Tuesday, April 11, 2017


At the age of eight, I learned to swim at a Boys’ Club in Hollywood. My instructor, Ron Friscia, continued to be my mentor for several years. At sixteen, I took a class with the Red Cross to be certified as a WSI (Water Safety Instructor.) With this credential, I could secure gainful employment as a teacher, lifeguard, or coach. It seemed like a dream, to spend my days around a pool. Or a beach. And legions of pretty girls in skimpy suits. And get paid for it! What more could a young man ask for?

But then I did my research, and a hard dose of reality hit me: The career path for a WSI is very uncertain. The pay is lousy, and most jobs are part-time and seasonal. Beach duty pays more, and Baywatch made it look easy, glamorous, and sexy. But the work is grueling, and brings with it an elevated risk of skin cancer. Any long-term advancement would likely require extensive travel or even outright relocation.
I couldn’t live with this uncertainty. I needed full-time employment with real hope of progress, not just a summer job during college. A day job, not just beer money. I was crushed. It’s not fair! It should be easier! But in time, I made my peace with it. The market was what it was, and I was in no position to change it. Clearly, this job wasn’t for me. Newly enlightened, I moved on.

Now, why did I tell you this story, in an article about publishing? Stay with me.

Everywhere I go, I meet frustrated writers. They wrote a book and pitched it far and wide. And they quickly bumped into the reality of the business: rejection after rejection after rejection. They blame the editors, the agents, the corporate gatekeepers, the system. It’s so unfair! It should be easier! But here’s the thing: the market is what it is, and they’re in no position to change it.

If you want to succeed as an author, get real. Just as with the limited job market for lifeguards, our nation’s appetite for books is likewise finite.

Agents can only take on projects they believe they can sell to a publisher.

Publishers can only take on projects they believe they can sell to readers.

Readers can only buy as many books as they can afford and have time to read.

So, you want to get published? Learn the craft; it’s harder than you think. Learn the business; it’s harder than you think. Then, once educated, make a decision. Is this something you really want to do? Are you willing to endure the process?  There are no right or wrong answers here. 

But once you've made that decision, you don't get to blame anyone else for the outcome.

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