Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Riding out discouragement

It is especially daunting to read the advice of an author who says what to do and not to do to get published. Among other things, she says din't write about abuse, everyone does, so publishers are put off, for such a subject is part of many repertoires. That author, of course, goes on to herald her memoir, published, of course because of her riveting experience of sexual abuse. WHAT???

The author goes on to tell me that publishers receive thousands of memoirs annually, because it is a popular genre, but that the market for them is weak, most are poorly written, not ready to publish, and that, if you are not some name recognizable celebrity, or that your story is unique, like perhaps you were hatched on Mars and wandered here on the wings of some petri dish contrived raptor, you really should forget it. WHAT??

This seems to be the message: writers love to write them, no one wants to read them. Hmmmm. How does that work?

There I am, brought up short, wondering why I'm bothering. There follows oodles of instructive tips to apply to my work that will probably never be read by anyone. editors to hire...irony there...why would I hire an editor to edit something no publisher would print unless I'm....you know.

Look. I know that for publishers it is only and always one question: will this thing sell? That's reasonable. Practical. Smart. Who wants to print a loser? But how that coin toss works is what's under my microscope. It would help if I had been the child of a vampire. That's the current great hook, except I don't read about vampires, werewolves, trolls. I do read memoirs because generally they are about triumph and victory, uplifting and absorbing.

I recall that the auto industry was plagued by requests from drivers to reproduce convertibles. There was a huge deficit of convertibles for a very long time because auto makers believed there was no market for them, never mind all those demanders for same. finally, they listened and we have those fun cars again.

Is it the same with publishers? We get few memoirs because they have decided? Sane thing with petite size clothes. Or plus sizes. For decades tiny women and large women were offered only average sizes. Who in their right mind come up with this kind of idiocy...read"I've decided for you" who would refuse for so long to service those two markets? And pass up all that money?

Oh, don't get me entirely wrong. Publishing is dollar risky. I get that. Who wants to read about an abandoned child sprung from an orphanage to an angry jealous mother married to a broken soldier during a world war, who in that maelstrom of disillusionment of catastrophic size, still makes a world for herself with a funny little brother in a rural farm town, coming out the other side victorious? Never mind that the story Is compelling, absorbing, full of colorful characters who win their own wars, or lose.

I count myself fortunate. My story is filled with fab winners and dismal losers. it tells the story untold of the women who were not Rosie the Riveter, but built the war machine in other ways, making the bullets, the guns, the uniforms. in a Depression. In a world where all the men went away. Who would want to read about that, or about the aftermath when the factories and plants closed and those thousands of women put their aprons back on and cooked dinner Ad infinitum. Held their war shattered husbands in the long nights filled with their nightmares.

Who'd want to read about that? Seen through the eyes of a child, lost within her own unrecognizable family, it's just a memoir and we don't read those things. Oh, we watch the endless rekindling of the memories of those men who are finally talking about their war terrors. Men taught to be silent. Men relieving their pain. There is another story held by the women who waited, who made the explosives, who risked their lives unsung. My mother was one of them. Who'd want to read about that?

Never mind. Somewhere in the world there will be someone who sees the value of the story historically, emotionally, about how many ways we abandon each other with aplomb. About victory and triumph. Someone will want to read about that.

So here is my advice: believe in your own story. Tell it the best you can. Understand, when you've received your umpteenth rejection, it's not personal.it's business by a business knocked on it's ass by writers self publishing, by ebooks, by writers who are innovators, unwilling to accept pronouncements by on-high folks who used to know it all,but are currently as confused as you are. Remember Stephen King and Rowling, who do you think doesn't want to read them. Such monumental mistakes tells those who make pronouncements do not know it all. They are well intentioned people just like you and me, who live and die On their decisions.


  1. Your frustrations are shared by so many, Barbarann. But, I think your final words say it well: "believe in your own story. Tell it the best you can. Understand, when you've received your umpteenth rejection, it's not personal."

    When I see people with a name, say, Justin Beiber (!), publishing his second book because of the teeny boppers of the world, because he's cute? Now, that's where I get frustrated. But, I believe there are still people out there who love memoir--I don't think the market is weak, there are 100's out there who want to read stories of survival--we humans will always have a need to read more human-interest books. So, we continue to 'believe in our story, and write it the best we can.' :-)


    1. Thank you for the encouragement, Mandy. And for being faithful to this blog. I know in my heart that there is interest in good stories well told, and that those of us laying out how we succed or fail at life and it's journey feel the need to share life events and how we survive and learn from them.