Saturday, December 09, 2006

That's My Nerve, and I Wish They'd Quit Hitting It!

Warning: Rant Ahead

There's an interview with Bill Bryson in the January 2007 issue of The Writer. I love his books, so I started reading the article with great anticipation, soaking up his words and storing them for future reference. I even felt a sense of encouragement when he mentioned that all published writers started as unknowns. Then this sentence, addressed to the unpublished, had me skidding to a halt: "You have a much better chance of becoming a published author than, say, a major league baseball player."

A major league ball player, a nationally known nightly news anchor, a Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter, countless actresses and actors -- all have a better chance of being published than I do. And indeed, all were published before I will ever be.

[Karen kindly and gently pointed out that I just might have misinterpreted Bill Bryson's comment; i.e. that it would be easier for me to get published than for someone to become a major league baseball player. My apologies to Mr. Bryson! But I still get worked up about celebs "writing" books.]

Oh, I know the publishing companies are just trying to make a profit, and big names mean big bucks. But, dammit, it makes me mad. Writing is hard. And every time a celebrity goes on Good Morning America touting her latest bestseller, I feel as if every moment I spend in front of my computer, carefully crafting, thinking, and creating is futile.

I try to shrug it off with "Oh, well. She didn't really write the book herself" or "The poor copy editor must have had her work cut out for her." And to be honest, it hasn't stopped me from writing. It hasn't dashed my dreams. But sometimes I wonder if maybe I need to adjust my career path. I'm sure Simon & Schuster would snap up a book by the first female major league baseball player. I think Academy Sports has baseball gloves on sale this week...

Celebrities as authors: What do you think?


Karen Beeching said...

Hm. I'm wondering if he meant you have a better chance at becoming a published writer than you do at becoming a major league baseball player.

My agent once said something to that effect. He said to become published is almost as difficult as becoming a movie star. I'm wondering if that's what this person meant. What do you think?

JoAnn said...

Interesting. I didn't read it that way at all, but you are probably right. (Think maybe I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder? :-)

Carla Swafford said...

Pretty much as you said, JoAnn. They are only published because who they are, not for their talent in writing. And they always have a ghost writer or someone that corrects their grammar or point out inconsistencies. How would our chances of being published improve if we were married to Orlando Bloom for even one day? Sad to say, but people are curious about the famous. And I haven’t had my 15 minutes of fame, so St. Martins isn’t knocking on my door, asking me to write about myself. Thank goodness, as it would be boring. Can’t say that about my whole family. My family IS Southern and you know how we have all those interesting skeletons in the closet.

Karen, is right about the point the fellow was making. He was only giving odds. Though I think he was stacking the odds in favor of being published. True, there are probably more published authors, than major league baseball players. But there are only so many slots to be filled for a major league player (30 teams). While there are many more baseball players that are in the minors (too numerous to count). So in my opinion he wasn’t comparing apples to apples.

Think! When it comes to major publishing houses, I don’t believe 30 exist. Maybe half that number. Of course, you do have your small publishing houses along with the e-publishing ones, but that would compare to the minors.

So in other words I disagree with him.

JoAnn said...

I think perception has a part in this too. There's a very small percentage of people in the civilized world that possess the skills to play baseball. But every literate person is a writer--whether all he or she writes is a grocery list or an e-mail to a child's teacher. Constructing sentences and putting them down on paper (or, now, computer screens) is something we were taught to do since age 5 or 6. Because of this, most people assume they have the necessary skills to write a book and that it's a pretty easy task.

So I can easily see a celeb contacting a publisher and saying "My daughter did the cutest thing yesterday, and I wrote a book about it last night." And of course a publisher is going to jump on that profit bandwagon in a flash.

I think the same reasoning applies to our non-writing friends who wonder why in the heck it's taking so long for some of us to get published. THEY write (grocery lists and e-mails)--how hard can writing a book be?

End of rant. :-)