Back in February of 2013, I wrote a little blog post called Writing Tips: How to Handle Rejection. A huge part of this post was dedicated to John Tompkins. At the time, he wrote a blog called Rejection Love Letters (Or How to Lose Agents and Alienate Publishers). That blog no longer exists, but it was one of my favorites. Why? Because John Tompkins had a fearlessness many crave. He shared his rejection letters from publishers with humor and honesty, and while I think every writer has been rejected, he was open about it, and that is rare. Since then, he has since self-published, and today, he is writing an article for us about another topic many authors can relate to—working and writing, as two separate full-time jobs.
When Writing is Not All You Do
Writing is easy. Getting published is hard. This is especially true for those who work and have families. It’s pretty difficult to advance your writing career when you’re alternating your time between a job, washing dishes after dinner, bathing your child and helping with laundry.
A writer recently posted an item on Salon claiming that authors who do nothing but write, thanks to financial security, shouldn’t be judged because they have the luxury to live all writing all the time.
One encouraging thing the writer did say, however, is that those who are privileged should disclose that and not pretend that they had to fight through the clutter on Amazon or through the slush pile with a publisher to get noticed. Many of them have connections in the publishing industry and quite simply don’t know what it’s like to struggle. The Salon writer offered two examples of successful writers. One is due to inherit a sizable fortune and has time to do nothing but write. The other is a young woman who was the only child of a couple heavily involved in the New York literary scene. Her being published was foregone the moment she was born.
I’m a married father of one with another one due in June. I also work full time, mostly writing at night while my wife’s asleep or during King of Queens reruns. Have to fit it in somewhere.
I’ve written now, three books (ok two books and one novella) all of which have been rejected (I’ve got more than 100 reject letters). Most of the letters I made fun of by posting to a now defunct blog. Reading the rejections, I noticed that they all pretty much sounded the same. “Sorry, you’re good, but you’re not spectacular.” I gave up with agents and publishers and decided, after having two PhD’s edit my book, to just put it out there.
I posted it to Amazon about a month ago. Hopefully it will make it through all of the clutter but I guess we’ll see. I’m doing my best to market it and I’m also struggling to find reviewers.
I think my problem with the publishing industry is mostly the second example. Too many people who are talented with something valuable to say are ignored by publishers because they didn’t grow up in the Northeast or have connections from graduate school. So they’re ignored. It’s a disservice to readers and the art in general. I said as much in a comment to the Salon story.
It shouldn’t anger me so much to hear authors who start off wealthy and have nothing to do but write. But it does and it is easy to get discouraged.
There are the handful of success stories, notably E.L. James and a series of books you may have heard of, Fifty Shades of Grey. She self-published her novels originally as e-books. You know the rest of the story. One of the tidbits I enjoy about her success is when the director was making the ending to the recently released movie, James ordered him to make the ending she wanted. That’s control that most authors never get because so few have subsidiary rights. (Further ironic because the whole story is about personal control and giving it up.) This all being said, James was a television executive when she was writing Fifty Shades. But unlike other privileged writers, she released her works as any other independent author. Her books actually started out as fan fiction of the Twilight series.
This is about the only thing I think that keeps me going. When I’m sitting in my bed at 12 a.m. trying to hit my daily 1,500-word quota on number four, I can only dream about the day when I can type at a desk during the day. I will probably still have King of Queens on in the background though.
John Tompkins is a writer living in Texas. He is a former newspaper reporter specializing in court coverage, education and government. He is now working as a communications coordinator at local college.
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