Blogger: Rachelle Gardner
For a few years, I was a big fan of the show American Idol, because of the obvious and consistent parallels to the writing life: contestants putting themselves out there, risking embarrassment, taking criticism, and working incredibly hard to improve their craft and chase their dream of making a living as an artist. I blogged about the show several times, and now that it’s in it’s final season, I wanted to give it one more nod.
Right now in the 15th season, the field of Idol contestants has been narrowed down to the Top 8. At this point in the competition, the contestants’ biggest worry isn’t their own performance but how it will stack up against their competitors.
They are all good.
Which means it’s no longer going to be just about whether they can sing. As the competition gets stiffer, the judges are looking at more nuanced details of performance—pitch, harmonizing, stage presence, uniqueness, overall appeal. And each performer is not just being evaluated on their own merits, but measured against everyone else’s.
As one of the contestants aptly commented, “The talent here is ridiculous.”
So that’s what you have to remember as you send out your queries, and even more as you make each cut and get further into the process. When an agent requests to see more, when a publisher expresses interest and then takes it to committee… the bar gets higher and higher and it’s no longer just about you. It’s also about whether you fit what they’re looking for right now, and about how you stack up against everyone else in the competition at this moment in time.
There are a lot of talented writers out there, and you may be one of them. Brace yourself for the competition aspect of this business—it’s never going to be all about you.
You can only prepare for the competition by being the best YOU you can be. In those times when you get a tough break, when somebody tells you “no,” when you reach the end of the line in a particular endeavor, remember it’s not necessarily a judgment on you, and it doesn’t mean you’re finished. Maybe it just wasn’t the right timing, or there was somebody else who was a better fit. Keep working.
The good news is that unlike American Idol, publishing isn’t a winner-take-all sport and it doesn’t boil down to just one winner. There are many, many winners… people whose books are being bought and read. And there always will be.
Yes, the talent here is ridiculous. So give it your all, don’t hold anything back, and be aware of the competition but don’t focus on it. Keep your eyes on your own path. You are not trying to be the American Idol, but hopefully your books will be the ones Americans will read while they’re…. idle.[Groan. Sorry.]
Does the idea of competition scare you, or inspire you to keep working hard, or what?
Is publishing a competition? Thoughts and American Idol musings from @RachelleGardner. Click to Tweet.
When trying to get published – remember, it’s not all about you. Click to Tweet.
Image courtesy American Idol on FOX.