It’s a shame that time and again the old dance of going after writing for being self-published still gets carted out from time to time. I have said it before and say it again – how is it that you can make movies yourself – INDIE – and music yourself – DIY – but god help you if you go through nontraditional means to get your work out there you’re suddenly a hack.
How does that make sense?
Now, I will grant you that let’s say that 95% of all self pub stuff released is OK to Not Good (my work is closer to Meh than either of those) which tends to be what people focus on, and that’s not unfair but it’s not a whole picture. Go into any bookstore or onto any book site and look at what’s there, that was published via traditional means, and how much of it is empirically good? How much is at least OK?
The difference between a published author in today’s market and a self pubbed one is luck as much as anything else. It’d be great to say – all of the people published today are genuinely talented authors with voices that cannot be denied.
That ain’t the case.
There’s a lot of crap out there, self pubbed and traditionally pubbed.
The greatest sin of self pub work, and I fall into this COMPLETELY, is the lack of editing and an editorial voice. Now, I prefer my work raw. I have a lot of things I can fix/do fix but I like that the work people get comes FROM me and isn’t filtered through other people. But that’s not always a good thing. Editors help keep the writer on task, cleans up the work, and makes sure the thing makes sense. Also, when a work is created for commerce it also forces those involved to take a harder look at it. I know I have enough stories written and more in my head that I could keep churning out book after book after book but knew that I needed to stop where I was. There’s a point of self-parody that you don’t want to reach.
The sins of self pubbed authors are many but most, MOST are self-inflicted and most only damage that author. When you look at some of the work that is picked up and put out traditionally, that to me is the problem.
Too much literal crap is put out.
There is a market for EVERY thing out there so variety is always great but having spent the last twenty years looking for publishers and getting no responses, or the same canned responses you start to pay more attention to trends. You start to laugh at the narrow focus the publishers have – We only want Christian fiction for babies – and you take heart a little. I was at a horror writing convention and had two pitches to publishers, a little one and a big one and each one I had ten minutes to pitch and each place yammered about themselves for six-eight of those minutes. They knew they were never going to buy anything from me, they knew it because that’s how that system works. Very, very few people get traditionally published these days.
And that’s fine.
But don’t tell me it’s because they have more talent than everyone else out there.
And don’t lecture me when I say to hell with the system and head in a different direction.
The biggest issue I have with the whole thing is that it takes away the common thread that binds us all together – we’re all writers. Good or bad, we are writers. I have a lot more respect for a writer that isn’t very good but writes out of passion and love for writing than I do for someone who has their works ghostwritten so they can keep cashing paychecks based off of their name value. Taking it all together there’s just a lot of crap out there, a lot, and it’s our job, your job, my job, OUR job to wade through it to get to what we want to read and what is worth our time. Don’t expect me to fight battles though for you, for anyone that belittles and denigrates what I do though. There is a battle being waged between Amazon and a large publishing house that has sweeping implications but the thing is that you can’t tell me what I do is invalid then ask me to take your side. Just like you can’t be on the sidelines catcalling people who have professional careers that are riding on how this turns out.
We need less They and Them and more US. We are all writers. We’re all trying to get our work out there and seen. The sad fact is that most of us, the greater part of most of us, will never live the dream of seeing our books in stores, having people anxious to read our work, and will never make but negligible money on what we do. I know so many authors that have their work put out traditionally but who still don’t make any money and it makes me see that it isn’t just Amazon that is broken but publishing as a whole. We began treating books and writing as if it was fast food to consume, crap out, then consume some more. The industry focused so much of its efforts on The Next Big Thing that it lost sight of the idea of finding and fostering talent. And book prices have made it easier to just get an e-book or not bother reading at all.
Books lost their magic.
We took it away.
Our fighting, our arguing, or finger pointing distracted us as the magic left.
The last time I stood in line for a book was to get the Seventh Harry Potter book and I expect that that is the very last time there’ll be a book that people stand in line for and that’s just sad.
Established authors need to remember where they came from and to encourage and nurture young writers. Not just kids but adults. Anyone who wants to write. Most people won’t see the stories and novels through to completion but they should be encouraged to do it. We need to spend less time bashing self pub authors and more time seeing why they went that way and how their work differs from traditionally published work. We need to stop acting as if we are better than one another.
It’s about stories, about telling stories, not about how we tell them.
So yeah, I AM self published. After spending years and years and too much money looking for someone to give my work a chance I decided to go the DIY route, the same route I took for all of the projects I have ever done. I would love to say my work is polished and will blow you away but it isn’t, and it won’t, but my stories deserve to be told. I deserve to tell them. If people aren’t interested then fine, but to tell me that my stories are invalid because of how they reach people is crap, and it’s lazy, and it’s the sort of thing that has made the publishing world the elitist manure factory that it’s become. I have spent hundreds of hours on my work, have created my own covers, have laid my work out, and have worked to get these stories and books out there. You can tell me my stories aren’t any good but you can’t convince me that they don’t deserve to be seen.