The Business Rusch: Lines in the Sand
Here’s the bottom line for me today: I’m teaching a writing workshop for professionals. It’s the hardest workshop I teach—for them and for me. Tonight I have three hours of work for class, and only four hours in which to complete it, so if anything throws me off, I’ll get less than the necessary hours of sleep…which wouldn’t be a big deal, except my health has been dicey all spring, so sleep is essential.
Yesterday, I wrote 2,000 words of a blog. Then, as I was describing it to Dean, I realized that the blog topic I had chosen was one of those topics that would get this response: one third of you would ask for clarification; one third of you would think I’m brilliant; and one third of you would tell me to do something anatomically impossible (and half of that group would also tell me to do so while flying, also impossible).
This week, I honestly don’t have time to answer all of the responses I will get, so I’m tabling that blog post until either next week or the week after. When I’m rested, no longer post-teaching cranky, and ready to have a great discussion, I’ll finish that post.
Which leaves me with a busy day and no time to write a full post—at least of the kind I normally write, filled with research, links, analysis, and all kinds of other goodies.
Instead, I’m going to talk about something that’s bothering me, something I can’t change.
Just before I entered my office, I got an e-mail from a reader who also happens to write and publish her own work (at least in part). She was deeply upset that one of her favorite writers wrote a long blog post that about the fact that all self-published books are crap. By definition. Self-published equals crap.
The reader got so angry that she not only responded (politely) on the favorite writer’s website, she also wrote an answering blog post. It too is reasoned. It too is polite. It is what I would call quietly angry.
And she has a right to be quietly angry.
Just like romance writers and readers get angry when critics say the entire genre stinks.
Just like science fiction writers and readers get angry when critics say the entire genre has no heart.
Just like mystery writers and readers get angry when critics say that the entire genre trivializes crime.
Are there bad romance novels published by traditional publishing houses? Sure. Just like there are bad science fiction novels, bad mystery novels, bad literary novels, and bad fantasy novels.
Surprisingly few truly bad novels get published through traditional publishing houses. I say surprisingly because the volume is high. Traditional publishers publishes hundreds of thousands of books each year. Some stinkers have to be in the mix somewhere.
Usually though, it’s just a matter of taste. My biggest complaint with critics is that they often don’t know how to separate their own taste from a legitimate criticism. Until they learn that, their comments are essentially useless.
No genre deserves to be dismissed out of hand, just like no publishing method deserves to be dismissed out of hand.
Last month, I left a listserve of professional writers and editors that I’ve been part of for more than a decade. A goodly portion of folks on the list told me point blank that my blog hurts writers, and that everything I do to help writers is actually destructive.
Of course, I got mad. Dean and I have spent decades teaching new writers and professional writers, often for no money, and always (in our own workshops) at a loss. We bring in other instructors, we bring in diverse points of view, and we strive hard to help writers.
So I was offended on a personal level. On a professional level, I was also rather shocked that everyone who told me I was harming people had not read my blog. After all, a good portion of this blog is for long-term professionals. I try to help them survive the changes in this industry.
One person on the listserve even told me that I should understand people in that person’s situation, someone whose life simply does not allow them to learn yet another new thing. That comment made me shake my head, and was the one that convinced me (as others piled on) that the folks on that listserve don’t read my blog. Because that very thing had been the topic of my blog that very week.
So these people were judging what I did without reading what I did or even examining it. And then they were attacking me.
If you’re going to attack me, do so because we know each other’s point of view and disagree. I don’t expect everyone to read my blog. But if you have an opinion on my blog, then for godssake, make it an informed opinion.
I’m a grown-up. I can handle this stuff. I’ve been through worse when I edited The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
But the night of the kerfuffle, I found myself with a new train of thought.
I have friends who are Muslim, friends who are Jews, friends who are Mormon, friends who are Catholic, friends who are Protestant. I am on listserves with them, but those listserves do not discuss religion.
I have friends who are Republican, friends who are Libertarian, friends who are Communists, friends who are Democrats, friends who are Progressives. I am on listserves with them, but those listserves do not discuss politics.
The listserve I was on—the one that had attacked me—was filled with publishing professionals. When I joined in the 1990s, publishing was a uniform game. There was one way to practice it and one way only. We didn’t even have to discuss it. It was like the sky. It just was. Sometimes we wondered if the storm clouds in the distance could harm us, and sometimes we discussed how to survive a blizzard, but we never ever questioned the sky.
Slowly publishing changed. Multinational conglomerations started to run it. Friends who worked in publishing houses got laid off. Writers who’d had decades-long careers couldn’t sell a book. People on that list serve started to get frustrated, and sometimes we’d talk about it.
Other people on the listserve became bestsellers. Others went to Hollywood to survive. Some went to the gaming industry. Still others gave up writing or editing altogether. We moved along.
In 2008/9, change hit the industry so hard that we all staggered. I started the freelancing blog as a chapter-by-chapter online posting of a book. Eighteen months later, I had finished that book, floundered for a while, and then decided to deal with the changes in publishing head-on.
A lot of folks from that listserve had helped with The Freelancer’s Guide. I figured they’d transition to the publishing blog, and perhaps they did. I don’t know.
But while I was writing, the publishing community fractured. The discussions about self-publishing and traditional publishing had become fraught with tension.
Hell, we can’t even figure out what to call this stuff. I like “indie publishing” because it encompasses everything from the do-it-yourselfer to the small publishing companies that have sprung up from this new wave of technology. Some folks are mad at me for “coopting” the word “indie.” I just use it the way musicians do, because my training is partly in music.
I also prefer “traditional publishing” to “legacy publishing.” I don’t even know what “legacy” means in this context, actually. (And I don’t want to. Let it go.) So I leave that word on the table. Really, I often have to revise the blog because I often type “New York publishing” when that’s not accurate either. A good third of you read this in countries other than the United States. I’ve had to move the blog to an international outlook because of you—and because of the way that publishing is changing. So “traditional” is what I prefer.
I don’t like any of my options–traditional, legacy, indie, self—because none of them are accurate.
But that’s one of those minor arguments people love because it allows them to vent their anger at something else in the blog without addressing that something else. I’m okay with that.
I do want you to note, however, that things have changed so fast, we’re waiting for our notoriously quick-changing English language to catch up.
As I kept writing this blog, the tension filling publishing became sides in an argument. The sides in an argument hardened into positions. The positions became entrenched. And I didn’t even notice. I was watching the overall changes on a vast industry-wide level. I realized that folks with day jobs inside traditional publishing had a literal vested interest in maintaining the old status quo, and that sometimes led to bad behavior.
But I did not foresee the fact that these entrenched positions had moved beyond both “entrenchment” and “position.” They had become religion or political points of view.
And suddenly, I was on a listserve with a bunch of people of varying religions and we were talking about religion.
