“It is the conjoint effort of author and reader which brings upon the scene that concrete and imaginary object which is the work of the mind. ” – Sartre
We write. Words on a page. The blinking of a cursor; the stroke of a pen. Words linked together to create paragraphs, that turn into pages, chapters, books.
In the sea of words are ideas; thoughts; emotions.
Do these things exist if there is no one to read them?
Most writers say yes; my ideas and what I write exist even if they are never read. But when asked if writing matters if there is no reader, the answer is a little more hesitant, a little more unsure.
Because if the words are never read but by the author, the reasons we write (entertainment, education etc.) are never received, discovered, or accomplished.
If there is no reader; what is the point?
Enter in the beast that is traditional publishing.
Besides the very real social stigma that states a writer only succeeds if traditionally published; the lesser paranoia surrounding not being published is the worry that our ideas will never see the light of day unless we are in print.
And if you notice; I use the term “traditionally” published, because even for the souls that have stepped into the self-publishing arena (successfully or not), many don’t feel legitimate, or successful, unless offered a traditional publishing deal.
Down the rabbit hole we go.
For the most part, artists are a sensitive lot anyway, and the world tells us that we are not successful unless we traditionally published; and also that our work and ideas and passion will be forever lost unless we are able to secure an agent; a publishing deal and we win an award (or get a movie deal, depending on your particular slant of importance).
Unfortunately, these are tremendously difficult tasks to accomplish. Back in the day when I was researching publishing statistics, the word on the street was that only one new author out of a million is published a year.
Of course, the accuracy of one in a million number has since been called into question, but it is safe to say that being published is a tricky thing.
And, the good news doesn’t stop there (sarcasm) because even when you are graced with an agent and a book deal; the likelihood of a second book deal, or third, or fourth, is still very low. Many writers I know do not write full time but fit in their word count here and there between family and their “other” jobs. The writers I know who do write full time, barely skimp by and often have patreon accounts or have other means they use to stay afloat.
It is a brutal world.
But let’s step back.
Because we started this post out talking about the importance of a reader. How can we be writers, if there is no one to read what we are writing?
Okay. Fair. Traditional publishing is definitely the way to get your writing out there for readers to consume.
But then society mixes it all up and suddenly we are told that traditional publishing is the only acceptable way to get our work to readers; or we assume this; or this bit of nonsense starts to worm its way into our psyche…
Because let us re-arrange that sentence and say:
The readers that matter are the readers who only pick up traditionally published novels.
Our significant others. Our writers group. Our friends. The random person on amazon paying $1.99.
No. Not those readers.
The other ones buying the hardbacks for $21.94.
I am a reader. I read traditionally published novels and short stories. I also read newspapers; websites; blogs; twitter feeds; and the rough drafts of many different writers from pro to first timers. Reading one of those mediums over another does not disqualify me as a reader. Just because I am reading a roughly written first draft does not mean, suddenly, I am less of a reader. Nope. Just reading something different.
Conversely, if you write, should it matter where the writing goes or how it is transmitted? Does it make you less of a writer if does not follow a traditional publishing path?
The reason we write are varied and I will delve more fully into them as we move along, but not being published should not ever be a deterrent.
Don’t stop writing just because you can’t find that agent or get that publishing deal.
Sure, society will still be terrible. You’ll still have to deal with Uncle Phil who thinks you aren’t a real writer because your book is not on the book shelf; but there is a lot about society that is pretty messed up, and how a successful writer is defined is one of them.
Rethink. Recreate. Expand or even change the boundaries of how “success” is defined. You never know, it could catch on and we could change the way society thinks.
Either way though…
Onward, friends, always. The publishing industry is there, a gigantic machine of moving parts that may or may not favor you with its searchlight one day; and perhaps it never will.
Maybe it will after you’re dead.
Or maybe it will tomorrow.
Whatever the case, the creating, the writing, the sharing, is the magic.
What about you, dear readers? What are your experiences with publishing? Do you find yourself disheartened by a lack of traditional publishing? Do you not care and write for writing sake?
Share. Let me be your reader.