This morning I woke up in a completely different hotel room. Slightly better condition, more generic. The windows have all been blacked out, and there’s no phone or other indication of where I am. What’s worse, they’ve taken away all my clothes and left behind a note that everything is being laundered in preparation for my appearance at World Fantasy Con in November.

I imagine I’ll meet a lot of interesting people at WFC. Certainly, I’m looking forward to meeting people I’ve worked with or known from a distance, like the incredible Lili Saintcrow. Plus I’m looking froward to meeting people who may have bought my book and liked it. People who bought my book and ended up putting it in the freezer because of its inherent faults and disturbing horribleness, well, I don’t want to meet them so much. I suspect they may try to attack me.

Of course, these sorts of things generally mean answering the same sorts of questions over and over again. One that I get a lot is: Did you have any connections in publishing in order to get published.

There’re writers in this world who are convinced that the world is stacked against them and that you need to have some sort of special relationship or advantage in order to be published. This attitude is less prevalent in the genres than in mainstream fiction, but you still get it–or at least I do, leading me to suspect that people read my prose, scrunch their faces up in confusion, and think How did this kneebiter get published?

Conspiracy theories are easy, of course–any time something doesn’t seem to add up, it’s easy enough to file it under Those Damn Bastards are Screwing Me and move along. Writing is so subjective, and all of us can come up with a short (or not so short) list of writers we think suck, so the jump to imagining that people get published solely due to personal relationships or monied existences or something is tempting. Now, I am sure that this actually happens: There are probably writers who got big advance checks or big promotional pushes or simply got published because they “knew someone”. Or because their social status simply gave them access that the rest of us are denied. But all I can discuss, really, is my own experience, natch. As a matter of fact I am often guilty of making the logical mistake of assuming my own personal experience is general truth, as in I see a little leprechaun named McEgo who talks to me, therefore everyone probably sees lilttle leprechauns which leads, obviously, to me daydreaming about getting everyone’s little leprechauns together and having them grudge match until a Supreme Leprechaun is crowned.

But I digress.

My own personal experience includes almost zero connections. You know how I got published? Baby, I submitted. I licked envelopes until my tongue was raw.

As a matter of fact, I am rather a scourge on the publishing industry as I am too lazy to do things like read guidelines or send for sample issues and such. I kind of blindly paper the world with my submissions and hope for the best, garnering tons of rejections as I do so. Just about every story or novel I’ve sold can be traced back to this sort of submission, including both my novels. And I have the rejections notes here in my desk to prove it, all 1000+ of them*. I’m tempted to start carrying my rejection slips around with me, and the next time someone snidley asks if I had any connections that helped me get published I can pull them out and inflict severe paper cuts on the questioner, shouting incoherently until I removed by security. I mean, my evenings usually end with me being removed by security anyway, might as well get it over with.

I supposed as I get bloated and bloviated and super super famous as a writer this question will die off as everyone assumes I am swimming in a pool of cash and hobnobbing with the literary elite, if indeed people who write books about brain-stealing cyborgs are allowed to get near the literary frickin elite. Until then: Remember kids, you don’t need connections. You need lots of stamps, and the ability to ignore almost all negative comments that come your way.

*A few years ago, when I only had about 500 rejections, I wrote an article about it all in my zine The Inner Swine. You can read it if you like.


  1. Roddy Reta

    Thanks for writing this. So many aspiring writers I know seem to think publication is all about connections, and I don’t see any evidence that’s really true.

  2. jsomers (Post author)


    I don’t think there’s *no* nepotism or connection-related deals, and certainly in mainstream literary lines you see an awful lot of monied Ivy-Leaguers getting big hardback first book deals. As I said, I can only speak for my own experience, which may be unique and filled to the brim with luck.


  3. Paul Riddell

    Agreed: if talent was the sole criteria, do you honestly think anyone would give a damn about Jerry Seinfeld’s wife’s latest cookbook? However, look at the bright side of the situation. I’ve seen a lot of nepotism in publishing (among others, it’s pretty much impossible to get work with any Dallas publisher without having snorted a few lines with fellow members of the SMU journalism department, and the reason TSR almost went under a decade ago was because it was nothing but a workfare program for otherwise unemployable Marquette University advertising, psychology, and English grads), and it lasts only so long as their connections do. Even with the number of idiot editors who manage to bounce from publisher to publisher after each catastrophic failure, sooner or later they’ll be back at the job at which they’re most qualified, being urinated upon by truckers, and the college buddies they got book contracts for are just as screwed as they are.

  4. jsomers (Post author)


    Hey, I figure history will shake us all into the proper slots, right? You might end up revered as the American Jerry Lewis, or you might end up as the French Jerry Lewis, and it probably will have nothing to do with your reputation while you’re *alive*.


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