The Realities of the Writing Industry Part 1


It’s sometimes a struggle to convince some writers of the realities of the industry in which they are working.

The common belief amongst some is that all they have to do is complete a novel or a collection of short stories, offer it around to publishers or publish it themselves, and then the rest will somehow take care of itself: the reading world, unknowingly craving their work, will detect and pursue it upon its appearance, volume sales will follow, and the writer can then retire or prepare another best-seller for the demanding masses.

Even many writers who are more realistic about all this seem convinced that, though there may be a few difficulties on the way, commercial success should occur almost immediately upon the successful publication of a piece of their work.

I think these false expectations owe much to the kind of society into which we have all been born, the consumerist culture which suggests that desires can be fulfilled very rapidly if not immediately - and even more pertinently, that it is right to have such desires and right to expect them to be fulfilled swiftly. We have all been inculcated with these notions, probably from birth. I noticed in my infant daughter, for example, that any concept of time or of having to wait for anything was incomprehensible to her - any need that she had had to be met at once, or else. Any delays in providing for her would be met with voluminous protest.

This attitude - the protesting of unfulfilled needs, based on the expectation of instant gratification - changes little for some people as they grow older. The growth of supermarkets providing out-of-season foods, available easily, along with the electronic culture of push-button satisfaction, has resulted in a consumerist mind-set which means that the idea that anything takes time, or that some things require persistent effort, and that things develop along seasonal patterns, becomes quite foreign.

Hence this analogy between the world of the writer and the world of the farmer.

‘Harvest’ for the farmer and the writer amounts to much the same thing in the end: the culmination of a large amount of work, converted into cash and satisfaction in the farmer’s case and cash and recognition in the writer’s. But before either can contemplate the harvest, that large amount of work has to actually take place. And certain hard facts need to be confronted by the writer as they are by the farmer.

1. Farming and writing are hard work.