Are Wealth And Status More Important Than Talent?

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When I first entered the world of young adult literature I was taken aback by the shockingly low number of authors under the age of forty five creating content for today's youth. I eventually landed an editing position for two young adult authors who were actual young adults. Before I took to editing for these two young ladies, there was an avalanche of pages arriving at my desk each week. Any and all inquiries about those who authored the incoming pages always lead to the same finding. Across all genres, the young adult department wasn't very young. In fact, it was decidedly middle aged. Curiosity got the best of me one summer afternoon. I approached my supervisor, Kim, and casually asked why such a large number of authors were writing for people so far out of their age group. She let out one of those hearty belly laughs, and paused when she noticed I was not sharing in the merriment of this supposedly hilarious question. Her eyes met mine, her smile faded, and she became quiet. The silence lasted two seconds at most, but it felt unending.

The stillness was broken by a very matter of fact statement. “Oh, you know young people don't have enough money to be real authors. That's whypeople get into publishing. So they can start writing later, after they're established. ”The words fell out of Kim's mouth in a tone so condescending it turned my stomach. I had so many questions, examples of brilliant works created by young people, and a strong counter argument. Before I could put any of these thoughts into a coherent sentence, Kim was already heading down the hallway. I circled back to my desk with an altered view on the whole department. As someone who has no interest in creating young adult fiction, I somehow still found myself deeply offended by what Kim conveyed to me. I knew that the clientele the company procured were wealthy by most standards, but there had to be at least one up-and-coming creator here who wasn't already perfectly established. A company with such a wide cast net across two continents couldn't just contain upper class novelists. Right?Wrong. A quick google search of the writers in our system confirmed what Kim informed me of earlier that day. Every client under the age of forty was a legacy writer, and those over forty were often ghost writers or story consultants with prosperous jobs spanning a decade or more. This was not a trend isolated to the literature department. The team that works with screen writers and production radioed back identical information.

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There seemed to only be two options to be represented by the company: be loaded or be a legacy kid. This information did not sit well with me. I am forever a fan of the underdog. So I started barking up the food chain. I eventually made it into Jan's office. Jan manages all West Coast operations. She is a remarkably tall, thin, waif of a woman with an exceptional presence. Known for being quick to anger and even quicker to throw harsh insults, Jan is not often approached by editors for meetings during the busy summer season. With clammy hands, I ask bluntly why things are the way they are within the umbrella of the company. Her response was very simple and was delivered in a surprisingly quirky tone. “You know how when you go to buy a house, you have to prove you can afford it ten times over?You've got to prove to the bank that even if you get hit by a bus tomorrow,that payment is still covered. It's why there's the saying “the only way to get a loan is to prove you don't need one. ” and it's why we do what we do. Clients that are affluent have the time and money to dedicate their full attention to crafting a novel. They get it done fast and can pump out more content in a year than any one person working a full time job can do. We know the legacy clients can be flakey, but if they get a little too into “party mode” we know that their parents will write for them and just slap the kid's name on it and call it a day. It's the path of least resistance. It's just easier. ”I shook Jan's hand and left her office. Waffling between understanding and confusion, my longing for clarity pushed me further into research outside of just this company. I found the answers I was looking for. There is good news and bad news for both the underdog author and the top dog author. Top Dog AuthorCongratulations!You are either rich or have a parent/relative that did something important with their life!The good news is that you get to piggy back off of their success and/or money. You are basically a sure bet to get any representation that you're looking for. Writing, acting, directing, you name it you got it. Your barrier to entry will be far less than that of the other 90% or more of applicants. Now for the bad news. You likely will be judged for your blatant use of nepotism.

There is a big different between blatant use and blatant misuse. Don't fall into the latter category. There will be extra critique coming your way because you had an easier time getting your foot in the door. If you're a legacy writer you will get compared to your parent/relative. It will annoy you to no end, but keep writing anyways. Try not to get a big head if things come easy to you, and cherish the fact that you are among an elite few who get to call themselves established. Underdog AuthorCongratulations!You are not super rich or famous!That's good news! It means you get to have a completely unique experience to content creation and the human condition that no upperclass person ever will!Should you encounter success, your humble beginnings may lend you more developed coping skills to handle stress. You will not have your work directly compared to that of an immediate family member. There will be other critiques on your work, but you will have more freedom in what you create.

There is bad news too. Your barrier to entry will be almost impossible to hurtle. You're gonna need a hefty amount of luck, and an even heftier amount back breaking hard work. Because you do not have nepotism on your side, there is almost no room for error. You will have to outwork everyone else to get your work seen. You will have to put in more man hours than the other guy, so that when the time comes for submission of your work, it's almost perfect. It will be difficult, but not impossible. Large production houses have teams of people who do manuscript coverage. Your life's work is then in the hands of a random person who gets to decide if it's worth passing along to the higher ups. Hopefully that random person is having a good day, and will submit your work for further review. If you make it past this point you may be lucky and be referred to either a literature agent or smaller part of the production house's “umbrella” that can back your work and push to get your foot through the door.

Harper Collins, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster, all have referral programs at their disposal. Your chances of a good referral are higher with a bigger company. Likewise, chances of your work being seen are higher with a smaller company, although that smaller company may not have the resources togo out on a limb for a complete unknown. Ultimately, is money the most important factor in being a novelist?Yes. It goes far above talent and dedication. Much to the dismay of great creators who simply didn't have the right timing. Publishing is a business, and it's important as an artist to not take that fact personal. To everyone who is creating, regardless of background or life circumstances, use everything in your arsenal to your advantage. Work through and above the chatter and distractions of your own mind. Most importantly, be your own advocate.

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