Pick an author, any author. Margaret Atwood to Emil Zola, they were all once – gasp! – unpublished. They all had rejection slips or, worse, resounding silence after a submission, and they all had it more than once. Trust me on this.
Every single solitary published author has had to start somewhere. Some started earlier, some later. I had my very first paid publication at the age of thirty-six – definitely in the “later” camp.
It is not brilliant talent that makes a published author, nor is it – especially at the beginning – a name. I’ve seen lots of books produced by large, professional publishing houses and containing errors in grammar, punctuation and diction. I’ve floundered through bestsellers with prose so limping or boggy that I gave up before I died of boredom. I’ve rolled my eyes at examples of almost every genre that I enjoy because they were – in my own estimation – so badly written. Half an hour in any bookstore will turn up shelves of stuff that clearly doesn’t rate as classics of the future.
So how did it get there? It’s possible that the single most important attribute in published authors is persistence – that ability to get up one more time than you fall down. In other words, after the actual writing itself it’s attitude that plays the biggest part in getting a career in writing. If you’re not getting published, maybe you need an attitude adjustment.
I had a boyfriend once whose response to nearly every novel I liked was: “I could write something that good.” He didn’t actually practice the craft, mind you. He didn’t even write the kind of adolescent-but-necessary crap that I produced. He simply maintained that if he had chosen to write, he would have been able to produce something as good as, for example, The Lord of the Rings.
Whenever I hear writers whingeing about how it is only their lack of a famous name that gets in their way, I remember that boyfriend, and I sigh and roll my eyes. Sure, everyone has to vent a little, especially if you’ve had a particularly cruel rejection, or the fiftieth rejection in a row, or a long and resounding silence. I’ve been known to whine a bit myself. If you need to whinge, get it done and get on wi’ t’ job.
The thing is, whingeing does nothing for your chances. In fact, it may work against you. See Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink for some interesting stuff on how our facial expressions and body posture affect our feelings and thoughts. But more than that, remember that the point of an internet profile is that people read about you, and some of those people are agents.
What do you want a prospective agent to learn about you? That you’re in there working on your story, persisting in writing, editing and pitching, or that you’re griping about how other authors have better luck?
Adjust the attitude. Forget what others are doing, what luck they may or may not have, and get on with making your own.