They assumed that because I discussed indie publishing, I hated traditional publishing. Of course, most of them failed to remember that I’ve published more traditionally than many of them. On another listserve that I used to be on, I got excoriated for being a traditionally published author. Of course, most of the folks there failed to note that I had published more titles indie than they probably would in the next five years.
The blindness, the anger, the vituperativeness came from having a religious discussion with true believers.
True believers exist in every walk of life. I have a friend with whom I do not discuss computers. That person believes that Apple products are for stupid people and PC products are for smart people. It is a religion for him.
In person, I will not have a political discussion with anyone about certain hot-button topics, because if I do and we disagree and we become entrenched, I will revert to lovely helpful sentences like “What kind of idiot are you?” It will take maybe ten minutes, and my friend and I might come to blows. The fault will be mine.
I like my friends. I prefer not to fight with them over things that we cannot and will not change about each other.
Unfortunately, parts of publishing have become that way.
Some indie writers are like those reformed cigarette smokers who pull a burning cigarette from a stranger’s mouth and then excoriate them for their personal habit even though they’ve never met before.
As a person who reads American history for pleasure, I was appalled at writing bloggers who called traditionally published writers “house slaves.” Yeah, yeah, I saw the argument that these bloggers meant Roman history. Fine. Well. Good. But the language is insulting and offensive. No matter what culture you pluck it from, the word “slave,” when applied to someone who runs her own business and chooses who to partner with (a traditional publisher? An e-book distributor?) is unnecessarily harsh. It takes the argument from polite to screeching in less than sixty seconds.
On the listerve I left, I got lumped with writers who use “house slave” and other derogatory terms to describe other writers. I never have. I never would. I’m appalled at the folks who do.
But the traditionally published true believers are just as bad. Saying that anything self-published is crap is as insulting as calling another writer a house slave. The terms labeled at anyone who publishes his own work might seem more polite—“unprofessional,” “amateur”—but they are just as insulting and just as inaccurate.
Writers have moved from having constructive discussions to arguing out of their prejudices. And once people argue from a place of prejudice, they’re impossible to reason with.
So I reluctantly left that listserve. Not because I was insulted—I was then; I got over it within a day or so—but because I don’t discuss religion with my religious friends.
I dislike dogma in any form. I avoid it.
If you hand me a history of your religion, some of its texts, and introduce me to its leaders, I’ll read the documents and listen to the leaders. Then I’ll make my own decision.
If you can still respect me the morning after I’ve made my decision, even if it’s different from yours, we can have tons of religious discussions. They won’t occur to change my mind or to change yours. Just to keep each other informed about our beliefs and the way we view life.
I’ll respect you if you respect me.
Right now, these lines in the sand, drawn by writers on both sides, disrespect the other side. The sides have devolved into making mud balls and lobbing them at each other.
Those of us who stand on the line, who are trying to watch for more changes in the distance, and trying to follow the correct path for us and us alone are getting pelted from both directions. Those of us who are blogging about it are stupidly standing up, so we’ve become targets.
I kinda feel like the late Rodney King. I want to go to a microphone and say to the writing world, “Can’t we all get along?”
But I’m not that naïve. This battle has become a religious war, and those things go on for years, if not decades (and in some places in the world, centuries).
I’m not going to argue with you. If you want to tell me how stupid I am for any part of this post, and you fail to do it politely, I won’t put the comment through. If you want to convince me to join your side of the true believer debate, I won’t even if I’m leaning in your direction.
Arguing solves nothing.
Drawing lines in the sand solves nothing.
Writing blogs on your website about how stupid other writers are and how crappy their publishing plan is (whether traditional or indie) won’t gain you fans. Readers really don’t care what company published a book.
Readers care about a good story. If your story is filled with typos and bad formatting, a reader can’t read it.
If your story is priced too high or out of print, a reader can’t read it.
If you can’t sell a book into traditional publishing, but you refuse to go indie, a reader can’t read that book.
It’s that simple.
What’s going on in publishing right now, folks, is a change in delivery systems. That’s all. It’s not the War of the Roses. It’s not the Crusades. It’s not the American Civil War.
So if you want to play soldier in a religious or political war, go ahead. But you won’t get me to play along.
I have novels to write. I have students to teach (this evening, in fact). I have books to read.
I don’t have time to waste trying to convince someone with a closed mind to listen to someone else with a differing opinion and an equally barricaded brain.
Fight among yourselves, kids. I have a career to run.
Speaking of comments, I will monitor the comments this week, but I’m going to be too busy to answer each. If you have questions or expect me to expound, I won’t be able to do so until Sunday or Monday.
The comments, emails, and donations keep this blog alive. I appreciate the links and the opinions. I use the donations to gauge whether or not this blog is useful. If I were a different person, I would have shut down after my realization that talking about the changes in publishing is like talking about religion. But I think those of us standing near that line in the sand, those of us who aren’t pelting each other with mud balls, need to continue our discussion.
However, I do write fiction for a living, and if this blog does not pay for itself, I will go back to doing fiction only. So I add the donate button.
Thanks for all the support.
“The Business Rusch: “Lines in the Sand,” copyright © 2012 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.
*virtual high-five* I just now finished my own post on this very topic that will post tomorrow. As I read your blog I just kept nodding.
I actually went through this when I accepted a contract with a digital publisher for my first book (before Kindle and Nook were in our every day vocabulary). Even then I wasn’t sure why people cared how my book got to the readers. I feel like it’s the same arguments over legitimacy just on a different day.
Writing a book is haaaarrrd and the publishing world can be brutal. Authors pointing fingers is just … unnecessary.
“So if you want to play soldier in a religious or political war, go ahead. But you won’t get me to play along.”
I’m really not a rah-rah kind of person, but that’s a banner I can get behind
Now to get back to some writing (& reading) for a couple of hours tonight
Great post, Kris! I’m sure no doubt that some of it is the gut-reaction of the community when assumptions that we all “just know are true” are challenged. That creates a visceral emotional reaction that has to be worked through as the assumptions break down, and then a period of chaos as new consensus forms around new assumptions of “the way the world works.” It’s probably a lot like starting a new RPG campaign where you don’t yet have the language for your stats levels and haven’t yet figured out how your stunts will translate into roll modifiers (okay, I just went full-on nerd there).
Add to that a little dose of, “there’s no greater zealot than a recent convert” and you get a lot of noisy opinions. Mix in a little time-delayed journalism as big places like HuffPo pick up human-interest quotes and massage them into puff pieces that may or may not contain kernels of relevance but will bring eyeballs to sites with provocative headlines, and you get a tempest that stirs up the teapot a lot longer than its natural lifespan.
