If I may paraphrase Norman Mailer, the difference between a writer and a successful author is that the successful author knows a publisher. I’ve already mentioned that this process isn’t easy. Back in the beginning, I knew no publishers and preferred a materially successful life to struggling to penetrate the Ivy League, literati network. I’ve made my money, retired, and ironically, I have recently found several publishers who have turned a couple of my projects into print. The irony is that I wasn’t looking for a publisher, not then. I had bumped into someone at a party, mentioned a bit about a project I was working on, and a few days later had a friend-of-a-friend contact me with an invitation to speak further with the publisher. That publisher (The Apollo Press, has subsequently passed away) eased me into a network of publishers until I finally land with my current publisher (www.TheFirebirdRising.com). I mention all this, because if you are struggling to find a publisher, don’t feel alone or deflated. Unless you are “born” into the fold, or otherwise squeezed into the publishing network, it is going to be a struggle. You might be the net Nobel Prize winner, but first you must get someone to read your work and publish it, and that is nearly all done by personal contact.
Other than that, I want to say little else about me, as I honestly think that an intimate profile distracts from the author's project; it is too easy to confuse the message with the messenger. So under the heading of "little else" I will say only this: I have several college degrees, none from the departments of English or Art. In fact, I have never been to a writer's workshop and took only one course in creative writing while in college (many, many years ago). I learned nothing about writing from that experience. You learn to write by writing – first the stuff will be terrible, but keep writing an getting crushed by honest feedback. If you have the right stuff, it will eventually show up.
For the aspiring author in search of a publisher and a writing career, I can think of only three suggestions: First, a rejection from a publisher says almost nothing about your work; if unsolicited, most of the time your work will not be read, and if it is read the decision to publish or not will be made according to a market assessment and not on the quality of your work. This issue can usually be resolved by getting an agent. Publishers use agents as gatekeepers and screeners. Not only that, agents know where to submit for the most successful read. A good agent knows, or should know, the publishing market. I should add though, that I do not have an agent, mainly because I have yet to find one that suits my temperament. Second, never write about anything that you have not, in some manner or fashion, experienced firsthand. Know what you are talking about. For example, something as simple as calling scuba fins "flippers" can not only throw the reader off stride but can also destroy the credibility of the author's work. I should also add a personal peeve of mine: If you are a male writer do not write about women as though you know how they are and behave when men are not around, because you don't know. I offer the same advice to female writers; men do not talk around women the way they speak in their absence. Be cautious about this. You can upend your credibility by ignoring this reality. Third: write and write and write, and always write something that makes a point, because without a point what you write won't be interesting enough to read.
At the end of the day, remember that this publishing stuff is a business. That means that success as an author might be the worst thing that can happen to a writer. Your publisher will begin to insist on mass work and will hire teams of editors to “assist” you in writing tons of terrible crap; there will be author signings and talk radio, and you will lose control over what you do and say. Of course, this may be what you are after. If so, then kudos to you, but if you want to write your heart and soul, then publish, but avoid the “best seller” title (they are mostly bogus anyway).