The obstacles facing a writer today are daunting, especially is s/he is looking for old-fashioned readers rather than TV or movie opportunities. Book publishing is dominated by the massive “Big Five” companies which are 100% ruthlessly commercial, and a few independents who tend to be specialized and have few resources. Self-publishing is easy, but finding readers for self-published material is incredibly difficult. We all know this.
But the obstacle that nobody talks about is what I call the “misery/glamor factor.” An author with a certain type of personal background has a very much better chance of attracting the attention of a commercial publisher. Celebrity has always been a key to publication. Sex helps too. Browse the cover photos of a few dozen recently published authors and you will be amazed how many of them are young attractive women.
But even sex is not enough – an author needs misery. The review of one book I read recently tells how the author has “Documented her battle with anorexia, her time as a burlesque dancer, her rape at nineteen…” and so on. If the author can add cancer, child abuse, racial discrimination, a spell in prison and a kidnapping by the Taliban she is pretty much guaranteed to find a publisher for any kind of manuscript whatsoever.
When it comes to publicity it is the writer, not the writing that leads. What chance does a middle aged ordinary-looking male with a conventional history stand in this competition? Please send your answers on a postcard.