QUESTION: ARE YOU EXCITED?
I thought as much.
PART ONE: MYTHS OF THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY
The first thing to say (by which I mean write) is that there are any number of fallacies perpetrated by the arcane publishing industry in order to keep common folk away. "Any number" is not quite accurate, I suppose, since the number in question is EXACTLY 5.
FALLACY: You need talent to be published.
FACT: "Talent" is one of those words which doesn't really refer to anything but is bandied about in the place of real, meaningful terms. Talent is like Narnia: you think that it is only accessible through a hidden, magical doorway available to those with just the right combination of fortunes (orphans, greedy children, lovers of Turkish delight and talking lions). But like Narnia, the simple fact is that TALENT DOES NOT EXIST (outside of the wonderful world of the imagination).
FALLACY: You need connections to be published.
FACT: Connections can, in fact, be an obstacle to your writing career. The more people you know, the more expectations will be placed on you. If a 'connection' provides you with a way of being printed, that 'connection' will probably read what you write, and THAT WAY LEADS TO JUDGEMENT.
FALLACY: You need readers to be published.
FACT: What is really needed, in fact, is the appearance of readers. This is why people write reviews of their own works under an assumed name; why they artificially boost the hit counters on their website; why they create controversies over their works in major national broadsheets; why they buy up massive quantities of their own books and keep them in mouldy garages. As an example, Bryce Courtenay, one of Australia's most "well loved" authors, has in fact only sold EIGHTEEN NOVELS to people besides himself and his agents. This is why he has managed to produce the same novel not less than six times, simply altering the title and cover image.
FALLACY: You need perserverance to be published.
FACT: Like anything worth doing in this life, if you can't do it quickly and without even properly waking up to do it, it's probably not worth your time. Many journalists file copy from the safety of their own bed, their eyes half-lidded and bleary from the tears they shed every morning as they awake to find that yes, their life is still a sham from which escape seems impossible.
FALLACY: You need a basic level of literacy to be published.
FACT: I have, under my own name, had printed several pieces written by one of my ghost writers/cats, Molly.
Here is a true story: for nearly two years, I penned a column for one of Melbourne's premier newspapers despite the fact that I had no journalistic training, was not a member of MEAA, was not employed by the editorial department and did not even know anyone who was. How is this so, you ask, or pretend to ask in my imagination (aka Narnia)?
Simple: I wrote in unused advertising space. Noticing that there was a regular spot which was never filled in a certain section of the newspaper, and which only contained house ads (ads for the paper itself), I made a deal with my manager/certain layout staff to write stuff relating to the arts industry on that page. This made sense - it was filling in dead space with relevant info on the areas which readers wanted from that section. But since it wasn't edited, I had carte blanche to write whatever I wanted. I didn't abuse that (much) but the strange thing is that in the entire time (repeat: nearly two years), no one from editorial ever asked what this column by [insert real name here] was doing appearing every week.
Here is a randomly selected extract from one column:
"Few realise that I was not always a reclusive yet handsomely-attired Arts Sleuth living on a healthy stipend from mysterious benefactors. I once travelled amongst the people, too. These were hard nights, rough and unpredictable. For several years I was forced to make a living the only way I knew how: balancing complimentary glasses of cheap vodka on my forehead while Russian-dancing to the Genghis Kahn disco hit “Moskau”. But even as I frolicked under the evil Cheshire Cat grin of my nemesis and dancing instructor, Dr Tobermory (AKA The Strongman) I knew that there was hope. It was an exciting time to be alive."
HOW COULD THIS GUFF GO UNNOTICED? [This column was not written by Molly (though she was paid a consultation fee).]
But that was then and this is now (or shortly thereafter) and I do actually write properly for things and stuff and whatnot.
Another example: as a young lad in his late teens, I travelled to London with a friend under the pretense that we were international music journalists. In three weeks, we managed to score interviews with nearly all of our favourite bands, and it got to the point where we would call them up to ask if we could sleep on their floors, since there was no room at the crummy hostel we were using. The answer was usually yes. Which goes to show: musicians are often very nice people, especially if they are only on the cusp of success and may be gullible enough to believe the improbable claims of two fresh-faced boys from a far-off land. This is not a story of getting published, per se, but a story of pretending to get published and reaping the rewards that accompany getting published, without having to do all the actual writing/submitting/revising etc.
NEXT: MYTHS OF THE THEATRE