This week reminded you of how acutely you feel the strain of not being able to say that you’re published. You tried to open an Amazon author page, but since you’re in three large anthologies you aren’t the author of record for any of them. You exchanged emails with Customer “Service”; they asked for proof that you’re actually part of those projects. You offered them images of the indexes and essays, but you didn’t know how to attach images to the Amazon response form. When you asked Amazon’s advice, they rejected you out of hand. You retreated without credentials, without an author page, depressed and defeated.
Does this mean you’re not an author? Of course not. But still . . .
You worked for three years as a newspaper columnist. That should count for something, even if the columns only exist on yellowing scraps in your files. Back in the day, people recognized you around town. They praised your work as refreshingly intelligent. That job came as a direct result of your first published piece; you mentioned the essay to someone and two weeks later you landed the newspaper gig. Your first job in eleven years! The gig itself did wonders for your beat down housewife’s ego, and indeed your whole future. It lifted you to believe that your childhood dreams had merit. You started writing fiction again. You poured tens of thousands of passionate words from your soul.
At this point, you engaged friends and family to preview the work. You dared to call yourself an aspiring author. You bit the bullet one day and submitted your story to a literary agent. Scores of queries followed, as did scores of rejections. The more you learned the business, the more you gained confidence, momentum, and a hide thick enough to make a rhinoceros jealous. Rejections trickled in, some expressing praise. People around town asked if you had been published yet. Month after month after year after year they asked the same question, but you could not explain the process in only a nutshell. Easier to say, “No, not yet.”
“No, not yet.”
“No, not yet. Still working on it.”
And so the years passed. You bit the bullet again and ran the manuscript past a professional editor. Now, surely NOW, the agents would clamor to sign you! Once again you queried agents, only this time they remembered you, and agents don’t like saying “no” more than once. Meanwhile, the e-book market had exploded, enabling an influx of inferior writers to gum up the pipelines. Your hybrid story idea confused rather than excited the conservative old guard.
“No, not yet.”
It has grown just as tiresome for you to repeat this refrain as it probably is for people to politely ask it of you. You know what they’re thinking: “If New York doesn’t want you, then you must be a hack.” It’s not remotely that simple, but it would take an hour to explain the ins and outs of modern publishing. As you stand poised to explore the world of self-publication, defeat rings in your ears. You hear whispers of derision: “Vanity press—she had to pay someone to print it. She’ll sell a dozen or two at best.”
But you have bigger plans than that. You may be delusional, but you’re determined as hell. Your readers have led you to think you might have a shot at success. So, you throw a few irons on the fire. You generate projects of all sorts. You’re working efficiently for the first time in a couple of years.
“No, not yet,” you tell those who still remember to ask.
You wince inwardly but nevertheless lift your chin to the sky. “Not yet, but soon, very soon.” You’ll show Amazon you merit a proper author page. You’ll show the doubters who long ago grew tired of asking. You’ll show yourself and your kids that you weren’t wasting time. And sooner, rather than later, the pain of all this waiting and trying and waiting some more will reach its fruition. You are an author of essays and columns, of novels and letters. You’ve already accomplished so much that you ought to be proud of. Be patient, as always, and keep writing. Keep making decisions that nudge you ever and always in the direction of success.
Never say die, Colleen!! Excellent letter! 😀