Working in publishing gives you valuable insight into the process. For instance, if you were the sort of person who doesn’t understand why publishers and agents require things to be formatted a certain way, working for one would make it clear. The short answer is: because it makes everything easier. The more difficult you make it for someone to read your work, the less likely you are to get anywhere.
The other thing working in publishing does is make you wonder just what some people are on. And whether you can get some. I am constantly astonished (embarrassed, annoyed, saddened) by the things people send to publishers and the way they present themselves. Letters full of typos, manuscripts that are huge blocks of unbroken text, questions that a quick five-minute internet search would answer. To say nothing of people who send a manuscript and then phone the next day to ask if we’ve read it. (This did happen.)
On my good days, I tell myself that they don’t know any better. On my less than good days, I tell myself that they should, because this information is not difficult to find. If you’re willing to take the time to write a book, you ought to be willing to take the time to find out how to get it published and do it right. The problem is that most people aren’t willing to do it right. They wouldn’t try to become a lawyer or a nurse just by ringing someone up and asking, so why do they think it works that way with being an author?
The obvious answer stems from the idea that anyone can write a book. Sure, anyone can write a book, but not everyone can write a good book or an interesting book. And not everyone can write a book that people want to buy or read. And not everyone can follow simple instructions. Not everyone wants to, either. They want guarantees (there aren’t any), they want instant results, but they don’t want to do the basic legwork required to get their work in front of the right pair of eyes. I’m a writer myself, and it embarrasses me to see other writers behaving this way.
I guess what irks me most about it is the sense of entitlement. I have written a book, therefore I deserve to gain success from it. Sorry, chief, but it doesn’t work that way. Life is uncertain, and so is publishing.