Neither the newsman nor the company CEO that provided the story he was telling intended to be funny. Foreseeing what could happen to his employees if the government shutdown continued, the CEO suggested they begin to look for alternative ways to gain an income. Included in the list were working at fast food places and doing creative writing. I’m guessing that writer types who were listening at dinner lost their food or drink in their chortles.
The CEO and the newsman didn’t intend any humor here – really. They just didn’t take into account the stories of “instant successes” that were long years in the making.
Having just returned from a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference in Birmingham, AL, I could have given them some fresh information. Every agent and editor warned participants that from acceptance of a manuscript to publication would take at least a year and a half and sometimes much longer if a picture book awaited a turn in a noted illustrator’s queue, hardly helpful if you need food on the table or a roof over your head. Rush jobs on timely topics are exceptions.
Let’s assume a few things:
• The writer can actually write something other people want to read
• The writer keeps himself/herself in the chair long enough to finish
• The writer finds an agent or editor who believes in the work
• The editor can convince the editorial team that the work will be good for their publishing house
• The team can convince the marketing department that the book will sell
• The marketing department can convince book stores, with a special emphasis on Barnes and Noble, that the book belongs on their shelves
• The book store turns the book with the cover out on the shelf so it is noticeable
• A reader sees the book, buys it, loves it, and starts a viral reaction by telling his/her friends who tell their friends, who . . .
• The book wins a prestigious award or two
• The writer is invited to give presentations and make school visits, for which he/she is paid handsomely
Then, just maybe, the writer can pay the mortgage and put the food on the table.
That two years suggested by the agents and editors is the short part of the project. By the time the writer makes enough money to cover the food and rent, the government will either have decided to kiss and make up or will have gone belly-up altogether. Proof came from an agent speaking at the event who said Sue Grafton’s books only took off at G. Writers write because they must and fervently hope for the day when readers will also love their words.
I had a good laugh, but when I’m desperate for food on the table, I think I’ll check and see if Wendy’s is hiring.