It’s a good reminder, too, that your fellow writer is more than likely also a reader, and can either be an ally in your journey from many perspectives (sounding board, help with promotion, critique, etc.)…or they can turn into your enemy. On the internets, the zinger gets you “street cred” of a certain sort, but the longer-term respect comes from when you lift the whole tone of the discourse and express in terms of civility and respect.
I can’t wait to see your other post–with a provocative teaser like that, it’s got to be good!
We WANT you on that wall! We NEED you on that wall!
LOL, Indiana Jim. I love the Les Mis reference.
To be honest, I can’t imagine a better time to be a writer. The choices for reaching readers are amazing — and reader driven in a way they have not been in a very long time, if ever.
I do see writers in long-term traditional contracts (with a low floor of ebook sales to define “in-print”) as in a form of indentured servitude (different from slavery, in that the state is entered willingly and does have a finite term), and that’s one thing I hope the new paradigm of publishing can solve. After all, the traditional publisher is partnering with a writer they believe in. If that changes, they should set the writer free, not hold on tight until the term is up without exploiting the rights they licensed.
I suspect within the next two years, we’ll start to see that happening. Maybe an author will need to pay back something to get the work “free” again. Maybe contracts will start having shorter licensing terms. It will take one forward-looking publisher who realizes it is in their financial best interest to do this with most properties because the business is no longer about locking down everything in sight in case it turns into a blockbuster 🙂
I’m appalled that anyone would think you are harming writers with the advice you give. You are always so careful to enumerate every side, every pro and every con. That’s why I read you (and recommend you to others who are trying to figure this all out).
Keep on doing what you’re doing. It’s sure working for a lot of writers who’ve used your advice to work their own way to success.
I always feel a rush of affection, admiration and a little envy when I read these posts. Bless you, this was wonderful.
Personally I enjoy talking to people of other religions about their faiths — but mostly I just ask a lot of questions and keep my mouth shut about my own beliefs, so maybe it’s more like an interview than a conversation.
Part of the drama comes from the fact that we are now in the change, a change that will eventually have an outcome that looks something like a steady state, at which point some of us will wind up worse off than we are now. It makes for a lot of fear and self-riteousness. Very unpleasant, but human nature. I’m sorry you had to leave your listserve, though; they need you.
I prefer Vertically Integrated Publishing (VIPub) to describe what has to be done to “indie” which doesn’t seem to encompass the whole ball of wax. We write, we edit, we publish (getting artwork and doing layout), we publicize, we do all the accounting–it is a full-scale, bottom to top business.
At the recent WWA convention, more than one editor flat out said publishers expect their authors to launch their own complete PR campaign since the publisher isn’t going to do a damned thing to promote/advertise the book. I didn’t heard them say their cut (92% pb, 85-90% hc, 75% net ebook) was being reduced as a result of them doing less work.
I do the work, I rather like being paid for it.
Quite agree about arguing with those who do so from faith rather than facts. Believe what you want, don’t expect me to believe also. Right now I believe I have 3 books with a traditional publisher to finish this year and that many VIPub projects to launch. Mixing it up works for me. YMMV.
Write on, Kris!
Thanks, Kris, for a reasoned and oh-so-sensible post. I’m sooo tired of the outrage on loops and in the publishing blogosphere, and the accusation, diatribes, and insults. Some have even taking to calling the disagreements “class warfare” or just the war between indie and trad. Yeah, I get the metaphor, but it’s a bit over the top, for my taste. And it doesn’t serve any purpose other than to inflame the situation and dumb it down even more.
Kris, I’ll leave it to you as to whether or not you publish all or part of this or none of it at all. If you don’t, I won’t be offended. It will be my personal pat on the back for you guys that I hope takes some of the sting out of what you’ve been going through:
I’m sad that you’re going through this, Kris. I’m sad for you and Dean both. All along you’ve given us the tools and told us to think for ourselves. And it’s always sad when thinking is a “bad” thing.
This argument has grown so fast. Just four years ago, we were talking about how to market our work, and the most challenging change we had to wrap our heads around was having the option to skip the agent and go direct to the editor. Even then, I was always the lone voice in the Utah wind counseling those who asked to test both routes and go with whatever gave them the best opportunity that made sense at the time. I said in many a flaming email discussion, “It’s just multiple distribution options, and having those options is a good thing, as long as you protect your interests and leverage those options intelligently.” And ye gods did I get slammed for that.
People don’t always want common business sense. They want the magic key to success.
And they will cling to it with everything they have.
Now the options are indie vs traditional, and once again, like you, I’m seeing near-religious evangelism, with people clinging to whatever they think works. “No, THIS is the truth, THIS is the ONLY WAY”–and I’ve caught the hard edge of those zealous belief systems from both sides.
In business, fervent belief is magical thinking. You cannot clap a book into life. You cannot mantra or worry stone or BELIEVE that book’s success into being. Most of all, you cannot grasp a single straw and hope it carries you wherever you want it to take you. You can only leverage every opportunity for driving that success through the vehicles and tools you have at hand, selecting each one in each instance for the benefit it brings to the table. The more tools you have, the more opportunity you can generate.
“There can be only one” makes great fiction, but lousy business.
Decisions seem to be like grenades. People are terrified of them. Especially when they’re important. But no matter how careful you have to be in making them–from genre to audience to agenting to choosing a publishing venue–the good thing about a decision is that YOU HAVE ONE. Yes, you have to educate yourself so you can make a good decision. That’s the hard part. But the good part is, having a decision means you have options, and having options is always a good thing.
This is not a religion. It’s a BUSINESS. Having more than one distribution option IS A GOOD THING. And I say that these are OPTIONS on purpose, because “choice” seems to indicate an “either/or” selection where one choice is always good and the other choice is always bad. Good vs evil. Us or them. That’s the wrong mentality for business. Doing business can be summed up in three points: maximize your profits, protect your interests, leverage your options.
You and Dean have always taught us how to sell widgets. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that once a piece is done, it becomes an investment and the incentive for handling that piece shifts from “this is my world and I love it” to “let’s look at everything I can do to maximize my profits on this investment.”
Writers could use a few good lessons from the mafia. Preferably without kneecapping each other AND themselves.
So the upshot of all of this very long-winded reply is: I’m sorry anyone ever said such a ridiculous thing to you, telling you that you were harming writers with your blogs and your workshops. No way. I have learned so much from you and Dean. When I came into this, I didn’t know a single damned thing. Now I at least know a few things about what I don’t know and should know.
I have not always agreed with every single thing you guys have told us these last four years, because I always felt that with so much I didn’t know, I had to test before I could trust. And because I knew every situation would be so different, no one size could ever fit each and every need. But most of all because of the very first thing you told us, which was “DO NOT take every little thing we say here as gospel.” You were trying to prevent us from embracing any single way, including yours, like religion. That by itself says volumes about what you’re doing here. You would be proud of us for making a career of this no matter which way we did it, and that by itself gave me the basis for making my own beginning in any way that made sense to me at the time. Thank you for that.
