There Are No Shortcuts. Also . . . Buy My Book!

First thing’s first, Playthings of the Gods, that ebook anthology which includes my story “The Long Summer,” was released today! It’s available here, at Drollerie Press’s book store. If you buy a copy, do let me know what you think! In case you couldn’t tell, I love feedback!

Secondly, I stumbled across something I wanted to talk about with the blogging world today, something that felt appropriate for Typing Tuesdays. As work has been slow this month, I’ve been casually perusing freelancing sites, hoping to pick up a little editing or proofreading work. And today I found a job posting which flat out dismayed me.

It was from a formerly self-published writer, asking for help getting his novel published. But he didn’t want editing help. In fact, he specifically said (several times) that editing advice “would not endear” you to him. Instead, he wants someone to research agents and publishers, submit to them using personalized query letters, and then “get him published.” He said that marketing one’s own work is “icky” (a strange attitude for a self-published writer, but, uh, okay). And he specifically stated that he wants to pay someone with personal connections to agents or publishers to “put his work in the hands of the people who count.” He included a writing sample.

It was, of course, objectively awful.

I wish I could write to the guy and send him in the direction of Absolute Write or Preditors and Editors or one of the other multitude of sites out there that detail precisely what a writer needs to do to get his or her work published. But of course, step one is to be willing to take criticism. And this guy clearly isn’t.

In his job posting, the writer mentioned how he felt “weary” of submissions and query letters. I get him–really, I do. It’s absolutely exhausting. I sent out hundreds of submissions and queries last year, and don’t really have much to show for it.

But at the same time, I’ve been editing. Rewriting. Revising. Reading books on craft. Talking about plotting with my critique group. And I’ve grown–oh, how I’ve grown!

Last week, when all that buzz was going around about Amanda Hocking, successful self-published writer, I had a momentary lapse in patience. For a moment, I considered throwing one of my shelved novels up on Amazon under a pseudonym. I thought that maybe I could earn a few bucks from it.

So I opened up The Stone Sorter, a book I unsuccessfully queried just about a year ago, and began reading through it to see if it would be ready for that sort of thing. I remembered it being pretty good–clean, at least.

Uh.

Well, it wasn’t bad; I have enough pride in my writing to know that I’m not a bad writer. There were some charming bits. But it was poorly paced in places, and the world building was woefully underdeveloped and there were lapses in logic that I hand-waved away. Sure, I’ve read worse books, some even released by mainstream publishers (yes, Virginia, bad books do exist). But it’s not the kind of book I’d really want to go public with. I think I’ve written better–I think I’m writing better now.

In short, I can see why all those agents rejected it. And it’s not because they’re meanies, or they have it out for me. It’s not because I lacked personal connections.

It’s because my work could have used more work.

I’m glad to say I’ve grown since then. I hope I’ll continue growing, learning to pin down this elusive, bookish stuff. I hope the stuff I’m writing at fifty is better than the stuff I’ll write at thirty.

But this kind of growth doesn’t happen if you’re not humble. It doesn’t happen if you’re not willing to find people who will tell you the hard truths about your writing. You can’t just magically pay people to make your problems go away. And that’s a good thing, really. For the readers. And for yourself. The world doesn’t need bad books, ones that attain publication through shortcuts or tricks. It needs good books. Books that are the output of writers willing to work hard.

There are no shortcuts. At least none worth taking.