When I left Korea, Julian – one of my closest friends and also the editor of two magazines I worked for – very politely referred to me as a literary ‘big fish in a small pond’. He may have been being a little too nice, but I’m still incredibly proud of my achievements in Korea: in excess of one hundred published articles, regular writer for a national magazine and the official tourism website and a brief but extremely CV-worthy collaboration with Lonely Planet. For someone without a single piece of published writing to his name just over a year ago, I see that as a pretty strong effort (keep going, this does have a purpose other than blowing my own trumpet… )
The reality – which I never deluded myself enough to lose site of – is that being a relatively major player in Seoul counts for very little when I get back to an English speaking country. Dublin has a wonderful city-centre facility called the writers centre, which I’ve been making good use of recently. It’s a grant run facility that focuses on providing support for established and budding writers through offering advice, courses and moral support. This evening I went to a talk by a big literary agent that put a hefty knock in my confidence.
I don’t know who it was who said ‘everyone has a book in them’ but I’m willing to bet they were one of the following: a. an irritatingly successful writer with more novels to their name than birthdays b. somebody who’d never actually penned a word for publications or c. a total moron. They were quite possibly two of the above.
A couple of hours with the literary agent and it’s easy to understand why he’s not on the written side of the business. Looking around a bookshop you’d think there are a huge amount of writers out there. I mean simply looking at the quantity of titles available on Amazon; statistically around one in a hundred people in the UK must publish a book at some stage in their life. I’m willing to bet not more than one in fifty or so seriously try. The pros paint the process as a somewhat bleak one, however. IF you get accepted by an agent, IF you write something even worth taking to a publisher, IF the publisher doesn’t decide you’re not ‘marketable’ and IF you book doesn’t completely flunk after the first print, you might be onto something resembling the profit of a single months work in an average job. If you’re not JK Rowling (who frankly barely has an original idea in her books, just great marketing and a slightly more childish style of writing then her predecessors), don’t quit your day job. Now that just fills be with optimism.
I’m not giving up, of course. It’s good to know what you’re up against, and if anything it’s going to motivate me to work harder. If nothing else, I can hang onto the fact that I’m not really trying to write a book anyway (short articles is where it’s at for now) and I still have regular requests coming in from Korea to do various pieces (if only it paid a bit more… ).
I’ll be going down the library now, churning out an endless stream of reasonably high quality articles and submitting them to anyone I think might listen. Submitted about fifteen proposals to high-end publications since I got back, one accepted. If I can manage 15 submissions a day I might just have a career…
See you in a month (Yeah right, I think you all know I’ll be blogging again in a few days… )
Incidentally, if anyone’s feeling like a philosophical brain teaser, the BBC is currently messing with my head with this: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7739493.stm (four philosophical questions to make your brain hurt – nice)