The Company We Keep

In the last several months I’ve heard more than one established pro say something along the lines of “I’m sure glad that I broke in when I did. It’s a lot harder now.”

Whether you accept that premise or not depends mostly on how you define your terms. If you’re working strictly at novel length, that’s one thing. If you consider “breaking in” the process of making your first few decent short fiction sales and going from wannabe to neopro, then the statement is absurd on the face of it. It’s not easy to sell to a top-notch market starting out, and the fact that some people manage doesn’t change that. It wasn’t easy 10-20 years ago and it’s not any easier now, and if it was much if any easier back in the true pulp era I’d be amazed.

If, otoh, you define “breaking in” as establishing yourself and becoming a recognized name in the sf/f field, that’s a different kettle of herring. Over the past twenty years or so that’s gotten quite a bit harder. There are a lot of reasons for that: competition from other media, a fragmented readership, et many ceteras. Whatever the reason(s), I think it’s quite arguable that establishing yourself in the sf/f field is harder now than it’s ever been.

So why do new writers insist on making it harder than it has to be? Continue reading