The Joys of being Unpublished


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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
Although I've self-published 44 titles online, I've yet to be offered a traditional publishing contract. I'm still chasing literary agents and publishers who open a submissions window, but this is starting to feel like buying a lottery's always some other lucky blighter who wins!

I'm not downhearted, being stubborn/tenacious/determined/downright stupid, and it recently occurred to me that there is much to be thankful about in not having to kowtow to the demands of an agent, editor and publisher. At the moment, I can do what I like with the novels, novellas, short stories, poetry and song lyrics I've written, including those uploaded to Smashwords and Amazon, which are readily editable.

The four crime novels I've written are so highly polished that they're visible from outer space, but all the same, there's still room for improvement. My brain works in weird ways (God was drunk when he made me), coughing out ideas even when I'm asleep. My grey cells recently offered a suggestion of how to improve a sentence that I've reworked several times since it was written three years ago. This wouldn't be possible had the book been gathering dust on some shelf.

Several famous authors have confessed that they never re-read their earlier work, embarrassed by the mistakes they made. Not being in the public eye, and held to account, has its charms.

‘There's a marvellous peace in not publishing... When you publish, the world thinks you owe something. If you don't publish, they don't know what you're doing. You can keep it for yourself.'

J D Salinger

Do any of you feel similarly blessed?
Nice piece, Paul, but I take the opposite view. Other than a spur to greater things I can't see being unpublished as positive given that the idea of publishing is to reach a wider audience. Apart from the odd freak (think Fifty Shades) most unpublished authors have a readership they could individually name. The traditional route is still by far the more efficient, however hard it is to obtain.
I get enormous pleasure from writing and much of what I write never sees the light of day - all part of the writer's never ending apprenticeship - but the icing on the cake would be traditional publication with its attendant implication of peer review.
For, The Joys of Being Unpublished would be as a short a book as Things the Italians Don't Eat, The Wisdom of George W, and The Charm of Melanie Philips.
Having done the work I want to ship it. If I paint a picture, I want it to find a home or some kind of application or outlet, if only because I like to finish what I start.

Beyond that, yes, I can relate to that idea, absolutely :)

There is such freedom in deciding, take it or leave it.

Same with other things I do.

If what I do is not for you, my friend, well, that's just fine, you'll pass on by and I wish you well. I do what I do because I want to do it, and what an enormous privilege and luxury is it to be able to do that in this struggling world?
For me, traditional publishing is validation, I guess. Anyone - literally anyone - can bang out 70,000 words, upload them, persuade a load of mates to leave five star Amaxon reviews and call themselves a published writer.
Don't get me wrong: I've got friends (especially in their twenties) who've self-published, and their novels are good. Those youngsters (!) don't seem to have the same need for "professional" recognition. They've grown up with social media; perhaps, for them, peer approval is enough.
I'm old-fashioned. I love the idea that someone who knows what they're talking about, who sifts through hundreds of MS a week, might just pick mine.
It would be a real boost after putting in all the grunt hours alone at the kitchen table, sweating over pages that I constantly think are the product of a talentless bell-end...maybe they are. Maybe not. But maybe one day an agent might let me know one way or another (4 MONTHS NOW NOT THAT I'M COUNTING!!!)...
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