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Recently there was a post made in the Daily Beast that talked about how you should write every day or just go ahead and quit.

Now most people who took exception with that article took exception to the bit about writing every day.

I agree. It's a dumb rule. Art is art, not science. It's helpful if you write frequently, but putting an "EVERY DAY" rule on it is neither helpful nor realistic.

Or the part where he says he hates all other writers. That was hyperbole, I think.


However, the thing about the article that bugged me the most?

This part:
What is certain is that on that same day, whichever one it is, one thousand other people will start their novels. In order to publish mine, it has to be better than theirs.

I don't know if that was also supposed to be some form of hyperbole, but here's what I heard: Publication is only for the BEST BOOKS


Not true.  

We all know that. We all pick up books and go, "How did this get published???"


There are a lot of factors that influence publication:

1) Talent, but also...
2) Persistence
3) Luck
4) Marketability  
5) Connections

Sometimes things are actually published because the writer knows the right people. People pull strings for each other.

I recall purchasing a book from an author who seemed perfectly nice. His debut novel was published by a MAJOR publisher, part of a trilogy released in hardback, ebook, and paperback. Fancy Schmancy.

Not far into the novel, I figured out that it was Full of Tropes. Painfully so. And the writing had some issues, like having the POV character's head explode...and yet that scene continued....somehow. 

The blurbs were admiring, but the reviews weren't. Publisher's Weekly was downright...well, it wasn't pretty. 

Notably, there wasn't a second series.

It was not the Best Book...but somehow, this person had gotten a lucrative 3-book deal with a major publisher. Instead of #1, the writer had 4 and 5. He was young and good looking, and a protege of some old-school Big-Name Writers. He was connected in another industry. And there may have been luck involved. I don't know. 

But I still remember reading that book in my hotel room, over a decade ago now, and thinking of some of my friends who'd written truly amazing books. And they weren't published (or were having trouble selling books at that time.) 

I wasn't at that time, either. I had written Dreaming Death a couple of years before that, but had only gotten form rejections from agents at that point. (Including one from my future agent!)

My whole point being that the assumption that his books are the Best Books because he's being published is a false one.  

It's entirely true that his books might actually BE the Best Books. They could be.  

But every day the Best Books are languishing on an agent's desk. They're being rejected by publishers. They're being left on computers because the writer's health is too bad at the time to deal with sending things out.  Or they don't have enough spoons. Or they have to work too many hours to pay bills and keep a roof over their heads to learn the systems of submitting and querying. And they surely don't have time to go to a conference and pitch to an agent/editor.  

And you can say that those people just aren't trying hard enough, but if you can say that, you may be suffering from privilege. For most people, keeping a roof over their head isn't an option. Trying to keep their health isn't optional. 

(As an aside, this isn't a statement about self-publishing. I'm only talking about traditional publishing and the assumption that the gatekeepers choose the best books. The self-publishing discussion is one for another time and place.) 

So while a lot of people took exception to that article for other, very valid, reasons, that was the thing that annoyed me. I dislike the automatic assumption that any book published by a Big Publisher is going to be great...or that all the books that didn't get there are inferior. Look around and you'll probably find dozens of great books that are published by smaller publishers, or indie-published.  And, on occasion, you'll find a real lemon under the hardcover jacket at the bookstore. 
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J. Kathleen Cheney

July 2017

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