Keep teaching, keep blogging, keep speaking your mind. People will do what people will do with it, but please KNOW that you HAVE helped a whole hell of a lot of them.
Fast answer for True Believers of any side:
Jane Austen was self-published.
She edited herself and had to hire a printing press for her first novel. Fortunately, it sold well when compared with all those “moral-of-the-story” books written by Sanctimonious women and men who preceived their profession as preaching to the uninitiated young women of their day, while Jane (a preacher’s daughter, no less) just wanted to entertain.
When Guttenberg printing presses were the singular means to get a book “out there”, the owner of the printing press could only print so many books a month, so he hired editors and writers who would write certain things he thought he could sell. He also subscribed to the “books as produce” model so he could sell more books to the reading public – planned obsolescence existed then, too. He used cheap paper and glue so a book would fall apart after 5 or 6 readings, and then the public would buy another book.
With the Internet and computers in every home, he has lost his Monopoly. Paper, ink, and glue are accessories and therefore no longer essential to the book-buying public. Internet transmission and a plethora of reading devices from smart phones to tablets, laptops, and even desktop computers have made the printing press and its associated industry obsolete. No quantity of “true belief” can change that.
For many people, change is difficult.
On a happier note, I saw the cover to Coolhunting on the side of your web page today. Awesome. The girl is simultaneously adult, child, slave, and a living doll. I must get off this Blog and buy that book Now.
Have a good day.
Thanks for all of that, Susan. I did not know that about Jane Austen (or maybe I forgot it). I love the Guttenberg thing.
I will tell Allyson, who designed the cover, that she inspired you to buy. I love that cover too because it does capture the essence of the story.
Not that you need me to say it, but I’ll say it anyway: you and Dean have been enormously helpful to beginning pro writers. Honestly, I’m a little angry right now that you would be attacked in this way.
Right now I’m firmly in the indie camp, but I might change my mind tomorrow if the right offer/contract came along. And that’s the problem with establishing an entrenched position right now. Things are just changing too fast to really know what the best course of action will be in a year, a month, or even a day. The SMARTEST thing to do, IMHO, is to listen to many and varied opinions, ESPECIALLY from those on the other side of the divide, because you may learn something you will never hear from people on your “side.”
Which is why I think everyone in publishing should be reading your blog (and Dean’s). Whether or not people agree with you, they’ll always learn something.
Sorry for the attacks, Kris! But pleas do keep up the good work!!!
I too would LOVE to be at the short story workshop, but finances didn’t work out this year. I’ve gotten so much help and advice from you and Dean. Thanks for your blog. At this time I’m only Indie Publishing. Don’t know if that will change. I don’t know if I could give up making my own covers.:-)
I can’t help but think about how much energy is being used in this war, how much time being wound up in anger, frustration, entrenchment and name calling. And how much better off all of us would be (readers and writers) if all that time and energy was focused back onto writing. But everyone makes their own choices. I’ve made it my choice to just stay out of it and write and publish.
“But I did not foresee the fact that these entrenched positions had moved beyond both “entrenchment” and “position.” They had become religion or political points of view.”
Yep. I first noticed this in the hysterically vituperative (about traditioanl publishing) and blindly reverential (about self-publishing) commentary of early-adaptor self-publishing writers. It’s why I was so dismissive of self-publishing in 2009 and 2010; whenever anyone talked about it, it always sounded like religion, not business.
Then around mid-2010, I started hearing from some people who actually talked BUSINESS, and I got interested–and started self-publishing my backlist in early 2011. And I talk business with other writers who are self-publishing backlist AND self-publishing frontlist (which I hope to start doing later on)–but I only talk business, and I only converse with others who talk business.
A LOT of people in this gig talk in the tongues of religious ecstasy and agony. And I’m not interested, don’t want to play, and decline to engage with that. Because publishing and selling books is business for me, not religion.
And, yeah, there are also plenty of people in traditional publishing (publishers, agents, even writers) who these days sound a LOT like the medieval Catholic Church condemning apostasy and not at all like 21st century business people discussing new and emerging business models, opporunities, and challenges.
On all sides of the writing, publishing, and self-publishing world these days, there are a lot of people too entrenched in ferevently religious flights of ardor and vitriol to talk sense.
Fortunately, there are by now also plenty of people with whom it is possible to talk business like sensible adults. The trick is to avoid the former and cultivate the latter. (Not always easy in a forum as democratic as the internet, where any self-proclaimed mystic foaming at the mouth can have his say almost anywhere he chooses.)
“If you’re going to attack me, do so because we know each other’s point of view and disagree. I don’t expect everyone to read my blog. But if you have an opinion on my blog, then for godssake, make it an informed opinion.”
I’m laughing so hard I can hardly type this first sentence.
A few weeks ago, on a different list serve entirely (but one also comprised of pro writers), I was described, in an unfriendly way, as being “pro-Amazon.” Which certainly puzzled me, since I hadn’t mentioned or thought of Amazon at ALL in the discussion underway. I pointed this out, and I added that if this person was interested in what I –actually- thought of Amazon, my monthly column that very month (for the organization associated with this list serve) happened to explain my views on Amazon–which views could by no means be decribed as “pro” (nor as “anti,” really; I’m pragmatic and cynical about large corporations and the inevitable cycles of history).
In replying to this, the other party claimed to be too busy to bother to reading my column and reiterated the accusation that I am “pro-Amazon.”
Oooookay. Uh, have fun with that. Knock yourself out, dude.
Preach it, sister!
Jana, traditionally and indie published and no plans to change
Thanks for the thought-provoking post. I’ve gotten bad books from traditional publishers and bad self-pubbed books. So it’s a clean sweep from that perspective.
What I have noticed, though, is that traditionally published books *tend* to be better edited with fewer mistakes. I’m sure this is because they have the benefit of an editorial staff and because many self-published authors can’t afford what a really good copy/line editor would cost them.
Another trend seems to be authors who have been published by the big houses moving towards self publishing, no doubt to garner a better return. Because they have connections and know the industry their self published works are a joy to read.
So, just as nothing in any category is ever “black” or “white”, the same is true for publishing. Caveat emptor. I’ve learned to pick carefully and actually take the time to read the first few pages Amazon and other publishers so kindly offer up. If I’m cringing from grammatical errors, I move to another book. That’s probably too bad. I’m sure I’ve passed over more than one good story, but for me reading is a package. Maybe because I’m old, I can’t overlook POV slips, dialog errors and misuse of verb tenses. Or characters who put their gloves on when they’ve already done that two paragraphs before. (Another use for a good editor. They can catch things like that.)
