How many of you have heard the old cliche’ about the guy looking for a job? He goes in to apply and the boss says, “You’re perfect, except we need someone with more experience.”
The guy says, “How am I supposed to get experience unless I get the job?”
The boss says, “Don’t try to confuse me with logic. Just come back when you’ve got more experience.”
Well, I think the old cliche’ goes something like that, anyway. I tend to ignore cliche’s for the most part, except to try and avoid them. But, for the purpose of this article, I think it’s important to draw on one of the old favorites.
But why bother? Don’t worry, I’m getting to that… eventually. And just a side note… what the heck is Aaron insinuating? I don’t make a habit of using his ideas… or do I?
Now, where was I? Oh yes. Need experience before you get the job, or something to that effect…
One of the truisms of writing made itself blaringly obvious to me the other day. No, not the one about a million monkeys typing on a million typewriters, either. This truism is about the part reputation plays in the publishing world.
Ridiculous, you might say. Outrageous, you may shout. Or would you?
The revelation came to me as I was reading Dragon Fire, by Todd McCaffery. For those of you Science Fiction/Fantasy veterans, you probably know that Todd is the second generation in his family writing about Pern. For those of you with a blank look on your faces, go directly to your public library and pick up any book by Anne McCaffery (specifically on the Dragonriders of Pern) and introduce yourselves at once.
Anyway, I have been reading about Pern since I was 12 years old (and believe me, that was a LONG time ago). Back when Anne was much younger and more prolific (she’s 90+ now and only co-authors stuff), I waited with anxious anticipation for each consecutive volume of her work. In fact, I loved her books so much that I bought pretty much everything she ever wrote.
The books were exciting, the characters vibrant and the settings dynamic. Everything I wanted in a book.
Along comes her son, Todd, a few years ago. He co-wrote the book Dragons Kin with his mother. I bought the book and read it with much eagerness. The story was solid. The writing was OK. The ending was poor. But I was able to escape back to Pern once more. Still, I finished it feeling that the book wasn’t quite up to snuff.
And what qualified Todd to write the story? Well, other than his parentage… nothing. He had absolutely no writing credits to his name. In fact, his career to that point was in IT as a Computer Engineer. Nothing wrong with that. But, I finished that book thinking, if he could get published, I sure as heck could too.
Back to present day. I just finished reading his second book, Dragon Fire. This time he has solo writing credit (I believe). The story this time? Not so solid. In fact, brand new concepts that, to me, seemed somewhat contrived. There were times when I couldn’t quite make out why the characters were doing some things. Some characters were mentioned for no apparent reason at all. I still enjoyed going back to Pern once more, but this time, I knew without a doubt that I could write at least as good a story as Todd and maybe better.
So why is he published and I’m not?
Reputation. Ah! You see the method to my madness now, don’t you?
I don’t know of any other industry quite so reliant on reputation as writing (unless you’re talking the movie industry… it can be equally bad). Todd got the book deal because of who his mother is and what she’s done, not because he is a great or even good writer. And he’s not the only one. How many books are in print because of who wrote it (or appeared to write it)?
So how do you grow your reputation? By getting published, of course. Published credits are important, after all. But wait… didn’t I just say you needed to be published to get published?
Well, sort of.
Today, we are fortunate to have many more avenues to explore. For example, Writing Sites (didn’t see that one coming, did you) and fan fiction sites. How about personal websites and chat rooms about writing? Or you could do something crazy like the parents of Eragon author Christopher Paolini and mortgage your house so you can put in full-page advertisements in the New York Times to get exposure.
So what am I doing to enhance my reputation?
Well, you’re looking at one example right now. I’m also sending my work out to publishers so they can see my writing. I’m also networking with Writers and eventually with Publishers. And so on… Eventually, I’ll hit critical mass and either explode or have my work put into print.
So there you have it. My rant on the power of reputation in writing. It’s not terribly fair, but who said life was fair? We work with what we have, I suppose.
So, have you any other ideas I can “borrow” to enhance my reputation?
Let me know. And while you’re at it, tell three of your friends about “Starting Write Now” and have them tell three friends and so on, and so on, and so on….