Many of you know that I recently entered Love Sex Magick into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition sponsored by (you guessed it) Amazon and their subsidiary CreateSpace. I was super excited about participating as this was a low investment, low risk opportunity that allowed me to feel like I was doing something with my novel. For those of you who are not writers, this business is all about the waiting. It takes months, sometimes years) to get a manuscript ready for primetime, especially when you are a new writer and still developing your craft. I wanted to feel like I wasn’t just waiting for a response from an editor or agent. I wanted to know that I was taking advantage of all opportunities to get this baby published.
Today is the first deadline for the competition. Over the last two or three days I have been reading through the forums, and let me just tell you, it is completely depressing. Some folks have entered this contest year after year. They spent months before the submission period even opened, working on their submission and fretting over how quickly the 5,000 slots would fill up. I have heard a lot of bad things about the competition: that it is disorganized, that it is a complete crap shoot, that your odds of winning are like winning the lottery!
Everyone is entitled to their opinion and there may be some truth to the disorganization and lack of structure of the competition (at least in year’s past). What worries me is how much weight folks are putting on this single opportunity for publishing. You probably have a stronger chance of getting published by submitting your manuscript to an agent or editor the traditional way than entering a competition with 10,000 other contestants vying for two spots. Knowing this, why would you define the success of your writing career on whether or not you win this competition? My goal was never to win. If I do, well that would just be a high power at work. My goal was to make it to the online voting. I wanted to have my excerpt on the site. I wanted to generate a little bit of traffic to my blog. I wanted people excited and interested about my novel and eagerly awaiting my next move. And maybe there was a little bit of self-indulgence here. I just wanted some validation for the quality of my work. As an aspiring author, we don’t get that opportunity very often.
Unfortunately, not having realistic expectations can really mess with your mind and your confidence as a writer. So can hanging around too many aspiring authors that are caught in that negative cycle of, “this is a complete waste of time,” “no one ever gets published,” “I’m the world’s most amazing writer and the industry is screwing me over.” Seriously, get a grip. I believe one should have confidence in themselves and their work. I also believe that sometimes writers are overconfident and can’t see the flaws in their own work because they are simply way too close to the project. It’s like thinking someone else’s kids are spoiled rotten brats and not realizing your children act the same way. Parents are often blind to the flaws of their children and in some cases for good reason. Writers tend to do this too, simply because they have invested so much (time, money, blood, sweat and tears!) into their manuscript. But to be successful in this business we need to know how to take criticism of our work and use it to make our writing better.
One man made a post and said he had been rejected by nearly 100 editors. My first thought was, did you learn anything from any of those rejections? For me, after the first twenty five I might have signed up for some consultation sessions at a conference with an agent or editor or submitted it to one of my writing groups with the specific intention of trying to figure out what is not working.
Call me crazy, but I believe that if you are a strong writer and put together a strong novel, it will get published. Someone will eventually buy it or agree to represent you. The bottom line is publishing is a business and if they think your book will sell and make money, they are not going to turn you away. The man I referenced above, after reading more of his posts I realized he knew very little about the business of writing. The methods in which he was using to get in front of a publisher and try and convince them to buy his work was probably contributing to his lack of success in that endeavor. Bottom line….if you really want to be a published author: (1) write a good story, and (2) learn the proper etiquette of the business.