I love your blog. Interestingly it was a topic on an EPIC discussion board not long ago.
I note that older traditional e-books are riddled with errors too–mostly because those books were scanned and uploaded without proofing. I think the error stuff exists on both sides, leaving me as a Kindle reader, sampling everything. The good thing is that sampling has become a habit, and I now buy a lot of things I never would have, because the storyteller/writers are so damn good. It’s fun.
Heh. Remember a few years ago when “self-published” was the mark of death, a guarantee that the book was an amateur production and not worth looking at? Those in traditional publishing who fear for their comfortable positions and income are defending that attitude with vigor. They’ve awakened to the fact that changes are happening, so they’re getting more vociferous in their defense of an idea that’s out of date.
Speaking of out of date, that’s what “legacy” means in my spouse’s industry (software). A legacy system is one that’s being replaced by a newer, better system. I think this applies nicely to publishing.
Thanks, Pati. And yes, I remember when self-publishing was a bad thing. I revised the Freelancer’s Guide, because I worried in one section (written 2009) that self-published writers weren’t trying hard enough to get published traditional. Boy, did that date quickly. It stopped being my position two years ago. But it evolved.
So I do understand where people are coming from and I do understand why they hold the positions they do. I just don’t like arguing with people who don’t look at anything new with curiousity.
And thanks to you too for the legacy explanation. I did not know that.
Kris, I don’t expect you to let this comment through because “I don’t even know what “legacy” means in this context, actually. (And I don’t want to. Let it go.),” but FYI and because (despite appearances) I was never very good at following instructions:
I assume (yeah, I know what that makes me) that legacy is being used in the same way computer techs use it.
To elaborate, in case you aren’t already familiar with the term, in computer-speak, legacy hardware and software are those things which are being replaced by the newer (better? faster? more customer friendly? etc.) version or, in fact, a completely different technology. It is synonymous with outdated, old-fashioned and has a pejorative undertone in that the legacy (inherited) system is, in theory, already relegated to the trash heap. Geeks often speak of how well (or poorly) the new technology interfaces with the legacy system, with the implication that the interface is a stop gap until the system can be properly updated or entirely replaced.
From the point of view of neutrality in terms, traditional publishing is much preferable to legacy, IMHO.
Have fun with your short story workshop. Whatever others may say, you and Dean have done more good for new writers than anyone else I know.
I am not familiar with the term, Mary, and that clears up soooo much for me. Because in my world, a legacy (like a bequest) is a good thing. So thank you!
The problem is that polarization is “in” these days. (And you can thank television news for that.) You can’t be moderate or objective… you must take a side. People aren’t just people anymore…. they’re right wing or left wing, pro-life or pro-choice, and in this case, indie or traditional… many think that what you believe is what defines you.
Kris, you and I were trained as old-fashioned (not biased) reporters. To us, being objective and seeing other points of view is normal. For others, it’s the foundation for an argument.
And the little secret that you and I know is that there are often a lot more than two sides to a story.
Exactly, Randy. I miss our old-fashioned reporter/mentors more and more with each passing day. I don’t just blame TV news, though. I blame the educational system that slides people through without forcing them to think as well. I heard a statistic last week, that 25% of all Americans who start high school do not graduate. How can they argue a point at all? They haven’t learned how to find their own opinions yet or how to think, reason, and research. (Not that high school teaches that as well as college, but stilll. The more education you have, the more your mind is–or should be–open to new ides.)
Thanks for the thoughtful comment. And shhhh. Don’t tell people there’s more than two sides. That’ll really confuse them. 🙂
You are right. Right now publishing IS a religion to many of those involved. You have the fundies who insist the only way to do things is the way they have always been done and anyone who disagrees is doomed to hades, or an agent of the devil. You have the New Fundies who say the old stuff is great and maybe we should make accommodations for some of these “new” ways. Then you have those who say the “new” and “old” ways both have their own advatnages and it’s best to meld the two together into a new way. And finally you have the Revolutionaries who say the new way is coming and that the old way will be swept away as so much detritus.
And each group has much talent, effort, and money invested in the approach they promote.
And no one is going to change the mind of the other until it becomes readily apparent to all which way is going to become predominate. (kinda like the CD/record/tape wars of the 1980’s and 1990’s until it became apparent that CD’s were stomping the other two into the dirt–and now CD’s are watching digital music steal their breakfast, lunch, and dinner).
I’ve always said I’m happy to have a discussion with someone who was happy to have a discussion with me. The caveat to that is, in order to have a discussion you have to be willing to see both sides. If you aren’t willing to see the other side, you aren’t discussing, you’re preaching.
I don’t do sermons.
I was trying to find a quote I half remember, it went something like, “They started thinking they were in the train business, but they weren’t. They were in the transportation business.” I wish I could remember the actual quote, but basically it was about getting stuck in the wrong mindset and not adapting to changes in industry.
But while I was looking for it, I found this nifty quote from Henry Ford: “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.”
I think this is also applicable. 😉
Thanks for standing on the line and dodging the mud. Those of us standing behind you asking, “So what do you see out there?” really appreciate it!
P.S. I may have to add “publishing philosophy” to my standard “religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin” answer to topics I don’t discuss casually. Or maybe it falls under Great Pumpkin…
I think Bob Mayer made that point in his very good blog on publishing.
I love your Great Pumpkin answer. 🙂
You are right. You cannot fight a war and keep your hands clean. Besides, it’s draining energy and it diverts you from writing.
Yet, is it doing war to inform authors (the first readers of author’s blog, in my opinion) of the tremendous changes taking place in the publishing world and help them to do informed choices ? That’s what you dou, Kristine, and I am grateful for that.
Sometimes, indie authors like me cannot help but to think the traditional world is unfair to the authors, and so, they try to restore the balance by informing them. We feel not doing so, staying neutral would be complacent. So we begin to act more or less like partisans.
Still, I believe we have to be confident the way things are evoluting, so it’s better not to be too much involved tring to accelerate things. And to keep doing what we are the best at : writing.
Yes, a beautiful post. I think when change happens, we always hit this spot where the new map gets drawn and people spend an inordinate amount of time reinforcing the new borders — even when the borders are just perceptions. Eventually people will settle down.
And, let’s face it, overall, people are getting lazy, and it’s much easier to argue with a straw man than with real people. It’s also much more satisfying, because when you argue with a straw man of your own making, you are always right, and they are always wrong.
Seth Godin had a post a few years ago about Righteous Indignation — about how everyone uses it but it never actually works, and maybe it’s time we removed it from the tool chest:
Normally I’m pretty good at seeing various sides of any issue regardless of how much I agree or disagree with them. But this post of your boggles.
I *was* going to ask HOW in the world anyone could consider your blog as doing a disservice. But then when you got to the point of saying those people hadn’t even read it yet… That answered that.
