Many of those who know me, even without having their arms twisted behind their backs, I think would agree that my personality is of a placid and mostly agreeable nature. My life operates uncompromisingly by the Golden Rule and I like to see fairness and tolerance everywhere. Indeed, if I may champion myself for the moment, I live for the underdog.
Therefore, although what I am about to write, I know does not fit into that ethos, nevertheless, I fear the following must be publicly acknowledged by me.
The Golden Rule states that what we give out, will eventually come back but this must be written; The book, Writers & Artist’ yearbook [any year], published by A&C Black (and similar ones by other publishers) is nothing more than a huge waste of expense and paper.
I have to justify that naturally. Here I go; I’ve been buying these editions each year and sending off, at great expense, polite letters (exactly of the type as requested), stamped addressed envelopes, long and short synopsis’ and three page introductions, for as long as I can remember. The amount of rejections and the nature of many of them, although immediately dismissive, are, in truth, personally harmful, as the hidden emotionally destructive nature of them has accumulated over the decades.
Literary agents (each) are receiving perhaps as much as 300 submissions a day but take on perhaps two or three authors a year. Very few of the main publishing houses (like Penguin) will not even accept an introductory letter anymore unless it comes from an agent so they have a locked door policy and correspondence is (sometimes) simply returned, occasionally with the barest of explanations.
My point here being that if the agents and publishers do not wish the common unpublished Hoi Polloi to write to them, then what I wish is for them to TAKE THEMSELVES OUT OF THE BOOKS and stop wasting everyone’s time and money.
I am beginning to believe the only way I can draw attention to myself would be to chew on a live baby, outside the doors of the BBC in Regent Street whilst juggling in the nude. Naturally I blame the Internet and the ease in which the so-called creativity applications have made it seem that anyone can write a best seller without first putting in the necessary years of study.
For if these new modern, ‘typists’, who are clogging the system up, had to bang their stories out on a typewriter whilst not having the benefit of spelling or grammar checkers or the help of those proliferation of programs which purport to help those buying them write better, then I am convinced many would not bother. They would probably just continue to mindlessly watch Eastenders, ‘Coronation Street’ and Hollyoaks. The trouble is, everyone wants that fifteen minutes of fame.
To write a decent novel takes many years out of one’s life and is a huge commitment, a state of mind that many in this speedy Internet age do not possess. Or have lost the ability.
I do not blame the agents and publishers per se. They have had to take what measures they have taken to safeguard their resources. Quite understandable. However, that does not assist me, an impoverished writer, of doubtful heritage, gender and education, existing without the benefit of any nepotism whatsoever, and who now comes across as mean and angry and whose works are being swept away with the poorly-written dross of the masses.
I had to laugh the other night. A sad sort of laugh. The South Bank Show did a special on Sarah Waters the esteemed British lesbian author. At one point, Melvyn Bragg mentioned that he understood her first novel was a bit hard to get published. Oh yes, she said, about ten publishers rejected me!!!! Only ten? I sputtered over my hot chocolate. I’ve had tens of hundreds of rejections over a period of twenty years. What lives of cream some people lead.
I am fully aware that the relationship between a creative and a financier is inherently hostile. They don’t think about the same things, they don’t talk about the same things; they don’t do the same things. They don’t even speak the same language. About all they have in common, in this business, are words on paper. Again, for the caricature, financiers see writers as flaky and artists see financiers as the soulless bean-counting robots… in charge. Yea, it’s about power. Whoever pays, decides.
Nothing in this diatribe will change anything but it was good to get it off my tiny chest. So, back to the Golden Rule.