When Tolkien was trying to write Lord of the Rings, he didn’t have a blog. He didn’t even have an agent. He just had a very determined publisher. It took decades to finish and even longer for it to be printed. During this time, Tolkien did not go on publicity tours. He simply continued his job as a professor at Oxford and kept writing stories contained in Middle Earth.
Would Tolkien have been able to publish his novels today? He warned his publisher that it would take him a long time to write a follow up to the Hobbit, and it’s debatable if a publisher would have tolerated a decade between books, let alone allow him leave it so lengthy, unedited and then paid him such nice royalties after the publishing costs were covered.
Today a writer, even a professor, can’t expect the same sort of treatment. Writers Digest suggests that your first step (apart from buying their magazine/book/subscription to their website) is to find an agent who, lucky you, has of course has advertised/registered with them. Rightreading.com gives you ten not so easy steps:
2. Examine your values
3. Learn about publishing
7. More research
My editor, of course, recommends you find an editor first. Others recommend that you immerse yourself in the field of publishing, without pay, of course, unless you want to become an editor, agent or publisher, in which case, you will have a job in the industry before being published in it.
Then, when you do get published, you must promote, promote, promote. Yourself mostly, of course, unless you have an agent, in which case they promote you, but you still have to give them all the ‘stuff’ to use to promote you, including a blog, a facebook page, twitter account, email, etc. etc.
It’s pretty clear that you, as a writer, have to do a WHOLE lot of self promotion to be successful in the field. All your articles, your blog posts, your emails have to direct a reader back to more of your writing. To be a successful freelance writer, you have to do the whole shabang even more.
It’s easy to do this when you’re single, have no kids, and your facebook page is full of selfies and self absorbed ruminations, news stories and memes, but this gets harder and harder to maintain as you develop relationships (IRL) and even families. The truth is, as you get older, as the saying goes, “I’m just not that into me.” It is difficult for any healthy adult to maintain such a narcissistic relationship with himself and his writing. One might even go so far as to say that those who can are a little too into themselves — far too into themselves to be a writer who looses himself in the work, because developing characters is like developing character.
It takes time to write good stories, and it takes a distance from yourself to give them depth. Distance that the current industry doesn’t seem to take into account, demand or even desire from their writers. The industry hears readers wanting the next book of a trilogy NOW, but they seem to ignore the disappointment of readers when the quick turnaround becomes a poorly conceived end to what was such a promising beginning.
Maybe this is why the publishing industry is being replaced, slowly but surely, by self publishers and small indy publishers. Writers don’t write to be into themselves. They write because they love what they are writing about. That is almost never themselves–not their REAL selves, anyway.* Writers love getting lost in their own stories, and a contract or a constant publicity tour does not allow them that luxury.
These are writers we are talking about. They are people who like to listen to voices in their head. They aren’t people who are meant to go on tours and talk to people they don’t know. They don’t/aren’t/don’t become politicians or actors. How many great writers are great actors or politicians? They are writers. The sooner the real world acknowledges that writers just aren’t that into themselves, the better stories readers will get.