Thanks for this site, Kris! I point fellow writers and would-be writers to it all the time.
I am a romance writer and a science fiction writer so I have gotten writer disdain from both genres. My education is graduate level literature, and I write genre. I was a very early adapter of e-publishing with my first romance novel coming out twelve years ago at one of the best early e-publishing companies.
So, yes, I have had more insults, disdain, and arrows in my back from my fellow writers than most writers would see in five lifetimes. Someone must spit in my face to make me feel insulted.
I’ve decided that the profession of writing is like high school with its cliques, bullies, and mean girls. Everyone has to have someone to look down on. If you write for publisher X that means you are better than those who write for publisher Y. If your books are hardcover, you are better than those who come out in massmarket. Your genre is always superior to all the other genres.
The main emotional fuel for all this is fear of the unknown and the fear of losing a career most of us give our lives and souls for.
The self-published are the current most likely to be bullied, insulted, and belittled.
It helps deal with the crap when you understand the high school nature of the business, and that, someday, it will seem just as silly as high school seems silly to those of us way past that experience.
Hail to the geeks, we’ve been dealing with that crap all our lives. 😉 Good analogy.
Yes, it’s just a delivery system! Sing it, Kris! All of this has reminded me of the Magnificent Ambersons. They made lights for carriages, I believe, and then automobiles came into being and they were screwed. They didn’t keep up with the times!
For me it’s all about getting my stories out where people can read them. I published Church of the Old Mermaids in the wayback time (2009) before indie publishing had really gotten going. Even Mario was skeptical and thought it would hurt my career, but I wasn’t going to let that story gather dust. (My agent at the time said he’d quit if he couldn’t sell it–he thought it was that good. And it was an almost sale a few times but the main character was a 50-something woman and apparently the 20-something sales teams didn’t get it. At least that’s what we were told. Anyway.) So Mario and I put together a beautiful book and published it, and none of my readers knew the difference. And I called it indie publishing, too, Kris, telling people we were doing what indie musicians had been doing for decades. My readers didn’t care. What was I talking about? Could they buy the book or not? Oh, and by the way, I still sold books to traditional publishers. And now, this minute, I’m not sending out my books to traditional publishers. But I’m not anti-traditional publisher. After 30 years, I was just tired of doing that, and I haven’t liked what they’ve been offering. The terms have been too draconian. I’m hoping that will stop once this new paradigm settles into place–or it won’t. We’ll see. I’m open. I just know that I’m a storyteller and I want people to have access to my stories. And I am having a ball. I am happy for my fellow writers when they are happy and successful. Not happy with them when they are so scornful and nasty about the choices of their fellow writers.
Your comment about religion is particularly apt. Also your comment about forming your own opinion and being okay with disagreements. I have pretty strong spiritual beliefs, and yet the best discussions I have are with an atheist. Because we both respect each other and our opinions/beliefs.
The same could be done in the publishing world. I’ve learned a lot from both indie and traditional authors. Too bad too many others can’t get beyond their narrow beliefs to do the same.
Exactly, Julie. I love talking to people with strong faith about their religions. I love learning about new points of view. I learn so much. It’s the folks who don’t know why they believe what they believe that confuse me. But I’m a learner and a questioner, and some people aren’t on some topics. So it’s better not to discuss with them.
Excellent post! I especially like your comments with regards to true believers. I wrote something similar not too long ago, around the time the DOJ filed its antitrust suit. The publishers and their defenders started talking a lot about defending culture, protecting literature and things like that, and it occurred to me that this had ceased being a legimate discussion of business practices and morphed into pseudo-religious dogma of true believers. I am a pretty heavy critic of traditional publishing, I make no apologies for it, but my criticisms are made on the corporate or institutional level. I don’t criticize individual writers for the choices they make. No one really knows the circumstances that goes into a person’s decisions but them. Myself, for instance, I have always been a very independently minded person, entrepreneurial in many ways, so self publishing sometimes seems tailor made to me, but that’s because it fits my personality and the traits and aspects of what I’m looking for. Other people may not necessarily be like that; the things traditional publishing offers that can seem extraneous or unnecessary to someone like me can easily be a determining factor from another’s personal viewpoint. It’s not my place to criticize someone for doing what’s right for them.
I do enjoy a spirited discussion, though, particularly when we’re talking business models, and I do espouse some strong opinions that I try to back up with facts, experience and observations. Sometimes, I like to get into arguments and force people to defend their positions because I learned a long time ago that there is more wisdom to be gained not in what people believe but the reasons why they believe it. The problem with true believers of any stripe is that their reasons why are often lacking or non-existent, and therefore no knowledge can be gained from the interaction. It’s dangerous to fall into that trap, from any side of an issue, particularly in an industry changing as much and as rapidly as publishing. Hopefully, open minds, whatever position they’re coming from, will prevail. Keep up the good work!
I love your last paragraph here, Dan. That’s exactly why I’m not fond of true believers, and why I avoid them. I love people who’ve come to their choices thoughtfully. If they want to vociferously defend their position, fine. But the position is a deep one, one that can handle questions and arguments. The folks who say, “It just is,” or “My way or the highway,” simply aren’t worth talking to on that particular topic. Life’s too short. 🙂
You speak from experience. You make me think about publishing. You (and Dean) give me the desire and the knowledge to make my way through the new world that is publishing. Thank you.
Sometimes I read your blog, and I’m surprised and saddened to read that you have to leave a group or endure rude e-mail just because of your (IMO) calm, moderate, well-researched blog. I’m also sorry to hear that your health has been iffy this spring. It took me a while to realize that it’s not just the blog-writing itself that eats your time, but all the fallout that you have to deal with, from hate mail to your website krumping out.
So a giant thank you for teaching both in person and through your blog, as well as continuing your writing.
As for the haters, I don’t have much to say. I usually walk away from people like that. Again, thanks for standing in the line of fire.
Thanks, Melissa. I learned long ago that if I’m not getting a response, then I’m not expressing an opinion. Responses are never 100% positive. If I put myself out there, then I will get pushback. That happens in fiction as well. And when I edited. So the responses are an expected part of a public opinion.
That said, the one way to make me mad is to attribute something I never said to me, then start to fight with me based on assumptions about me, without any facts or without reading what I do. I hate it when people fight about things they’re uninformed about. I think that comes from being a former journalist. I put stuff out there to educate or to start discussions, and I expect us all to start from the position of knowledge, not a position of ignorance.
I think that’s what pissed me off the most about that listserve.
If my readers disagree with me, then fine. They’ve read what I have to say. I should at least read what they have to say. And often, they change my mind. Or point me in a new direction. I really, really, really value that.
