Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Skint Writer on getting published

Maxine of Petrona has kindly pointed out to me a post on the Skint Writer blog which is entitled How to get published (not).

Skint Writer describes him/herself as living in Wales, and as 'a writer and artist with a little success in the off-line world. Published a poetry and a cookery book, written a few articles -- three unpublished novels in the drawer, loads of short stories hanging about and a few paintings sold.'

Usually I would just post a link to a piece on a writer's blog, but this time I'm going to save you the trouble and quote it in full. Yer tis, as they say in these parts.

Went for a stroll through the back streets of blogdom today, in particular the district tagged as fiction. Deduced that there are thousands, if not tens of thousands of unpublished writers wandering those streets blindfolded and without a map - every lost one of them hoping to bump into the elusive dealer/agent so that they can score a book deal. They trip over each other in the dark and beg for directions to the mythical castles of the publishers.

Thing is, getting published has got little to do with talent and is much more about who you know and what school you went to. I had a hard lesson in this about 7 years ago when I paid a few quid to attend an event at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival. Hay is a small town on the English edge of Wales where the writing mafia gather once a year to display their latest stash of offerings to adoring punters and more importantly to the media mob who channel the hype into our living rooms through the literary sections of newspapers and television arts reports.

Anyway, I handed over the loot and went into a large tent with about a hundred other strung-out would be authors to hear the lowdown on 'How to get published', delivered by a senior editor from one of the biggest and most heavily guarded fortresses of publishing. On the stage with the editor were two of their new authors whose first novels were just being published. The authors and the editor then engaged in a discussion about the process of getting published.

Author 1 was an old friend of the editor - they'd been to some posh school together. They laughed as they described long evenings in the editor's lounge; the room carpeted with pages from the manuscript as they imbibed wine, reminisced and sorted the book out.

Author 2 was a literary editor for a national broadsheet newspaper.

Whatever the title and stated purpose of the seminar, the real message was stark - "if you're an influential friend of an influential editor and you've written a crap book - don't worry - we can fix it, we can lean on the right people in the right places, we know where the bodies are buried. And if you didn't go to the right school there is a another way to get the key to the castle - get yourself a top job in the literary media; then we can do business, nudge-nudge, wink-wink - you know what I mean."

Dear me. To find such cynicism in one so young is deeply distressing; whereas in someone my age it would be entirely understandable. (I am assuming Skint Writer is young, of course.)

But I tell you what: this kid can write. OK, so the post above could do with a polish. But as a piece of reportage it ain't at all bad. And the ability to string the words together is... well, let's say that it's one third of the battle.


skint writer said...

diolch yn fawr G.O.B. :-)

(that's Welsh for Thank you very much)

I'm flattered that you think I'm too young for such cynicism, I won't disillusion you ;)

Anonymous said...

It's always nice to hear someone's voice added, and he does say it quite well--but is he saying anything we didn't already know (young or old?). This is repeated every day in every way (and new ones), but the final point is the frat club is publishing garbage--and the public is loving it (buying it).

Sigh--guess about all we can do is continue babbling about it amongst ourselves...