There is no doubt that today's publishing industry isn't the same as it was 100 years ago or even just decade ago. As in most other industries, technology has taken hold and transformed it. Anyone now has the opportunity to be published, and there are a number of methods for publishing one's work, including self-publication. With this opportunity that has arisen for all new authors looking to get published, I decided to get in a touch with a good friend of mine about her journey as an author in pursuit of being published for the first time, so that she could share her experiences and hopefully help other new authors out there trying to get their foot in the door. Kayla (http://scribbledwriting.tumblr.com/) has been writing for as long as she can remember, a common interest that we share. She told me that there really wasn't anything specific that triggered it; it was something she had just always wanted to do. However, her grandmother was a big support to her writing pursuit in her early years. In the interview, Kayla said, "I wrote my first story, called 'The Dancing Flowers,' while visiting my Grandma. She bound it and lamented it for me, and gave me the biggest push when it came to deciding that writing is what I wanted to do." She gets most of her inspiration from books, songs, and movies, but it can come from anywhere, even something small, such as a conversation.
I first asked Kayla what her general take on the modern-day publishing industry was, to which she replied, "The modern-day publishing industry does the best that they can to ensure that new literary works are exposed but they are also a company, and companies need to make money. So, unfortunately, they take on what they believe will sell." Holding a similar view on the matter, I told her that I rather agreed. I then asked more specifically how the effect of technology on the publishing industry has changed her view of it. Her second response was a bit different: "With the internet right at our fingertips, and with sites like FictionPress and Young Writer's Society, it gives the illusion and the false sense of security that anyone can become a published writer...[But] the publishing industry has gotten a lot more strict with what they accept."
At first, the seemingly contradictory response caught me off guard. However, I pondered her response for some time and realized that Kayla made a really valid point: because of the ease of self-publishing, traditional publishing companies are forced to take a closer look at the work that they receive from authors, making them pickier about whom and what they choose to publish. This is both good news and bad news to new authors out there. The good news is that if you get published by a traditional publisher, you know your writing is probably pretty high quality, and it will likely sell well. The bad news is that along with being pickier, many traditional publishers now shy away from accepting new authors without an agent. Why? It's higher risk for them. They have to make sure that the book will sell, and let's face it: most new authors aren't going to become best-sellers overnight or with their first book.
Kayla was faced with this fact in one of the rejection letters she received. However, she maintained a positive attitude about it: "It's unfair, but again, it's the way it is with any career that you seek. New actors and new singers are always having to try and break the mold. Writing is no different." Her optimism and perseverance are certainly something to be admired. And her insight to the matter is quite brilliant. No matter what career you choose, if you're picking one in the arts, there will be some fierce competition.
This led me to a series of follow-up questions about her writing. How did she make her writing stand out from others'? Was there any particular method to her writing? What types of things did she do to improve her writing skills?
While Kayla didn't have any set routine, there were a few tools and tricks that she used to improve her writing and keep it at its best: "I read a lot of writing articles about grammar and common mistakes. If I don't know a word, or if I'm not certain that the meaning of the word will fit with[in] the context of the sentence, I look it up first. The biggest thing I've noticed that has helped improve my writing skills is to work with others and listen to their feedback." Kayla also keeps a log of specific descriptions of characters and uses guidelines to help pan out her stories. She works closely with her editor to make her work the best that it can be, a process that is "definitely a learning experience." She said that when she gets the pieces back from her editor, the number of markings on them can be overwhelming at first, but helpful in the long run. "It makes you a better writer, and it shows that they care to help you make something worth reading."
As far as writer's block goes, Kayla had a few cures of her own, in addition to the typical taking a break from a piece: "I am a sole believer that when writing you learn a lot more from reading other books. You learn other styles, techniques, new words, new phrases, things that you wouldn't just come up with on your own. I also have a horrid habit though of writing a bunch of other stories on the side. So, if nothing works and all else fails, I switch over to another story that I'm working on."
With only a few last questions lingering, I asked her what the hardest thing about being a writer was. She stated that the rejection letters and self-doubt that one can incur in the publishing process were the most difficult for her, but that the most rewarding part of it all was sometimes "hearing from someone whom you don't even know about how much they love your story and can't wait to read more; it keeps you going." Her passion for being a writer stems from the fact that she just loves to create things that her readers enjoy. For her, "reading the comments of others' opinions and seeing how much they love what they read is one of the best feelings in the world."
Her advice to new authors looking to get published? "You're going to get A LOT of rejection. Don't give up. There will be times when you will question your ability [as a writer] and [wonder] if you should just quit, but persevere and keep your head up."