Both you and Dean wrote wonderful posts today. You are both right. I think right now it is a wonderful time to be a writer with all the choices that we have now. I’m glad that I’ve entered into this business now with all these choices. I can’t understand why writers do this to themselves. Why can’t they support each other in the choices that each writer makes? There is room for everyone but it seems there are too many bruised ego out there that have to get over themselves. I think they have to be reminded why they are in this business in the first place and that is to write great stories.
Absolutely one of the best written and most well reasoned posts I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. The ‘religion’ analogy is particularly apt, and your policy of avoiding the discussion of ‘hot button’ issues with true believers closely parallels my own. However, I’d never really considered the indie vs. trad publishing “debate” in that light until you flipped the switch.
How much did I enjoy your post? Well, let’s just say that though I never miss one of your posts, I’ve always been a lurker, and never a commenter. More to the point, I’ve also been a non-contributor (he mumbles).
I just hit the Paypal button, and would encourage others to do the same. Thanks for all you do. Sorry it took me so long.
Thanks, RE. I appreciate the comment and the donation. 🙂
One person on the listserve even told me that I should understand people in that person’s situation, someone whose life simply does not allow them to learn yet another new thing.
Well, you can’t write a blog to please dead people. Because if your life “does not allow you to learn yet another new thing,” that’s where you are.
And as for the religion metaphor: I guess that would make me a Unitarian. Many paths to God, and all that.
And “night of the kerfluffle” has now become my favorite phrase of the day. Possibly ever.
Be well, Kristine.
Yeah, I’ve written exactly one blog post directly about the changes in publishing. Mainly because I don’t have anything to contribute that would be worth the flak I would get from either side, no matter how diplomatically and line-straddling I attempted to word it. I only wrote the one because I was getting barraged by the same questions over and over again from other writers as to what indie publishing was and what the debate was and why I was indie publishing, so I tried to answer them all in one fell swoop. The response? Pretty much dead silence, but then, that was a year ago, and I think that silence stemmed more from not being familiar with my take on things than anything else. The post got a lot of hits, but no comments at all.
Not to throw an added element of contention in here, but in general, I’m finding the “religious” wars occurring online to be exhausting in general. Everyone seems so polarized right now. For example, I’m not in the least bit partisan, but if I say something that someone construes as “x” or “y” then they immediately “decide” where I stand on every single other issue under the sun, merely by assuming all of my viewpoints align along partisan lines, simply because theirs do. It makes my head want to explode. I don’t know if it’s internet culture beginning to reflect on the larger culture, or what, but it seems like people can’t handle shades of gray anymore…in relation to ANYTHING. I find that disturbing, frankly.
So yeah, I am choosing not to be active in this discussion, at least not online. I suppose by the articles I repost, etc., I am commenting in a sense, but I already know how I would be seen by the those on the “trad pub only” end, since I haven’t traditionally published. Therefore, why even go there? Arguments around why indie publishing might be valuable for some writers are (or at least in theory should be) far more credible coming from someone like you, Kris, who has experienced both. If people want to dismiss writers like you and Dean, then what hope do I have that anyone would read my words on the subject with anything but contempt?
But as others on here have said, I think the key is to focus on your readers. I also believe 80% of the writers who actually know what’s involved in both types of publishing are, at heart, truly line-straddlers. Right now, I happen to be focused on indie publishing. Whether or not that changes in the future, who knows? But nothing anyone screeches at me is likely to affect my decision overly.
I more feel sad that it might for others. I’m old enough that I’ve learned not to assume everyone in the world knows more than me, so if something feels right or wrong for me, I go with that, assuming the data doesn’t strongly conflict. But I know that not everyone works this way. It’s those people I feel sorry for. God only knows what they must be thinking, but i imagine that if they aren’t ripping their hair out in confusion, they’ve joined one or the other “camp” just so they don’t have to try to figure it all out for themselves.
We’re all kind of waiting for the dust to settle, aren’t we? I know I am. But there are people that aren’t good with change and ambiguity, so it’s easier to come up with a black and white view that explains everything neatly.
I think writers in general are not used to having options. For the last fifty years basically the advice to new writers has always been the same (Self publishing is bad, you lose money, the quality of the product is always worse). It is hard for people whose entire career has been based on these truisms to understand that the world has made what was foul into fair.
Self publishing is an option, and for some people it is the best option. For others, traditional publishing is better.
I think it is a great world we are moving into but it is also scary for people who have worked in the old world. And when people are scared they get angry sometimes.
What I am trying to do is ignore all of this and write. I still think the best thing I can do is write, learn to get better, and write some more.
Thomas, I’ve been thinking about your post since you made it. You’re right. How do you make choices when you’ve never had choices in the past? For many people, that is terrifying, whether you’re talking about something as simple as choosing food in a well-stocked grocery store or classes at a university. Add to that the fact that this is your livelihood–or your desired livelihood–and it gets terrifying.
I (obviously! 🙂 ) love this post. My favorite passage (among many) : “If you can’t sell a book into traditional publishing, but you refuse to go indie, a reader can’t read that book.”
That is such an excellent point. As writers, we have a duty to make our stories the absolute best they can be. But (I think) we also have a duty to our stories, to give them a chance to live. And the ONLY way a story comes alive is through the reader’s imagination. Words–however much we agonize over them–are dead on the page.
Perfect, Anna. You’re absolutely right. Stories are about communication, and we all need to find the best way to communicate to our readers.
Thanks for this, Kris, and I’m definitely looking forward to next week’s mystery post subject!
I do use words like “stupid” quite a bit these days, but I hope it’s only when someone is making a faulty, dishonest, or uninformed argument. I try to keep the rest of my thoughts offline. 🙂
I think for a lot of people (even those who try to stay open-minded), having a simple dogma to follow tends to be easier than thinking out multiple options. You have to step back and look at an issue objectively in order to step in the middle and wipe the line from of the sand — if that’s even possible.
The whole traditional vs. self publishing is just noise as an industry goes through growing pains. It hurts, the differences in voice, random hair in awkward places, etc., is scary and a lot of people revert to the tried and true they believe in. It’s not the best habit, but it’s common. You just have to learn to look past those people and do what you feel is best for your writing, whether that’s self-publishing or traditional or a mix of everything in-between.
Exactly, Elisa. Well said.
Thank you. You’re absolutely correct. This is not a religion. However, there are zealots out there. I tend to stay mum and do both traditional and indie.
Publishing has become the 30-Years War, a war of religion. How interesting that I can converse about religion itself with others but not about publishing avenues.
FWIW I shall continue to read your blog and buy your books.
Glad that you haven’t shut down your blog. There are lots of us who appreciate all that you do and the wisdom you impart. have fun teaching class and have a great weekend!
“Readers really don’t care what company published a book. Readers care about a good story.”
