Being an author is a tough job. OK, maybe not as daunting as the career track those Deadliest Catch folks are on – admittedly, I found myself reaching for the Dramamine more than once watching those crabbing boats being tossed like toys – or Mike Rowe’s gig when he does things like testing shark suits or mucking out sewers on Dirty Jobs.
Still, converting thoughts to printed words in order to tell a coherent story that’s of interest to readers, and then convincing others your efforts are important and well-written enough to publish and promote, well, there are all kinds of adversities mixed up in that endeavor.
I’ve had a number of difficult jobs over the years. I used to be a maid, on my hands and knees cleaning other people’s bathrooms. I was a baseball umpire for 25 years where I was, without question, the most disliked person on the field pretty much every time I stepped on the diamond. As a sportscaster, I was on live television about 2000 times, where, when you make a mistake, there are myriad people who delight in pointing out your errors.
Despite my labors with jobs that didn’t do much toward promoting positive self-esteem, I was definitely not prepared for the rigors of being an author. I’ve written six books: two rest in a drawer, two are published, one will be shortly, and one is a work in progress. Since I began writing 25 years ago, I have been rejected by agents, publishers, editors, and reviewers too many times to count. I’m pretty sure my no-thanks numbers have edged up over the one thousand mark. In fact, I’ve been snubbed so often that I sometimes find myself strangely delighted when I receive a rejection letter that’s, well, kind. A positive comment contained therein might tempt me to tears. (I know I’m not the only one.)
Today, aspiring authors face a different reality than those of the past. The advent of the personal computer and the Internet have paved the way for a huge release of creativity, that, depending on your point of view, is either fabulous or horrifying. On the positive end, anyone can write, self-publish, and post their book on Amazon. It’s estimated that somewhere between 600,000 and one million books are published in the U.S. alone each year, probably half of which are self-published. The other side of the equation is that without the gatekeepers – agents, editors, publishers – finding your gem in that the massive pile of prose is problematic: the proverbial needle in a haystack.
Feeling down yet? All I can say is don’t give into despair. Here’s what I’ve learned from the authors I’ve become acquainted with, my fellow travelers on this detour-filled journey. We are a tough bunch. I have not yet met an author who’s said, “I quit! I can’t take it anymore!” Perhaps that’s why I found a bit of unintended humor at the expense of one of America’s most famous writers: F. Scott Fitzgerald. I recently began watching Z: The Beginning of Everything, a biographical Amazon series based on the life of Zelda Fitzgerald, the writer’s wife and muse. In one of the early scenes, F. Scott opens a letter from a publisher. His book is rejected. And F. Scott, who up until that point was dashing and strong and optimistic, disintegrates into a despondent pile of mush and goes completely off the rails, drunk, depressed, needing Zelda to give him strength. While I know my reaction was not what the show’s writers intended, I couldn’t help it. I felt like laughing. I wanted to yell at F. Scott to pick himself up. Get over it! Move on! Try again!
And then, I wondered whether the famed writer of The Great Gatsby would have survived the complexities of today’s publishing world. And what about Hemingway? Twain? Faulkner? Steinbeck? How might these giants of the industry have navigated the choppy waters we face today?
I think they would have struggled, just like we do.
So, my fellow authors, take heart! Be strong. Be proud. The fact that you’ve even finished writing a book puts you in rarified air. You will survive, if you don’t take rejection personally – Yes, I know it’s hard – and if you have a sense of humor.
Anne Montgomery is an author. Her new novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other? The Scent of Rain will be released on March 28, 2017.