I was going to wait to post something on my blog until the new year, but Christ on a cracker, I guess I have something to say a little early.
Alright, strap yourself in, kiddies. It's time for a wee bit of a story.
When I was 15, I finished my first book. I worked my ASS off on that book and I wanted nothing more than to share it with the world. I spent five years querying, making it better, and all that jazz. The thing I was told time and time again was that it was "too adult" for young adult (there was no such thing as New Adult then) and that vampires were saturating the market (this was around the Twilight craze) so no one was looking for vampire fiction.
So I self published. And you know what? I became a fucking bestseller with that book and eventually that series.
Was my first book, or even second book perfect? HELL NO. There were typos, grammatical errors, and all that. However, I was young. I had no money, no job, and no way to pay for a good editor. But that didn't seem to matter. I gained a following with the books and made enough money to make future books BETTER. I had good stories. Good characters, and the more I wrote, the better my writing became and the less errors and formatting problems I ran into.
I eventually made a career out of this--working around the traditional "system" of writing, publishing, designing, and editing.
What am I saying here? Well, that the way in which readers and writers connect to each other is and has been changing. If you're a creative person, you have to think creatively in order to share what you create.
If you aren't up on what has been going on in the writing world this year, let me real quickly bring you up to speed.
Small "publishing houses" have closed, indies have been scammed out of royalties, there have been "authors" posing as different people and plagiarizing left and right. All of these things and more has really cast a somewhat negative light on indie authors and what it is we do--especially to those who do not know how this works.
Let's take a minute to quickly go through the differences between self and traditional publishing.
With traditional publishing, you have what is commonly referred to as "gatekeepers". The agents, publishing houses, editors, etc. These are the people who tell you if your book is good or shit--or at least they used to be. Now, publishing houses and agents take on even fewer clients than they used to and it is even more difficult to become traditionally published.
So, what do you do if you have a great book but no way to show anyone?
That's right. You self-publish.
I'm not saying every book that is self published is some undiscovered gold that was passed over by an agent--not even close. There are a ton of people who call themselves authors when they can't even construct a sentence in an email.
HOWEVER, it doesn't give someone the right to lump us all in with the people who type something up and simply hit the publish button. Sometimes we're young. Sometimes we're old. Sometimes we can't afford really good editors or designers until we gain that traction that you don't need once you have signed with an agent.
We are tireless in our efforts to not only write at the caliber of traditionally published authors, but BETTER than them. We have to. We already have so much to prove before the reader sees the first sentence. We are judged more harshly for things that are done traditionally every day (typos, for example). We are scrutinized far more and more often.
We are our own PR team. We have to build an audience from the ground up. We have to push our books and make sure people know about them--sometimes we even pay for people to promote us.
We hire our own editors and our own designers. We do all the work of a publishing house on our OWN, or if you're lucky, with a personal assistant.
We write, revise, write, revise until our eyes are ready to fall out of our heads. Then we send them to actual readers and repeat it again and again until we are convinced the book is as close to perfect as possible.
And all of this is done in a matter of months. Not a year or two.
So this all brings me to the article that many of you have most likely seen or heard of by now.
To quote the author:
"...self-publishing needs to be labelled as such. The only similarity between published and self-published books is they each have words on pages inside a cover. The similarities end there. And every single self-published book I’ve tried to read has shown me exactly why the person had to resort to self-publishing. These people haven’t taken the decade, or in many cases even six months, to learn the very basics of writing, such as ‘show, don’t tell,’ or how to create a scene, or that clichés not only kill writing but bludgeon it with a sledgehammer. Sometimes they don’t even know grammar."
As an editor myself, I completely understand where this person is coming from. Yes, many people think they can just take up writing and collect their money. But to lump all of us in with these people is woefully unfair and uniformed. There are many indie authors that make their living writing and doing nothing but writing. Their books are on the NYT's list and so on and so forth. Obviously, we aren't doing all that bad.
I'm not writing this to be overly critical of this author. She has her opinions and perhaps she just hasn't read the good apples of the bunch. However, I will disagree with the fact that our books should be labeled.
I'll tell you why:
Readers aren't dumb.
They can in fact, tell when a book is a book versus a piece of shit. They can make or break your career faster than any publishing house. Books that are written just to be written typically don't do well because of the READERS. Authors who are not good at writing typically do not make their careers with self publishing for the same reason.
Also, most indie authors aren't dumb.
We know what readers see. We know what they want and who they are--I consider most of my readers friends. We form a community around our love of reading and supporting each other, which is something I only see sparingly in the traditional publishing world.
I am not saying that one form of publishing is better than another. They're just different, and if I write a book I think is appropriate for the traditional route, I will pursue it. The same way many traditional authors are going indie with some of their books. However, I will be taking my beloved community with me no matter what.
And when someone threatens our careers or accuses us of not being worthy of our titles as authors, we defend each other. We don't just sit by and let others bash us because they feel entitled to do so.
Spread love, my friends. This world is already filled with so much hate and people are more obsessed than ever with drawing lines where they do not need to be drawn. Art is important in trying times, and we as artists, creators, should be coming together.
See you next week.