Right there is the the real gist of the problem. Everyone in publishing has forgotten who we work for. I started writing years ago because I couldn’t find the types of books I wanted to read. I want variety!
I’m hoping that eventually the lines will fade and dull and self-publishing will be seen as just another option, a career path you can mix and match with other options in whatever way suits a writer best.
Traditional publishing has its problems (particularly unfair contracts), but it has delivered me many fine books to read and I hope it will continue to do so. Self-publishing is so incredibly individual that rarely are two writers approaching it the same way. It has a reputation for zealotry and/or poor quality which is only partially true of some of its output. It’s also used by countless polite, professional GOOD writers who are buoyed up by the freedom they’ve discovered.
The lines, the blanket statements on how “all this” and “they” and “them” and…sheesh, it gets to you after a while. This isn’t a war, there’s no need to take up arms. If someone is constantly anti either option, then it’s helpful to offer whatever information you have, and then step back (as you have) if entrenched lines start to show. Let them dig in – the tide will wash away the edges eventually.
I stepped back a little from my local writing community after a respected editor told me that it simply wasn’t possible for a self-published novel to be as good as a traditionally published one. Once I saw that line in the sand, that conceptual breakdown, I unfollowed a few people and got on with my writing.
One lovely thing about self-publishing is that the opinions of respected editors are no longer that important to me. I can go on producing the best books I can, and enjoy the fan mail.
Andrea, I do think the lines in the sand will blur, especially as the new generation of writers who have always had choices, come of age. They’ll look at the old fart writers and wonder what we’re all fighting about. It’ll take time, but it’ll come. 🙂
I agree with your assessment – people have gone beyond entrenched with the whole ‘Trade/Indie’ arguement. In fact, it isn’t really an arguement – just as you pointed out.
I’m not reading the blogs as much. I’m drifting away from the discussions where no one is saying anything new.
There are ‘crap’ books on both sides. There are authors spouting nonesense, on both sides. There are people making mistakes, on both sides. Much of the time it’s pots and kettles calling each other black.
Bowker’s revelation that Indie books are selling in significant numbers is the only real news I’ve heard in awhile. It wasn’t an opinion, it’s a fact – the year’s increase in sales came from Indie books.
Doesn’t that really say it all???
Good post. Arguing is a waste of time. Eric Hoffer wrote that when you see a true believer comin, run the other way, regardless of the belief, even if you agree with them.
Learning to adapt, moving with the changes is what keeps us alive as people and writers. Your blogs (and Dean’s) are excellent points of discussion, and I can at times take issue with specific points, but am always delighted by your perspectives and insights.
Thanks for this one Kris. I’m right there with you, not taking sides, just trying to do what works best for me. Binary thinking tends to lead to trouble. Let’s add a few more viewpoints and maybe be willing to live and let live. : )
Kristine, I’m a huge fan of yours and Dean’s blogs. When I don’t agree with something you’ve written, I usually learn something new, but more importantly, it reminds me that, ‘oh, yeah, there’s another side to this story.’ And hey, isn’t that what makes the world so rich?
Thank you for taking the time to care, to write, to educate.
Those of us who stand on the line, who are trying to watch for more changes in the distance
Thank you for that stand upon the line.
(Another religious war seems to be the Amazon is Good/Evil one, with little room for the wary folk in the middle, who have concerns, but also see it as a useful tool — that will remain more useful if it doesn’t get too fat and complacent. 😉 But hey, I’m used to being a fanatic middle-of-the-roader sometimes.)
Thanks for the lovely post.
I confess, as an author who has only self-published, I do begin to sound strident at times when trying to explain why someone who generalizes in negative terms about self-publishing isn’t being accurate. For example, I get touchy when I read that only authors like yourself who have traditionally published and have a large number of books available to self-publish are successful since I haven’t been traditionally published and I only have 2 books and 2 short stories out (I know, I know I need to keep writing.), but I have been successful, in terms of books sold, in terms of strong reviews, and in terms of making enough money to continue to write and develop my craft.
But I would never argue that a writer shouldn’t pursue a traditional contract if they do it in an informed manner, and vice versa. What upsets me is when either side is inaccurate or uninformed and starts saying that if you aren’t for us (whoever us is), you are against us. Then the argument has strayed (as you so rightly point out) into the dicey realm of religion and politics where decision are often made based on faith not fact.
To say that there is only one way to go, does a disservice to writers, who may not explore the very option that will get their work to readers, it does a disservice to readers, who may never get to read the book they would have loved, and it does disservice to people who care about a healthy vibrant publishing industry because it stifles innovation.
None of us benefit from that.
M. Louisa Locke
Maids of Misfortune and Uneasy Spirits
To put it politely, “Screw ’em if they can’t take a joke.”
For myself… Well, I came into this writing gig at a very interesting time. As I’ve told you and Dean, I started writing my first book ever in December 2010. I found you two in Jan/Feb 2011 as I tried to learn about publishing so I’d know what to do with said book. From the get-go, the Indie route resonated with me, for a number of reasons. I’m a libertarian, so I like the notion of not answering to anyone else (especially since I have to answer to so many others in the Navy). And I’m an MBA, so the simple business and financial sense of it appealed to me.
But in the way that I’m sure many newbs will, I think I went a bit too far overboard. Barely six or seven months into my writing career I posted some things that were, in retrospect, quite obnoxious, both on a number of forums and on my blog. And it wasn’t until I came to Oregon in March for the workshop, and I really got to understand what you long term professional writers mean when you call someone professional and someone else new, that I really got it.
I look now at a lot of podcasters and bloggers who I still follow and listen to, and I can’t help but think, “Damn, that guy/girl/whatever is just a new writer, too. Not that much different than me, no matter that they have four novels written to my one.” And that’s totally changed how I take what they have to say. Where before it was almost gospel (but not really), now it’s…something less.
Consequently, in recent months I’ve blogged/forum’d a lot less and written a lot more. Though truth be told in the last month and a half that’s mostly because I moved from NY to CA and a couple weeks later had a collision between my bicycle and a car door…hard to type when your strong hand is in a cast, though I’m starting to figure it out. 🙂
I guess my point is I totally get why you don’t want to be involved with those lists anymore, but don’t judge too harshly. Some people take longer to learn than others.
For what it’s worth, I would have loved to be at that Short Story workshop, if only life schedule and finances would have allowed it. Have fun! I know the writers who are there to learn from you are. 🙂
Warm Regards. 🙂
Michael, sorry to hear about your arm. Ooooow. Take care of that.
As for judging harshly, I’m not. In fact, leaving a list where I don’t agree with my friends and as a result, they attack me, is a way of being gentle. I can push back hard and in such a nasty way that the friendships will get damaged. I prefer not to fight with someone who won’t listen or look at evidence. It preserves friendships and keeps the discussions fun.