Monday, August 08, 2011
On the Dubious Hierarchy of Writers
One thing that still chafes me as I do the rounds, both on the internet and at writers' conferences and get-togethers, is the difference in the way writers are treated according to their publication status.
On the one hand, there are those who are published. (And these further sub-divide into those published digitally only, published in the small presses and independents, or published by major publishers: the latter being considered VIPs, in general.)
Then there are those who are either unpublished or self-published. (Pre-published is a newish term that attempts to circumvent the perceived weakness of this position.)
In my experience, which is not insubstantial, there are two main things which decide where writers are placed in this dubious hierarchy.
One is hard work. The other is luck.
Talent is important, yes, but you can get there without it (see celebrity biographies and surprise successes) and a lesser talent can be honed by hard work and application.
Luck is either dumb or smart. Usually the latter. That we make our own luck is self-evident. Any fool can find themselves next to an agent in the queue for the conference buffet, but a smart person will know what to say to get their attention - and what NOT to say.
Now, forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but unpublished or self-published writers may be working just as hard - sometimes harder! - than published writers, and also struggling to get Lady Luck on their side year after year. They may make the big breakthrough next year, or never. But that doesn't mean they should be disrespected for not having 'made it' yet, or for having decided to eschew the lengthy and often tedious agent-publisher route by publishing themselves.
Everyone has their story. Being published doesn't necessarily make it better than anyone else's. Just more high profile, perhaps.