After attending 2 talks given by the fascinating Will Self at the Melbourne Writers Festival, and understanding the difference between someone like him and the rest of us, it led me to ponder the difficulties of being a mid-range author. Thus the following article appeared in ‘Buzzwords’, an ezine for those interested in anything to do with writing and illustrating for young people.
Given I have written many books for readers of all ages, I classify myself as a midrange author. Mid-range means I have books in many genres, but haven’t remained with one company and my name doesn’t run off everyone’s lips.
I have always viewed being an author as a tripartite process: writing, finding a publisher, and marketing. These days it is increasingly difficult to succeed unless you are outstanding. Everyone owns a computer; there are too many creative writing classes, and even programs that will write for you. Thus publishers are flooded with manuscripts they probably don’t have time for more than scan.
So, if you are under the illusion that if you can only sell that first novel your life will be easier, unless you sell heaps of copies, have won or been shortlisted for a major prize, selling your second and future manuscripts will continue to be a battle. I know of a prolific author who submitted an idea ninety six times before it was picked up.
Each book will be chosen on its own merits – (unless you are a famous pop, movie, or sport star). It’s all about perseverance, the word I display above my desk. We mid-rangers are also up against another oddity. Some publishers and many writing competitions only want non-published authors to submit. If I ever win a lottery I will donate a goodly part to mid-range authors who still struggle to sell their work.
Nevertheless we mid rangers have many virtues. Because of our years of experience, we handle editors and publishers with diplomacy. We instruct and mentor emerging writers. Above all we know when to stand up for our rights. We refuse to be regarded as ‘nice’ and then give our services for free. We know not to be cheated because we are so excited at having our manuscript/s accepted. We understand that if it is rejected that it may be that the company has something similar, or that this is not in their range of interest- though we often suspect that marketing has too large a say. Our major grievance is when we do submit a story, it then falls into a black hole. We suspect there are few other professionals treated this way.
The upshot of this is that these days, though I have lots of time to write, and not too many other pressing commitments, now that I have completed my latest young adult novel after six months of very hard work, I feel somewhat depressed at facing the second and third part of this inevitable process. Thankfully, it hasn’t stop me working on a new idea. There is always the hope that this last effort will be picked up and become a winner. If there are any other midrange authors who would like to argue with this message, please email me.
Today I received this lovely response from Emma Cameron:
Thanks so much for your recent BuzzWords Have Your Say contribution about the difficulties of being a mid-range author. As I began reading I immediately felt compelled to email my thanks. Then, reading your request that mid-range authors wanting to argue with the message email you, hesitated. I’d not dream of arguing against your words. I agree with them. Still, after some thought, I decided there was no reason I shouldn’t email anyway.
Your words provided a timely lift, coming a day after I received rejection to a submission. I’m fairly new in the industry with only two novels to date and, forced to take time out due to health issues, returned to writing only recently. I feel the same frustrations you expressed about increased challenges we now face in these times
I wanted you to know how much I appreciated what you said and, keeping your words in my heart to remind me that I am not alone, I shall persevere. Thanks again, Goldie.