Before computers and the internet, a writer’s life differed greatly: we typed our stories on a typewriter, made the necessary “editorial/proofreading” marks to correct mistakes and typos on the manuscript, and once satisfied the document was properly formatted—on 8 ½ x 11″ 20 lb. non-glossy paper, doubled spaced—packaged it in an envelope addressed to the correct editor for the specific publication.
If you wanted a response (who wouldn’t?) you included an S.A.S.E (self-addressed-stamped-envelope), usually a #10 envelope where the editor inserted the rejection or acceptance of your story—the manuscript itself was a throw-away if rejected. Neat and tidy.
Back then, sending a manuscript to an editor cost something: time to create, money for the typewriter ribbon and paper, the oversized envelope (or box if a novel), the postage, and a great deal of patience waiting for a response. Although it was not yet referred to as “snail mail,” the process was nonetheless the same, and just as slow. We writers accepted that, because after all, being a writer takes an investment, and we were willing to abide.
Editors understood the investment (which weeded out the dreamers), and we would often receive helpful notes about how and why they felt our stories failed. There were form letters of rejection (like bad mimeographs), and you took those in stride, but when a personal note came back with the rejection (maybe red-marked like high school English class), there was something special about it—an editor took the time to respond, and usually when that happened, an invitation to send future writing.
Those times were glorious. Writers and editors respected each other, not only as fellow creatives, but as people.
Ah, an old man’s memories and imaginings of a better world polished by time through a foggy rose-colored lens.
Look at things now, how easy to publish your work, what with personal blogs, venues like Google and Medium, self-publishing, Amazon and others, and no worry about literature’s gatekeepers . . . dinosaurs buried in the past, and good riddance.
It is true that the opportunities for writers have never been so great with the ability to conjure an audience and feed them your talents. Therein lies the problem.
The simplicity of publishing has homogenized the skill level of “published” works: there’s a greater degree of poor writing, stories and novels that may have been good if they were polished and not rushed off at the whim of a writer striving to satisfy self value.
The Gatekeepers–agents and editors—have a valuable purpose (forced to wade through increased valleys of drivel and rivers of muddy language) and that is to dissect and assimilate what writing is skillful enough to be published. And what is likely to make a profit. There are mistakes; ask the publishers who rejected J.K. Rowling.
Digital slush piles grow to towering heights. Writers work through a couple drafts, hit the submit button, and wonder why a “form” rejection comes back within a week. The reason, my friend, is you did not polish the work, you did not take the time to fine-tune your writing . . . at this point your story is only vanity.
Back in the day, Vanity Press was something most writers scoffed at, whispered about when someone showed up at a writer’s conference with their book published by Broad Moon Press, Momma’s Closet, or some-such.
Vanity Press, then like now, was for the most part substandard. There are always exceptions, of course, but the vast majority of self-published books languish despite the “book launch” mentality and the courses mediocre writers sell you to guarantee your book reaches your sales quota; they probably won’t, by-the-way.
If you wish to bypass the gatekeepers and publish your own book, I applaud your courage and your confidence as well as your positive outlook. Just like in the old days, there will be costs involved, much greater than the packaging and shipping charges before computers. There is also the potential for a greater income, though in all fairness, most do not break even. As someone who has owned and operated several businesses, that to me is a major sway . . . is the satisfaction of ego to see my book published great enough to accept an economic loss?
Before you hit that submit or publish button, go through your writing several times. Twice is not enough. It’s called revision, and there’s a thousand times a thousand ways to edit your work. Here are a few of my recommendations.
Make your stories the best you can. If possible, have others read your work, and then with confidence send the manuscript on the wings of hope, knowing you have done the best you can at this point in your career.
See you on the next page,
“Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.” ~Author Unknown
Links: Books on Editing