Ways to Trash Your Writing Career: An Intermittent Series

One fine way to ensure that nobody will ever publish your book is to become vile.  Not criminous, mind you, but vile.

Being, say, convicted scamster Bernard Madoff will not especially deter a major publisher from putting your novel into the stores — although the Son of Sam laws may prevent you from ever seeing a cent of the profits.  Possibly you were aware that the late Saddam Hussein took time off from his career as an iron-heeled Iraqi despot to write romance novels.  They were of course published, to glowing reviews.  Being able to send squads of goons with AKs over to the publisher or reviewer’s house does have an impact; we can amuse ourselves imagining the pull quotes: “Georgette Heyer trembles in her grave at this dawning of a shining new light in the romance universe!”

No, to repel Western publishers you do have to be genuinely and unremittingly repellent.  Luckily the Internet allows plenty of scope for this.  A sure way to ensure that nobody will publish you (or for that matter hire you, or date you, or run you for political office) is to run a blog full of spleen, raving and bigotry.  There are still some things that are beyond the pale. Publishers adore controversy, because controversy draws eyeballs and leads to sales.  But they are highly risk-averse.  They won’t associate with the truly vile; their lawyers won’t let them.  Phillip Garrido‘s chances of publication are zero and falling.

Your novel may be mild as milk, full of bunnies with big eyes and pink clouds and gentle discussions about the Role of Art.   But if your blog persona runs to neo-Nazi screeds, child molestation, or the overthrow of the US government by violence, no one will buy it.  I promise.



About Brenda Clough

Brenda W. Clough spent much of her childhood overseas, courtesy of the U.S. government. Her first fantasy novel, The Crystal Crown, was published by DAW in 1984. She has also written The Dragon of Mishbil (1985), The Realm Beneath (1986), and The Name of the Sun (1988). Her children’s novel, An Impossumble Summer (1992), is set in her own house in Virginia, where she lives in a cottage at the edge of a forest. Her novel How Like a God, available from BVC, was published by Tor Books in 1997, and a sequel, Doors of Death and Life, was published in May 2000. Her latest novels from Book View Cafe include Revise the World (2009) and Speak to Our Desires. Her novel A Most Dangerous Woman is being serialized by Serial Box. Her novel The River Twice is newly available from BVC.


Ways to Trash Your Writing Career: An Intermittent Series — 4 Comments

  1. I have to somewhat disagree, Brenda. In terms of major publishing, possibly – people might say no to the Shoe Bomber if he wrote a book, or this man who just tried to blow the plane up. I looked at Bill Ayers’ website – he has one, it’s up to date in information if outdated in appearance, and he’s publishing all the time – albeit educational publishers and University presses. http://billayers.wordpress.com/biographyhistory/

    His online persona fits category #3 and he still expresses anti-US government sentiments and urges violence despite a friendship with Pres. Obama.

    I think the reason that most people who say and do horrible things are not published is that they are by nature, unpublishable. Books like The Serpent’s Path were self-published (written by Randolph Calverhall, aka William Pierce, leader of the National Alliance and white supremacist). One of my poor online reviews was written by “Randolph Calverhall.” The Serpent’s Path is horrible, but it also still sells copies because it presents a race-separate postapocalyptic future that its fans love.

  2. Well, there is certainly a lower level of vileness that gets you under the radar, and perhaps Bill Ayers would be an example. The other thought is, he’s not shilling fiction, which is a highly taste-dependent art form. Peddling screeds to fellow fruitcakes is one thing — persuading people to buy a novel is another. And you would not date Ayers, would you? Vote for him? Me neither.
    My point is, if you hope to become a novelist, at the very minimum you should run your neo-Nazi agitprop or man-boy love blogging under a pseudonym — a nom de nut, as it were!

  3. You also might want to note here that if you’re already established when you become a bigot, your chances of remaining published are almost 100%. This would explain why Orson Scott Card, who preaches some of the most vile hatreds towards the LGBT community and has called for revolution to destroy the U.S. government if it allows gay marriage, is still getting his work printed out there.

    Just saying…

  4. Oh sure, if you are sufficiently popular you can run off the rails at any point and SOME of your fans will stick with you.