Continuing on the same theme as my last blog, I will try to demonstrate the daily trials of an unpublished writer using the self-builder as an allegory. It is no secret that I have amassed a portfolio of unfinished projects and need to focus on successfully completing one. Therefore, I’ve returned to an old property with intentions to spruce it up for re-sale.
The revised plans are kept under lock and key in my study, which for the purpose of this allegory will be referred to as an on-site caravan. There are days when I sit within those flimsy four walls, frozen to the bone, wondering if my work will ever manifest into the stuff of dreams. I often wonder why I’m putting myself through such stress - up to my knees in rubble and mud, with nothing to show for my labours; except the bags under my eyes. I’m slightly overwhelmed by the task ahead - losing sleep – worrying that my grand design might not even pass the building regs.
The self-builder can assess their profit margin, whereas the unpublished author has no way of knowing the value of their work-in-progress. When and if they get published, they’re expected to work for free while promoting their book. Quite rightly, Philip Hensher has recently refused to write an introduction to an academic’s book for free. In the light of this news, many authors have expressed similar frustrations, which is understandable considering they have already spent many hours working for nothing in order to get a book published in the first place.
An unpublished author is required to master their craft by attending workshops and creative writing classes. Then they will need to copper up more money to pitch their work at conferences and festivals. It is also highly advisable to enter numerous competitions, which all require entry fees – of course. And, if the bank has not already stopped their Mastercard, they will be compelled to increase their debts by buying other people’s books to check out the competition. In fact, the unpublished author will build up a vast collection of literature including a ton of guide books and manuals that claim to know the secret of slush pile avoidance. All this expense will be accumulated before they’ve even got around to sending their first three chapters to literary agents. Inevitably, once the unpublished author reaches this stage they must be prepared to suffer the heartbreak of rejection - followed by more rejection - over - and over again. All this sorrow will inevitably come at a cost, not only to the mental health of that person, but also, a small fortune will be frittered away on printing ink, stamps, brown envelopes and SAE’s for receipt of bad news. If the unpaid/unpublished author is fortunate enough to get a contract with an agent, they will have to embark on the daunting task of attracting an editor. This whole process from idea to final publisher submission can take years. I’ve notched up a total of five years and haven’t had a sniff of an advance.
Therefore, I return to my cold caravan to wade through paperwork. I will weigh up the costs that have been incurred against income that may never come my way. I’m growing weary, sinking into unstable ground – subsiding at a rate of knots - in urgent need of some serious underpinning and nerves of steel.