Are more first time authors struggling to get published?

18 June 2024

Kate Dwyer, writing for Esquire:

Almost everyone mentioned that debut fiction has become harder to launch. For writers, the stakes are do or die: A debut sets the bar for each of their subsequent books, so their debut advance and sales performance can follow them for the rest of their career.

It might be harder today to launch a debut novel than in past decades, but people still succeed in doing so. What sort of sales might be generated by a “successful” debut novel, is another matter though. Spoiler: probably not a whole lot, unless the title is the next Harry Potter, or has enjoyed some sort of celebrity endorsement.

Promotional channels are more fractured, and maybe the number of people who want to write a book is greater. Everyone has a book has in them, after all. It could be tools such as word processors, and access to helpful resources online, empower more to try getting published.

So what to do, to help debut authors? Encourage more people to read newer fiction? Place less emphasis on the classics? Why not? If people are reading books that are centuries old, when is there time to read contemporary work? For my part, I rarely look at anything over ten years old nowadays.

I tried though. Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes. Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen. Both cornerstones of Western literature, no doubt. How many novels feature a key character, having been out of the country on a prolonged absence, returning home, unexpectedly, late at night? We can thank Mansfield Park for that.

But despite my interest in these novels, I finished neither. I’m sure they’re both great books, but they’re just not for me. Ditto Vanity Fair. So contemporary fiction it is. Call me shallow and uncultured, but hopefully I’m helping a new or emerging author at the same time.


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