Did you know that there is a way to guarantee that your book will get published?
Guaranteed, even, to be published by one of the big five publishing houses, with a guaranteed international distribution? A way that does not require endless querying, pitching, or even having the faintest idea what your book is going to be about?
By the way: this isn’t a joke. There is a proven method to get a book published with no effort on your part—not even the effort of actually writing the book, if you’d rather not. It’s a common approach, too. Every year, many books are produced this way. And a lot of them are bestsellers.
How is this possible, you ask?
Well, you only need one ingredient: BE SUPER FAMOUS ALREADY.
See, that wasn’t so hard.
Think of It as the Modern Primae Noctis
Celebrities are allowed to cut in line.
It’s true at a nightclub. It’s true at a baseball game. And it is true in modern publishing. We know who our lords are—it’s impossible to be unaware. And if they want first dibs at one of the industry’s release slots, then who are we, as serfs, to object?
And it doesn’t matter that celebrity books are far from being certain bestsellers. And it doesn’t matter that the celebrity’s fanbase might not even read books. And it doesn’t matter that the celebrity might not be committed to marketing the book and may lose interest after the first interview.
It doesn’t matter because reality doesn’t matter. Waking a sleepwalker doesn’t kill them. Swimming after a meal doesn’t give you muscle cramps. And sitting close to a TV will not ruin your eyesight. But even though none of these things are true, the perception that they are shapes the way life is lived.
And it’s the same with celebrity book deals. They make so much sense on paper, so surely they will always work in practice, right?
You already Misunderstand the Point
I’m not saying we need to change the situation, as nonsensical as it is. Even if I was confident I would succeed, I wouldn’t try.
Because if we were to remove one nonsensical practice from the publishing industry, the world would simply replace it with another, potentially more ridiculous practice.
And the ridiculousness we already have is perfectly exploitable. Just get famous first, and you can publish a book. And if you happen to be good a writing books, then you can springboard that into an entire publishing career.
But this system does have some obvious drawbacks.
Want a Book Deal? Commit a Crime.
Unfortunately, modern society does not draw a sharp enough line between celebrity and notoriety. There are precious few ways to get famous that are still honest. Yet you need to be famous before people will treat you like you matter. And all of this is obvious enough that someone is bound to put it all together and come to the natural conclusion.
Because the only way to get instant fame is by breaking the law in a flamboyant, destructive, and atrocious way. Rob a bank, punch a movie star, or do much, much worse, and you can rise through the ranks to get your VIP pass for life.
Now, your lawyer may advise you not to do interviews, and your judge may even enforce that with a gag order. But if you’re willing to put up with the harsher sentence, then doing dozens of interviews is the correct path, especially if you know how to turn up the charm. Show the media what a sensitive soul you are. Develop a narrative (which, if you’re a writer, you already know how to do) about how you were driven to bad doing by a society who refused to understand you, and how this is really everyone’s fault except yours. And then you’ll be given the chance to publish your side of the story.
I’m talking about this with my tongue firmly in my cheek, but it is believable, isn’t it? You could see someone doing exactly this.
Which is why I’m going to conclude this thought experiment now and move on to the next point.
Other Ways to Acquire Fame
Supposing you actually are concerned about harsh sentences, then getting famous is usually a matter of clawing your way to the top of some other, non-literary pursuit.
You could become a popular YouTube channel, or a national news anchor, or an Olympic gold medalist.
But the problem here is that all of those require at least as much effort as getting published. And all the time you spend trying to become a famous “something else” is time you aren’t spending on your books.
Even if you somehow succeed at becoming a luminary in another field, this approach may end up being counterproductive, robbing you of your chance to become known for your writing. And we all remember what the man in the glasses said:
I’d rather be known as an author and remembered for my writing than for all the rest of it.GROUCHO MARX
But, fortunately, there is a third and secret option, though it is only for those truly dedicated to succeeding by the “Famous First” philosophy.
Secret Option #3: Cheat
Remember earlier, when I said reality doesn’t matter? That’s still true, but it’s also a double-edged sword.
Practical considerations do not prevent famous people from getting easy book deals, but practical considerations also don’t prevent ordinary people from becoming famous.
Not if you can fake it.
Granted, it’s a skill and field all of its own, and not everyone can do it, but there are plenty of examples of people becoming famous just by pretending they already are. Whether you’re the Anastasia impostor or just one of the Kardashians, you know this works, and can make it work for you.
Make someone pay for your autograph. Hire a camera crew to follow you around. Make demands of hospitality workers like you’re a total diva, and people will start talking about you. Even if the only thing they say is that “That person isn’t really famous,” they’re still spreading the word about you, and thus making you famous.
The “Famous First” method is unfair, corrupt, and the source of the world’s worst books. But it’s not ever going away. So instead of complaining about it, why not use it?
An exploit is an exploit, after all. And whether you choose to exploit it by committing an atrocity, becoming an actual celebrity, or cheating the system, the possibility is there.
I can’t promise you’ll get anywhere, but I’d like to see how many people can actually pull it off.
Just remember where you got this idea and throw a bone my way when you’re on that pedestal.