Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

The Banzai School for Famous Authors

"Hey, hey, hey. Don't be mean. We don't have to be mean because, remember, no matter where you go, there you are." -- B. Banzai

Ok, so there was this little non-rant from me yesterday about small press snarkiness. Some folks, including the estimable amberdine, disagreed with my admittedly second-hand diagnosis of what seemed to be going on in a particular corner of writerly blogistan.

I've been thinking since about what bothered me so much. It's not small press snarkiness per se -- everyone's entitled to an opinion, whether or not I agree with them. It's not even the issue of Pronouncements Being Made, as mme_publisher called B.S. on me for doing recently. It's the question of being nice.

There are certain BNAs who are (in)famous for discouraging new writers, under the rubric that this is such a difficult business that no one should write unless they really have to, and really, hammering people down is doing them a favor by steering them toward more rewarding careers in macarame or seed art. I have no idea if this is true, but it's an oft-repeated tale in our field. I see the logic, though I don't agree with it at all.

Here's the thing. It doesn't cost anything to be nice, and nice is in all too short a supply as it is.

There are far too many checkpoints, roadblocks and outright failures in this business for all but the most pathologically persistent to endure. At this point in my career, I get about four short fiction rejections for every sale. I still haven't cracked Analog or F&SF, and I have no particular expectation I ever will. (About 150 of my 1000+ submissions over the past five years have been to F&SF, I think I came close once.) Both publishers with whom I am under contract have rejected novels from me as proposed second books. Finished novels, not proposals, which means I already did a lot of damned work. I'm not complaining, I consider myself quite successful thus far, just pointing out that even my level of success has a high failure ratio.

So if a rising pro like me rolls in failure every day, with a hit rate around 25% when things are going very well, what's it feel like to be an aspiring writer? Me, I spent ten years going to the mailbox every day looking for those slim SASEs with flyspecked form letters tucked into them before I ever made a sale. Ten years of serious submitting before I cracked it open. I remember what it feels like to try and try and try, not for a 25% success rate, but for a 0% success rate, and still push stories out the keyboard, off the printer, and into the mail, hoping to make that one sale that would complete my ambitions.

Writers at all levels are beset by failure. Being a writer means learning a lot of mental tricks, many of which I've addressed here, or with specficrider in our IROSF column. But being a writer also means supporting other writers. It means not denigrating "minor" sales, even if they are to markets you don't submit to. It means celebrating success, even if that success comes in a form you find unacceptable in your own career. It means building each other up instead of running each other down because the market "wasn't good enough." Yes, when someone hits the top mark, that's cause for a whole bunch of pizza and beer, or whatever your celebration of choice is, but when someone hits any mark, that deserves support and encouragement.

So I'm with Buckaroo Banzai. Be nice. No matter where you go, we've all been there.
Tags: process, publishing, writing

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