Wednesday, January 29, 2014

An abundance of writers

Listen up, maggots. You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. ~ Tyler Durden

Today I saw a reTweet of something to the effect of, “Plenty of people want to write a book, but there are only a few who actually do.”


Actually, the biggest problem we have as writers is the overabundance of books in the market; self published or traditional. Writing is not some unique, starving artist mysterious lifestyle that people dream about anymore. Books sell and now more than ever people are trying to get in on the cash.

Here are some articles about the amount of writers and books that are out there currently:

  • How Many Novelists are at Work in America? – “Can we agree on a low-end pool of 250,000 active novelists? If I had to account for all the people writing novels that will never see the light of day, in either self-published or published form, I’d put that number at one million. That’s less than a third of one percent of the population. Established novelists and jaded critics, take heart.”
  • Books published per country per year - "United States (2011) 292,037 (new titles and editions). United Kingdom (2011) 149,800 (new). TOTAL: approximately 2,200,000"
  • THE LAST WORD; How Many Books Are Too Many? - "Brace yourselves, novelists and would-be novelists. Figures released this spring show that a new book of fiction is published in the United States every 30 minutes. Even if you don't count the titles published through print-on-demand and other fee-charging, vanity-press-type outfits, the total still comes to 10,000 books a year -- or one book published every hour or so. And that's just the fiction." (Publish date July 18, 2004)

So, how does that, “few people actually do it” theory hold up now?

I know the tweet was meant to encourage writers out there to keep going, and that’s all well and good, but it’s not that end all be all of writing. Finish, yes, but then keep going.

We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. ~ Tyler Durden

Look, I don’t mean to poo-poo anyone’s dreams of being a successful author, but it’s just not something that’s for an elite few. I’m guessing that this user that posted the tweet is young and still thinks of themself with the same kind of preciousness that we all did. We all thought we’d be the next Poe, or Hemingway, or Woolf. At a time when the market wasn’t as flooded, maybe. But even twenty years ago when I graduated high school, the market was bombarded by sub-par books. Now with Harry Potter and Twilight, and even 50 Shades, there is an even bigger green light for people to write books. Lots of them.

I won’t get into the pros and cons of self-publishing, or the difference between a good or bad book. We just have a publishing world that wants same ol’ same ol’ novels, some outstanding novels that get thrown by the wayside in attempts at traditional publication, some great books published by small print presses, and a lot of self published novels. All together that makes up for a lot of writers. A whole lot.

Even when I finished my first book, I wasn’t that fussed. It’s a stepping stone, that’s all. You make better and better books. The fact that you wrote a book is fine, good, whatever, but you’re one of many, and if you don’t know that, you’re putting yourself into a lot of denial. There’s a huge amount of competition, and working on your craft is the best thing to focus on.

Again, this is not to say people should quit writing or quit trying. Plenty of people end up published and well received despite their publishing track. It’s good that writing is such an en vogue thing in a way because you have a broader audience now. You have the opportunity to get work seen by beta readers, editors, and agents that you wouldn’t have had before the internet.

But it’s not a special, extraordinary thing anymore. For example, Teen Mom Farrah Abraham has already become a best-selling author for her biography. Now, after her scandal, she is going to be an author of 50 Shades-type novels and Christian parenting books. Yes, she’s a writer. She’s written books.

Other people who have written books: Snooki, Nicole Richie, Paris Hilton, Lauren Conrad, Kerry Katona, Kylie and Kendall Jenner, Hillary Duff, Tyra Banks, Pam Anderson, Bethanny Frankel, Macaulay Culkin...the list goes on.

Are they special? Well, they’re famous and rich and someone paid them to write a book. Does this mean that about anyone can do it? Absolutely. (Write a book, not write a good book – that’s something different.)

So write your books, congratulate yourself, then get to the editing, rewriting, marketing, querying side of things. Then write another book.

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