Sunday, January 15, 2012


If you are just a beginner in the writing world, you will face perhaps insurmountable obstacles according to James Michener's essay in The Writer's Book. For one thing, in the essay Michener shows the average number of books submitted to a publisher and the number the company will actually publish, and the odds are terrifying. The essay was written in 1966 or thereabouts, a long time ago, but I doubt whether the odds have become more beneficial to the writer now. In 1966, they didn't have the e-book publishers, and they may not have known what an e-book was then, so what he was talking about was traditional publishing. You are not considered to be an author until you have a book published by a traditional publisher according to some. I can't blame them for thinking that, because it means that the book has gone through the process of professional editing, layout, cover design, etc., which are not required for most non-traditional publications. And these books have been looked on as sloppy, full of errors, and not well designed, which a lot of them are, maybe even most of them. But the e-book world has leveled the playing field and it is much easier now to get published or publish your own.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that there are maybe ten million people who are trying their hand at writing, double what Mr. Michener used in his essay, and all, or most, are trying to get published in the traditional manner, which overloads the companies considering them, and with the advent of the e-publishers, the traditional ones are cutting back, making it even harder for us to get something published by them. And this ups the rejection rate and forces writers to use the alternatives - ebooks, vanity presses, POD, etc., with the result being the "slush pile."

The only solution to this is to keep on writing and learning and eventually the "slush pile" will become the main product and will drown out the traditionalists. The people in the younger generation don't read anyway unless its connected somehow to technical gadgetry, which means everything will be electronic or digital or wireless.

Now. all I need is good rewriter to make sense of it all. If only Mr. Michener were still alive.


  1. I wonder how many people read Michener today. His books were so fat, especially in paperback. They were a way to absorb large swathes of history and geography, and it was a time when there were fewer competing ways to do that. Given the choice of reading Michener or watching the History Channel or National Geographic, I'm thinking Michener loses out.

    I don't think I've ever read his TALES OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC, but I'm happy to remember him as the originator of the story for that great musical

    His point about rewriting, though, is a good one.

  2. Ron, I have his Caribbean on the shelf but haven't got around to reading it, like those people who watch the History channel, but it's further down on my priority list right now. His Tales of the South Pacific were good as I remember, having read them in the '50's.

    Rewriting is a major time-consumer for me.

  3. You are a terrific cartoonist. Have you thought about illustrating a book?

  4. Elaine, just saw your comment. I've thought about it in passing, but I have no desire at this time to illustrate anything other than the blog. Thanks for the compliment!