To the right of my desk, in the top drawer of a steel white cabinet along with all my other qualifications is my Creative Writing degree from John Moores University. Though I’m proud of the work it represents I never felt I needed a degree or any form of qualification to write. When I doodled and sketched on a whim with pencils and crayons as a kid it never once entered my mind that I needed permission to draw.
In the job market of today’s specialised economy qualifications matter because many jobs require them and anyone who goes through their working life somehow ignoring them risks having little to no market power. It doesn’t have to be the most important thing in your life, but it still matters, if only to make money. That’s the job market but what about the book market?
If you look at the books for sale in your local supermarket you’ll often find they stock cookbooks, weight loss books, celebrity autobiographies or novels on the bestseller list. These books are ‘safe’, i.e. publishers feel confident these books will sell because the authors are well known or the genres are popular, e.g. crime. If you’re unknown and the book you’ve written or propose to write is unlike anything in the current market then publishers will think you’re too risky to publish. But, as history has shown, many people eventually break through the gates. It make take them years or decades but they get through.
I doubt any publisher ever looked at a Creative Writing degree and thought that was enough to publish someone.