Monday, March 22, 2010

I Wanna Hear Yours: Why Are We Underestimated?

Hey guys, I know I haven't ben around much recently. Things have been crazy, and I jut haven't been able to come up with anything half-decent to write about. But thankfully, I have a boring lovely receptionist job now, in which I can devote much of my free time to writing, and pondering the madness of it all.

And speaking, of madness, how about some crazy queriers? Like Janet Reid's 3D Query , Or how about some good ol' fashion weirdies? But wait! There's more!

Why do these querying blunders keep happening? Are people trying to piss off agents? Are they really that stupid? Were they possessed by aliens and forced to do these things to ruin their careers?

Honestly, I know many of you believe in option b, (and a few of you might vote for option c) but I have a different theory.

These blunders keep happening because the publishing industry is underestimated.

Even the most intelligent of us think that publishing can't be that hard. I mean, honestly, when I first started I was afraid it was going to be too easy. I thought there was no way people wouldn't love my book as much as I did. A year and one hundred rejections later, I've wised up.

Of course, I didn't start querying like mad because I thought I was better than everyone else. I did my research, learned I wasn't such hot stuff, and got in line with the rest of the aspiring writers.

But many people on a daily basis underestimate us, don't do their homework, and think they're going to succeed. Because of this, we see wackos who think they're going above and beyound, but are really just scaring the pants off agents. I met a writer not long ago, good guy, smart guy. He finished his manuscript and decided to shop it around. After a while, he was getting angry because he wasn't selling anything. After a while he went out to golf with a friend of his who was an editor at a publishing house. He brought his manuscript, asked the guy to look it over.

Our little editor friend turned to him and said, "What would you say if I came onto this golf course, without ever having played a game, and said I was better than you and could beat you in a game?"

And that's when my friend learned its not as easy as it looks.

But I'm not here to talk about occasions in which we're underestimated. I came here to ask why.

What about writers, editors, publishers, book sellers-- what about the whole damn process makes people think its easy?

Is it because writing is an art form? Do people think it's this easy to paint and sell a painting?

Or it is because... it's just writing. Anyone who speaks English (or any other language, for that matter) can write a story. They just need to think up a good plot, some characters, and make it to THE END. However, it's a different story (ha! Pun.) when it comes to writing a GOOD story. And many first-time authors haven't learned to distance themselves from their pieces (hey, another thing I could blog about) and really scrutinize. Many people forget to mention that part of writing a novel.

I, myself, write young adult fiction. I've come under scrutiny many times because writing children's fiction is sometimes seen as a "lesser" form of writing. Often people see it as easier too. But, of course, no writing is any lesser than any other. So, will people look at children's fiction as an easy gateway into the publishing world? Is this another example of how our society looks on its younger citizens has "inferior"?

You've heard my ramblings, now I wanna hear yours. Why do people underestimate authors, YA, and publishing?




  1. omg this is such a great post. i love the subject and your take on it -- and it's a really important question we need to be asking ourselves and our fellow writers. we are definitely underestimated. writers/authors are regularly scoffed, and if they haven't hit it big, they're teased and looked down on as losers who're chasing a dream they'll never attain. art in any form has always been seen as a 'lower' profession. i think it's because of money. very few artists (in all forms) make it really big, and the general public seems to think that if you can't hit it big, it must be a joke.

    i don't really know though. but i'm really happy you brought it up. great, great post. thanks for sharing.

    best of luck with everything!!

  2. Came over from AW (I'm Roly ;) ).

    This is a great post and I think you've got a lot of great points here. I do think that because it's writing, people think anything can do it. It seems far easier to do than, say, training to become a hockey player, it doesn't seem like it requires any natural talent like singing, you don't have to over-exert yourself physically etc. As far as many people are concerned, all you need is a cpu and working knowledge of conversational english.

    Plus you've got writing success stories of authors who just kind of write a book one day, get an agent, get published and make a gazillion dollars. And since these people don't seem to be particularly special (ex) Mormon Housewife lol) people look at them and think, hey, if she can do it, I can do it. Easy!

    Of course, most of us know it's a lot harder than that. Writing is a craft, an artform, and though natural talent plays a part, most of it is sheer hard work. Writers have to continuously improve and edit and analyze their own work. Especially now that the economy is crap, agents are being pickier about who they represent. Unless you've got a popular online blog or have kick ass connections in the industry, you're gonna have to go above and beyond just to get an agent to take you seriously.

    That's why people who are a tad more serious about it may seek sources to improve their skills - books from the library, online advice/blogs/forums - and those people tend to eventually learn to write good query letters.

    I have to say, I definitely didn't think it'd be as hard as it is. I was a bit cocky because I was a newbie and of course, all those success stories of people just kind of walking through the door to success. I did my research of course, but I honestly did feel that more agents would want to give the story a chance. I've gotten bites, but the number of rejections I've gotten has definitely been an eye-opener.

    But I think that all helped me grow as a person and a writer. I'm a lot more mature now, and my skills have improved because of it!

    Er sorry for the rant :D

  3. I did a post on why underestimating YA is a bad thing a while back...I'd link to it, but I can't ever figure out how to do that.

    I think the reason people understimate the skills required is because they can't distance themselves from their own work at first, as you said, and they think it's the bees knees. But it's also because many simply don't understand the magnitude of the publishing industry. Writers tend to view themselves as unique (like, OMG, I finished a book, this is a massive achievement). So to find out that hundreds of thousands of others have the same dream, have done the same thing, and are querying their butts off can be a little bit disillusioning. This industry is no longer for the elite alone, it's opened up to everyone, and that means a helluva lot of unexpected competition for some writers.

    Great post! :D

  4. Lovely, lovely post!

    You've pretty much nailed it there. Maybe 'cos it's not that glamorous, everyone thinks they can do it. It's so freaking hard to get published, you only have to read about a writer's journey to know (not including celebs basking in their 15mins of fame).

    And I totally get how people think writing YA/MG is writing 'lesser' fiction. The first thing that crosses their mind is, "So you write for kids?" That's it. Chapter closed. Like it's a piece of cake.
    Like Tahereh said, art has always been kinda underestimated. Maybe 'cos we are all rambling fools chasing the horizon...

    Well, atleast we ARE chasing!

  5. Great post! And I totally agree! I think most people are like--hey, it's writing--*I* can do that--that the actual craft that goes into it is underestimated. Also, I think they picture writers sipping on margaritas with their notepads, lollygagging around. They don't know how much we sweat blood and tears into this stuff.

    Plus--everyone knows an uncle or cousin or niece who is "writing a book." Since it's a common thing and kinda has a slacker association, it also gives writing that "oh, it's so easy" appearance.

    Oh, and thanks for the OPWFT blog love--WOOT! :D

  6. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA I love how you labeled OPWFT!! Thanks for the shout out, and love the blog!

  7. First, thanks everyone for the comments. Very interesting takes on publishing.

    And Annie and Debra, I love OPWFT. ;) I have no problem pimping it out.