Being an academician at heart, I am familiar with the catch phrase, “Publish or Perish”. This is not a myth. Your academic future really is dependent (20 to 40% in most cases) on how much you publish in the academic circles. Being forced to do this is really a bother, so in a nutshell, I never did. Which is part of the reason I am not currently working in academia.
My adviser once told me that one of the biggest problems with academia is that there are no readers. Everyone has to write, but everyone is so focused on doing their own research, no one reads what you’ve written. Strictly speaking this isn’t true, of course. People read the important papers within their area of expertise, but that’s it.
Academia isn’t broken down into math, physics, chemistry, psychology, and so on. Each field of study is broken down into sub-fields. For example, mathematics gets broken down into Functional Analysis, Complex Analysis, Topology, Combinatorics, Abstract Algebra, Logic, Number theory, Statistics, and Computational Theory. Mind you, this is just for starters. I could go on. Of course, each of these sub-fields has specialties within them. If an academic were to read papers, they would read them from their own specialty within the sub-field. That leaves a whole lot of stuff unread.
As for the “more typical” genre fiction. The urgency to publish is not so severe, but the draw is still there. I refer to this as “Submit or Die!” as a nod to the parallels in academia. In the non-academic publishing circles, you submit, submit, submit, express fealty, and submit some more. The submission process is what keeps you going. You hope one day, your stuff is accepted, lest it die on the proverbial vine and go unread. being accepted is the goal, but it’s only the first step. Alas, the road to riches does not open up once you’ve been accepted. I can write more on that another day.
I’ll let the audience come up with more parallels. There are many. But the biggest problem I see is that traditional publishing is still full of writers and not enough readers. Oh sure, us writer’s read plenty, but let’s not kid ourselves. The reading of books has been on the decline for decades. As television has become more and more entrenched in our daily lives, people have been reading less. As the internet has become more and more prolific, people have started reading fewer books. (But now that the Kindle has become more ubiquitous, maybe more people will start reading again.)
We submit in hopes that people will one day read our stuff. Unfortunately, not many will. Genre fiction is broken down into numerous categories and sub-categories and readers like to stick with their little niche markets. I see a lot of authors self-publishing in hopes of hitting the big time on their own. I’m here to burst their bubble. If you can get a small handful of readers in the niche category you have chosen to read your material, then it’s mission accomplished. You should be happy to have been read at all.
I know. I’m being a pessimistic jerk and no one wants to hear this, but it’s true nonetheless. Just thought you should know!