Do I Need Contacts or Connections?
It seems to be a common myth that only insiders and well-connected people have a shot at being published. The average schlub from some small midwestern town who doesn’t know anyone important and didn’t go to an Ivy League school doesn’t have a chance, they think.
While it may be easier to get your book read by an agent or a publisher if you are connected, the fact is, those things will not help your book actually get published, and they certainly won’t help it sell.
One man told me once he intended to go deeply into debt in order to take a master’s degree in Creative Writing at a prestigious university. He already felt he was a strong writer, he said, and he didn’t think he had terribly much to gain in that department. His real reason for going was because he believed he would make lots of publishing contacts.
And you know what? Maybe he would. He might end up knowing every single famous writer, agent, and editor in America. But none of that would make him a better writer, and it wouldn’t aid him in his own quest to get published.
There is, among the hopeful novelist, the perception that publication is the Holy Grail. I certainly understand this mindset, because I shared it for many years. But having experienced it many times over, I can tell you this: the simple fact of having a book commercially published is not going to change things the way you think it is. Statistically speaking, it is not going to become a best-seller. Statistically speaking, it will not be the start of a long, glorious career for you. Statistically speaking, you will not earn out your advance, which means that the next time you try to publish something, it’s going to be harder to sell it, not easier.
“I don’t care about any of that,” you say. “I am not interested in being wealthy or even famous. All I care about is the fact that my work is out there for the world to read. I want to be able to lie on my deathbed and have that sense of satisfaction that I know will come only with publication. As long as I can see my name on the spine of my novel, I can die happy.”
I’m sure you’ve said this about other things in life, too, haven’t you? Did you possibly say this about acquiring a certain possession, or entering into a relationship, or owning a house, or achieving a life goal such as parenthood, graduation, employment, or some other thing you decided was important? And once you achieved that thing, after the initial glow wore off, did you stop wanting anything else? Were you content to never try to achieve anything else in your life ever again? Were you, in fact, done?
Of course not.
Publication is no different. Yes, it would be very nice if it happened for you. No, it doesn’t actually matter. Trust me on this. It really doesn’t.
Why not? Because it doesn’t affect your worth as a person, that’s why not. The imprimatur of a publisher on your work doesn’t even mean it’s good. What matters, at the root of it all, is that you write because you love to write.
Of course, I know you’re rolling your eyes at this. An earlier version of me would have done exactly the same. But that earlier version of me was also naive, and to be frank, narcissistic. What I really wanted was to hear from people what a great writer I was. I craved approval. I craved adulation. I craved fulfillment. And those are cravings that never actually go away. They must be dealt with through honest self-examination, or they only get bigger.
And besides, as I said above, self-publishing is a very attractive option these days… which renders the whole argument moot.
Aren’t we lucky to be alive?
Kowalski’s latest work, THE BEST POLISH RESTAURANT IN BUFFALO is now underway due to fans’ crowd funding. HTTPS://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1754449570/the-best-polish-restaurant-in-buffalo-help-publish/
Learn more about William Kowalski at https://www.williamkowalski.com
Read the first article in this series: The Business of Publishing.