
The book world is the same way. You can’t just have written a great book, you need connections, a platform, an online following. You need thousands of people checking your blog each day in order to prove your worth to an agent, in order to sell yourself to a publisher. Nobody is taking risks these days on some unknown, no matter how good their writing. Sarah Palin got a seven figure advance on her book. This for a woman who can’t string ten words together into a grammatically correct sentence? Oh, but she’ll sell books alright.
I love to write. I am happy to write articles in order to get my name “out there” (as long as it’s my actual words that are printed). And I’m happy to blog. I craft many more blog updates in my mind than I ever have time to post. I “write” while I’m running and swimming and laying down to sleep at night. Especially running — I’d surely benefit from some kind of a bluetooth ear-and-mouth-piece I could wear to record my thoughts because as soon as I get home, after having drafted the perfect opening lines for my query letter or a beautiful description of a life and death moment, I’m bombarded with kids needing me or a babysitter needing to be paid and shuttled home or a shower needing to be taken so I can head to some meeting. Those perfectly crafted words and phrases are left behind me in a trail around Cleveland Heights like Hansel’s bread crumbs.
So the writing I love. It’s the other stuff I could do without. Last night, I spent a good two hours reading about how to drive traffic to my blog (pathetic!). Of course, there was some brilliant advice about posting high quality content, keeping your audience interested, being consistent with your updates so people will return (really?). But then there was all this other advice about listing yourself in online blog directories (which I did) and leaving comments on other people’s blogs so their readers will track back to you (which I do) and making business cards with your blog info on them (which I’m embarassed to say I have). But it all seems so obvious, so blatant and a little obnoxious. I just want to write.
Ah, I’m whining. (Gee, wonder where I could have picked that up? There is very little whining in my house. And only about the most important matters, like whether mommy cut the oozing cheese off one’s sandwich or whether one’s pant legs cover just enough of one’s sneakers or whether one has just the right squiggly straw for drinking one’s milk.) But I am frustrated. Every time I rewrite my query letter and send it out, I feel a great swell of hope. This will be the one. This person will actually get to my pages and read them and want more. But it doesn’t seem to happen. Now I must admit I’ve only sent out nine queries in all these months and many writers send out tens or hundreds before landing an agent, but I was waiting until after the writers’ conference to see what new things I learned and then there was that little, oh, recurrence to deal with and then I wanted my DF article to be published so I could mention it (even though I’m now leaving it out).
Alright, enough of this. Time to find that well of strength and determination inside me. Time to RISE! (I’m poking fun at myself, folks.) Tomorrow I will post two versions of my query letter here for you guys to read and comment on. I feel a little nervous about doing this but I guess if they’re not ready to show to you, then they’re surely not ready to be mailed to an agent. Maybe group think will help.
Onward and upward . . .