I recently saw a statistic that over 400 million people worldwide play basketball.
I played it growing up, and I still play now. I'm not bad, but I can't go right and my jumper is shaky at best. I certainly knew at an early age that I could never share the floor with professionals, no matter how hard I tried. I simply didn’t have the talent or the commitment.
Stay with me, there's a point to this.
As you all know, I get a ton of queries each day, and I reject almost all of them. Often times I reject writers who have talent, and I've rejected plenty of writers that have worked long and hard on their craft. But I also get quite a few queries that are utter and complete crap. The writer can't put a sentence together and hasn't bothered to even edit their query, much less their book.
These people are likely part of the 53% of Americans that didn't read a book last year, much less competitive books in the genre they're writing in. They haven't taken a writing class or gotten their MFA. They don't workshop their book with other writers. They don't attend conferences or lectures. They don't even spell check.
I’m not a writer, but it really pisses me off that some people think that anyone can write a good book. Why is writing any different from basketball (and my analogy now makes sense, even though it was clearly silly), or any other skilled profession? What is it about publishing that encourages self-delusion?
My wife suggested that it’s because we all learn as children how to read and write (even if poorly), and that we do it all of our lives and so it becomes second nature (as compared to shooting a fadeaway jumper). Rachel Donadio thinks that self-publishing has a lot to do with it. Others think that good commercial writers are the cause, that people like John Grisham make it look too easy.
Does this piss you off too? If so, who's to blame? Can we fix it?