Tim Clare, “Everyone Does Not Have A Novel Inside Them”:
“The publishing world, frankly, is a cartel,” opined G. P. Taylor, children’s author and erstwhile self-publisher, “you can only get in there if you’re in the know…I and J. K. Rowling were discovered by accident. Most people are in the club, and it’s a mafia.”
[…F]or a grand cosmic fluke, J. K. Rowling’s “discovery” seems suspiciously stage-managed. Upon finishing her first Harry Potter novel, The Philosopher’s Stone, she sent the first three chapters to an agent, who turned them down. She sent them to a second agent, who asked to see the rest of the manuscript. A year later the agent secured a publishing contract. Behind the scenes there may have been smoke-filled pool halls, gunpoint negotiations and the ritual amputation of little fingers, but on the surface it seems rather genteel for the mob.
The truth is a disproportionate number of publishers are wide-eyed idealists with a frightening propensity for chucking good money after bad. As much as agents and editors may feign a cool professional insouciance, most dream of stumbling across The Next Big Thing and securing their place in industry history. While veteran authors languish in the mid-list doldrums, jammy first-timers rake in vast advances on the promise of long and lucrative careers, which frequently fail to materialise. Publishers act with one eye on posterity, leaving their accountants with ulcers the size of kumquats, and the UK book market saturated with newcomers brawling over a limited readership.
Despite this, there will always be luminaries such as G. P. Taylor who are happy to curry favour with the disaffected and untalented. Enthusiastically promoting a competition with the aim of finding “the next J. K. Rowling”, Taylor made the bizarre claim that “for the first time ever, a publisher is going to offer someone totally unknown the chance to be published”. […T]he simple fact is that unknown authors are being taken on every day, and frankly, publishers and established authors suffer because of it. The British publishing industry is crying out for a high-profile hothead to disabuse thousands of needy, bumbling timewasters of the notion that nascent masterpieces stir within their loins.
[…] If anything, the British publishing industry is too open to new writers at the expense of skilled stalwarts. […] Instead of promoting an attitude of “everyone has won and all shall have prizes”, the industry needs to remind people that brilliant writing is very, very hard, that there are many dragons to be fought on the way to publication, and that perishing in the battle is no shame.
The above was read aloud to a small band of Tor editors who responded with unruly outbursts of cheering. Mind you, this was on a day when I’d bought a first novel just two hours before, and a good book it is, too. Which simply demonstrates that Clare has hold of a Higher Truth, which, like many Higher Truths, is easily refuted and yet persists…