By Anne Montgomery
Would F. Scott Fitzgerald be successful in today’s publishing world?
Being an author is a tough job. OK, maybe not as daunting as the career track those Deadliest Catch folks are on – admittedly, I found myself reaching for the Dramamine more than once watching those crabbing boats being tossed like toys – or Mike Rowe’s gig when he does things like testing shark suits or mucking out sewers on Dirty Jobs.
Still, converting thoughts to printed words in order to tell a coherent story that’s of interest to readers, and then convincing others your efforts are important and well-written enough to publish and promote, well, there are all kinds of adversities mixed up in that endeavor.
I’ve had a number of difficult jobs over the years. I used to be a maid, on my hands and knees cleaning other people’s bathrooms. I was a baseball umpire for 25 years where I was, without question, the most disliked person on the field pretty much every time I stepped on the diamond. As a sportscaster, I was on live television about 2000 times, where, when you make a mistake, there are myriad people who delight in pointing out your errors.
Despite my labors with jobs that didn’t do much toward promoting positive self-esteem, I was definitely not prepared for the rigors of being an author. I’ve written six books: two rest in a drawer, two are published, one will be shortly, and one is a work in progress. Since I began writing 25 years ago, I have been rejected by agents, publishers, editors, and reviewers too many times to count. I’m pretty sure my no-thanks numbers have edged up over the one thousand mark. In fact, I’ve been snubbed so often that I sometimes find myself strangely delighted when I receive a rejection letter that’s, well, kind. A positive comment contained therein might tempt me to tears. (I know I’m not the only one.)
Today, aspiring authors face a different reality than those of the past. The advent of the personal computer and the Internet have paved the way for a huge release of creativity, that, depending on your point of view, is either fabulous or horrifying. On the positive end, anyone can write, self-publish, and post their book on Amazon. It’s estimated that somewhere between 600,000 and one million books are published in the U.S. alone each year, probably half of which are self-published. The other side of the equation is that without the gatekeepers – agents, editors, publishers – finding your gem in that the massive pile of prose is problematic: the proverbial needle in a haystack.
Feeling down yet? All I can say is don’t give into despair. Here’s what I’ve learned from the authors I’ve become acquainted with, my fellow travelers on this detour-filled journey. We are a tough bunch. I have not yet met an author who’s said, “I quit! I can’t take it anymore!” Perhaps that’s why I found a bit of unintended humor at the expense of one of America’s most famous writers: F. Scott Fitzgerald. I recently began watching Z: The Beginning of Everything, a biographical Amazon series based on the life of Zelda Fitzgerald, the writer’s wife and muse. In one of the early scenes, F. Scott opens a letter from a publisher. His book is rejected. And F. Scott, who up until that point was dashing and strong and optimistic, disintegrates into a despondent pile of mush and goes completely off the rails, drunk, depressed, needing Zelda to give him strength. While I know my reaction was not what the show’s writers intended, I couldn’t help it. I felt like laughing. I wanted to yell at F. Scott to pick himself up. Get over it! Move on! Try again!
And then, I wondered whether the famed writer of The Great Gatsby would have survived the complexities of today’s publishing world. And what about Hemingway? Twain? Faulkner? Steinbeck? How might these giants of the industry have navigated the choppy waters we face today?
I think they would have struggled, just like we do.
So, my fellow authors, take heart! Be strong. Be proud. The fact that you’ve even finished writing a book puts you in rarified air. You will survive, if you don’t take rejection personally – Yes, I know it’s hard – and if you have a sense of humor.
Allow me to offer you a glimpse at my latest women’s fiction novel for you reading pleasure.
The past and present collide when a tenacious reporter seeks information on an eleventh century magician…and uncovers more than she bargained for.
In 1939, archaeologists uncovered a tomb at the Northern Arizona site called Ridge Ruin. The man, bedecked in fine turquoise jewelry and intricate beadwork, was surrounded by wooden swords with handles carved into animal hooves and human hands. The Hopi workers stepped back from the grave, knowing what the Moochiwimi sticks meant. This man, buried nine-hundred years earlier, was a magician.
Former television journalist Kate Butler hangs on to her investigative reporting career by writing freelance magazine articles. Her research on The Magician shows he bore some European facial characteristics and physical qualities that made him different from the people who buried him. Her quest to discover The Magician’s origin carries her back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano and into the present-day dangers of archaeological looting where black market sales of antiquities can lead to murder.
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Anne Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. She worked at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter, and ASPN-TV as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery has been a freelance and staff writer for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces.
When she can, Anne indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, football refereeing, and playing her guitar.
Learn more about Anne Montgomery on her website and Wikipedia. Stay connected on Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter.