Walls tumble down. They start off by keeping things in, or out – depending on where you stand, or who you are – north/south, rich/poor, East/West, royal/peasant and so on. They end up, when they come tumbling down, letting everything in, or out, depending on whether they sequestered or excluded. When walls fall, things always get better; from Jericho to Hadrian’s Wall, to the walls of the Bastille in Paris to the Berlin Wall; old walls protect old orders.
In the world of writing and publishing these walls have long been manned by the Protectors of the Book…agents. They have safeguarded us from all the piffle they believe we should not read. They have been the iron-clad censors of the written word, the gatekeepers, the king-makers, the keepers of the keys.
Agatha Christie spent five years beyond the walls; continuously rejected. Stephen King was told “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias - they do not sell.” This was an agent’s comment on "Carrie", which then sold one million in its first year. Harry Potter was kicked into touch by 12 publishers who, had any of them had the final say, could have denied the world the HP phenomenon.
The dark days have passed
Writing, creativity, communication have been democratised.
I find great encouragement at www.literaryrejections.com which will open any rejectee’s eyes to the possibility of success and the potential of simply ignoring old walls to get a view of new horizons.
I know that everybody reading this has visited agents’ sites to be confronted by messages suggesting they are not accepting submissions right now/ they get 5 billion a day so why bother?/ we will take at least 3 months to deign to let you know that we don’t give a flying…you get the idea. It seemed to me for a long time that agents are not so much a conduit or a connection between writers and readers but more a barrier; a totally rock solid, Keep Out wall.
The advent of indie publishing, and the unguarded territory that stretches out before us all where writers and readers can meet, commune, chat, read what they what rather than what somebody else believes they should read, has unleashed creativity on a epoch-making scale. It’s a great time to be writing. Even if you sell just one copy, you’ve touched somebody which, under the ancient regime, you might never have been able to do. Now, we’re all making history.