Does Today's Writer Need to be Perfect to get Published?

Thank you for your encouraging comments in response to my last post! Your genuine warmth and support brought fresh tears to my eyes!

The path to publication can be brutal. We all face adversity and pain at one point or another. We writers can commiserate together at the difficulty. But why is it, that to an outsider the writing life often looks so easy?

My friends at Seekerville had a hilarious post on Saturday: Getting A Book Contract. So Easy, A Caveman Can Do It. Here's one of their quotes: "According to a recent survey, 81 percent of Americans feel they have a book in them -- and that they should write it." (NY Times)

That's a LOT of people either hoping to write a book or in the process of writing one. With so many wannabe's, the competition is tough. Most of the time writers don't have a chance at traditional publication without an agent. But even getting an agent is next to impossible--or so it seems.

With such stiff competition, most of us begin to believe our books have to be perfect in order to rise to the top of the slush pile and get noticed. We read every writing craft book we can get our hands on. We scrutinize every adverb, count each passive verb, and slash as much narrative as we can.

We analyze plot lines, deepen characters, add tension to every sentence. Some of us even hire freelance editors to help us take our books to the next level. We think if we can just get everything in our books PERFECT we'll finally get an agent to take us on or a publishing house to give us a contract.

Once we have our books perfect, we strive to write the perfect query letter and synopsis. We labor hours and hours to get them just right.

The question we must ask is this: Does today's writer need to be perfect to get an agent or book contract? Is perfection the key to opening the traditional publishing door?

On some level, I think we WANT perfection to be the key. Then we have something tangible to strive for. When we get those rejections, we can tell ourselves we just need to edit the book a little more or write a better query next time. And maybe that's partly true. We can keep on improving in our writing skills.

However, after getting back my rewrites, I realized Bethany House didn't accept my book because it was perfect. In fact, my story is far from perfect. As you know, I have several MAJOR changes I need to make along with a number of minor ones. And this is only the first of three in-house edits.

In other words, I'm not perfect and my book isn't either.

That begs this question: In today's highly competitive market, with so many talented writers to choose from, why would a publishing house offer me a contract on a book that needs such big changes?

My answer: Perfection is not the key. As much as we want a magic formula for getting published or an easy answer for our rejections, perfection is not it. Being the perfect writer, with the perfect story is NOT a guarantee of publication just like having faults does not equate automatic rejection.

If "perfect" didn't sell my book, then what did? More in the next post. . .

For today, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Have you ever felt the pressure to be perfect in order to succeed in today's competitive market?

© All the articles in this blog are copyrighted and may not be used without prior written consent from the author. You may quote without permission if you give proper credit and links. Thank you!