The publishing interwebs were afire last week with differing opinions as to the wonderfulness or nefariousness of the unpublished; there was this post from the indefatigable posi-core powerhouse Nathan Bransford, this post from the brilliant and funny Eric of Pimp My Novel (note to self after reading ensuing comments from self-publishers: do NOT f*ck with self-publishers, good lord (note to self-publishers: we agree 1,000% with Eric, along with everyone else who works in ACTUAL (ooh, snap!) publishing, sorry; but good luck to you!)), and some other posts by certain wise and beloved agents and anonymous editors who clearly have received one too many of the "Dear To Whom It May Concern I always knew I had to be a Writer you will be glad to recieve my short Story Collection for children entitled Muffy the Bunnies Adventure in Christmasville it is a touching inspirationel Collection of 234,552 words guranteed bestseller oportunity with Film Potential" sort of query.
Most of the people we meet in publishing are not actually writers themselves. Not so us, dear author-friends, and, like you, we have an elegant collection of rejection letters from only the finest and most discerning literary magazines, except for McSweeney's, who we are still waiting to hear back from re: a story we sent them in 1937, but we are sure it is only taking so long because D-Eggs wants to confirm the film deal with Spielbs before he calls us personally, and everyone knows how slow Spielbs is! But here, dear author-friends, is a truth we have learned and accepted the hard way, through Personal Knowledge and Experiential Learning, and also at our Job, which is: Not everyone is going to get published. In fact, very very few people are going to get published. In fact, we reject a hundred people a week who will never, ever, ever get published. Plenty of the people who do get published will publish books that are worse than yours. Or, you might write a book, and it might not be very good. We ourself might not ever, ever get published. We ourself might not be very good. Sorry. Them's the haps. The fact is, THE WORLD WILL CONTINUE. For all of us. And if you love writing, you'll keep writing. Yes, it would be nice to have Our Brilliant Novel in a shiny new dustjacket (Chip Kidd, natch! Only the best for us!) to send our parents and also Birch Rubens, wherever he is, who told us when we were ten that we clearly sucked eggs and would never publish a book ever, shortly before hitting us over the head with his sister's hairbrush. Yes, it would be nice to have our Staggering Talent validated, our vacations to Aruba and charming retreat home in the Catskills paid for with our Unheard-Of Advance, our international book tour, our Salman Rushdie blurb, our front-page review in the New York Times with the title: Luminary Genius Arises! Voice of the Century Discovered! Better than Nabokov For Reals! And yes, no offense to "Steve," it would be nice to quit working altogether and loaf about, delegating the penning of our various sequels to a small army of talented interns while we are fed gingersnaps and cocktails by our Support Team.
But also, those things might not ever happen. We might write a book and nobody will notice. Will that be sad for us? Yep. Will that be the end of our life? Proof that our existence is, in fact, without any redeeming purpose? Probably not.
Darling author-friends, we are NOT by any means telling you not to write. We are offering you asort of tough-love approach, a refusal to delude you with promises of puppies and unicorns. Persistence does not always pay off with laurels upon which to rest. We could practice swimming sixteen hours a day for the next ten years, and we still won't be going to the Olympics; sew dresses until our fingers fall off, and no one will be inviting us to fashion week; and, let's face it, all of us could write every hour of every day for the rest of our lives and ain't none of us going to come up with Lolita . Brush your little selves off and keep your chins up. We know it's hard because we've been there, and are in fact hanging out there, making occasional embittered comments about the "immature style" of people younger than us who are cranking out critically acclaimed novels that are, like, soooo much dumber than the book we are totally going to write as soon as we finish looking at this one last fashion blog. We are not immune to the perils of jealousy, impotent rage, and deep-seated feelings of our own superiority. We are also not consoling ourselves with the thought that The Da Vinci Code was rejected 125,642 times; The Da Vinci Code was rejected 125,642 times because it's not a good book , and, quite frankly, the world would have been a better place if the 125,643rd person had rejected it too. Work at it because you love it, because it makes you happy, because you want to; and if you never get published, you will know that you persisted because you were writing for yourself. Not your mom, not Birch Rubens, not the fickle and often insane publishing industry, not the (let's face it: highly improbable) vacation home, not the people who've told you you're no good, not your skeptical and disparaging aunt/partner/parent/sibling/mean friend. For yourself and yourself alone. And if you finish your book, and you love it, by all means send it out into the world and hope for the best. And if it sucks, query Nathan Bransford. Not us. Heh. Sorry, Nathan.