I’ve stayed out of the whole Harlequin Horizons (now Dellarte Press) mess because what I was reading by so many others was just confusing as hell.
All of the words were like hailstones on my skull, causing a hurt.
And I also sensed no one was getting to the heart of things, either.
The following post, however, nailed it all down precisely.
[F]or most of us, the “dream” is not just to hold a book in our hands. The “dream” is not merely to see our name on a glossy cover.
The dream is to be good enough. Good enough to be published, to gain recognition for all our hard work, good enough for our stories to be purchased and enjoyed by readers. Good enough to receive monetary compensation, as professionals.
Boldfaced emphasis added by me.
There it is: the antithesis of the bloody con artistry of vanity publishing.
Vanity publishing is the self esteem movement of publishing — where you don’t really have to have skill, you don’t really have to work hard, you just have to think you’re worthy.
It’s this kind of crap that leads people to lives of frustration, not understanding that their lack of recognition is due to thinking there are shortcuts out there. That things such as spelling, grammar, basic sentence structure actually matter. That you can hop to the front of the line others have been standing on for hours, for days, for years.
Because you think you belong there.
Hey, I was young once. I saw writing that looked so “easy” that “anyone” could do it. But try it. Try to crunch a sentence down to the sparse poetry of a Ken Bruen. And if you somehow manage to actually get that sentence — big deal! That sentence must also connect to a whole lot of sentences that go on to form an interesting story.
I once got an email from someone who had never written two words of fiction. He had this idea for a story that depended on a technical detail that was actually so bloody obvious, it couldn’t have been spun into any sort of story. Yet in his naivete, he believed he was sitting on top of gold, his own little version of The Secret.
This was perhaps four years ago. Where is his story? Nowhere.
There is an episode of My Three Sons that has stuck in my mind for now maybe forty (yes!) years. Because it was my introduction to competency, expertise, and being good enough.
One of the sons, Chip I think it was, wanted to play in a band. His father knew that Chip hadn’t studied the guitar, had just picked it up recently, and really had no damned chance in hell of succeeding. So his father asked around and found a rock band that was in the neighborhood. He took Chip there to see a rehearsal.
Chip, of course, saw this as his way of getting on the inside.
Chip met reality and woke the hell up. So did I!
After one song rehearsal, the leader of the band started to tell the others what they had done wrong. I’m no bloody good at music, and this was decades ago, so I paraphrase. One guy had played a wrong note, another was off tempo, another had come in on his bit a note too late.
The father asked Chip if he had recognized any of that. Chip — being a good, honest kid (as we all actually were back then), admitted that he hadn’t seen or heard anything wrong.
Chip had to admit that he was not good enough to even be in this neighborhood band, never mind whatever dreams of stardom he had deluded himself with!
Now maybe today some head-up-his-ass father would grease the palm of that band to get his son included, to make the son “feel good.” But before this country went out of its fucking mind (as Peggy Noonan aptly put it), adults recognized that competency mattered — it was, in fact, all that mattered.
This is why there was such respect for authority prior to the revelations regarding Watergate. It took televised hearings before people would admit that any President would violate the trust of the people — it had to go that far to sink in.
When it comes to writing, however, I don’t what it takes to make it sink in to people that it’s not just a matter of spelling, grammar, and sentence structure — it’s work work work, dammit.
Ken Bruen wrote for twenty years before he had any recognition. Twenty years!
You cannot jump ahead of someone who has been working for twenty years. You can not.
You have to put in your twenty years.
And this is why there will always — always — be a lingering suspicion about direct publishing done even by people who have been in the machine of traditional print publishing.
Because people will wonder if you were ever really good enough.
And let me tell you one more thing about being good enough.
In the 1980s, award-winning writer Isaac Asimov was paid by a Japanese company to give a little speech about his use of technology as a writer, as a prelude to a new product introduction.
I was in the audience of this event and my jaw nearly left my skull when Asimov stood up there and nearly apologized for being a writer, admitting that while he had written many, many books, won multiple awards, he didn’t ever think he was good enough as some other writers. He was only doing what he, Isaac Asimov, could do.
This was Isaac frikkin Asimov saying this. And it wasn’t an act!
So, all you people who think you can have success without earning it? Without any hard hard hard work?
I don’t want to be near you.
For I didn’t want to talk to the boy. He wouldn’t know anything about anything except a lot of words. Ask you a lot of questions, and when you answer, it’s like shooting peas into a can.
–The Horse’s Mouth by Joyce Cary