by Linsey Lanier
About a month ago, J. A. Konrath wrote a post on his blog entitled “Are You Dense?” In this post, in his shy, gentle manner, Joe tells it like it is in publishing today. He lists a set of arguments against self-publishing and shoots them down one by one.
Here’s one of my favorites:
With all the self-published crap out there, it will be impossible to find anything good.
There are billions of websites on the internet, the majority of them crap. Yet somehow you managed to find my blog.
Joe’s a witty guy. I was so inspired by his post that I wrote over 5,500 words over the next four days. Talk about a kick in the butt. (With inspiration like this, I finally finished my novella and published it on Amazon and Smashwords – more about that later.)
As you can tell, I’ve been dipping my toe into the self publishing pool for a while now. Am I ready to take the plunge and jump into the deep end? Not quite yet. But in addition to giving me a spurt of manic energy, Joe’s post made me think long and hard about self-publishing and who it’s meant for.
I came to two conclusions:
1. You’ve got to be ready
Of the 600 some comments in response to Joe’s post, there was one that particularly struck me. Someone said his wife bought an ebook and was sorely disappointed because the author didn’t finish the story. The story seemed to be a part of a longer book that had been broken up to sell separately. What? Big no-no.
Didn’t that author ever hear that if you’re writing a series, each book needs to stand alone? Guess he or she never went to a GRW or RWA meeting.
Maybe you’re an anointed writer with talent oozing out of your ears, but if you’re like the rest of us, then you need to log some practice time before you offer your wares. If you haven’t finished at least five manuscripts, if you haven’t been rejected by an editor or an agent several times, if you haven’t had your work critiqued by anyone but your mother, YOU’RE NOT READY.
Joe himself spent twelve years in the trenches learning the ropes, figuring out what it takes to make it commercially. Which means, to write something people actually want to read and will pay money for. Amanda Hocking did, too. Joe published traditionally first. Barry Eisler (the guy who turned down the half-mill deal from a Big 6 publisher?) has been traditionally published for years. Amanda Hocking tried to publish traditionally for nine years (I think) before she went to self-publishing. She got very familiar with rejection and revisions over those years.
In fact, Amanda says on her blog, “I write because I love it, not because I see readers as dollar signs. I am very, very passionate about my work, and I take it very seriously that people are inviting me to entertain them every time they buy a book.”
Wise words to live by for writers. My point is that none of these people self published the first thing they slapped down on paper. As Ringo says, “You’ve got to pay the dues if you want to sing the blues.”
2. You’ve got to know yourself
Among the commenters on Joe’s post, there was one fellow who kept saying things like, “It’s a free country man, let people pursue their career in the manner they choose.”
I guess he didn’t get Joe’s self-effacing style or that he is trying to help writers, not deride them. But I think I might know what he was trying to say.
Several years ago, a former blog sister and I were going through something of an identity crisis at the same time and we were e-mailing back and forth about it. In our research, we came across the phrase (new to me at the time) “follow your bliss.”
What does that mean? It means doing what your heart tells you to do. It means paying attention to what’s deep inside of you. To discover how you truly feel in response to certain stimulus. Like self-publishing and whether to do it or not.
So ask yourself the tough questions.
Why do I write? What do I really want out of it? Is money the most important thing to me? Or do I just want to walk into a bookstore and see my name on a book? Do I want to be known as an expert on writing and be able to give workshops at conferences? Do I want to do a book signing?
I’m sure you can come up with more questions. Pay close attention to your feelings as you answer each of them. Be honest and evaluate. Your heart will tell you which way is right for you. And you’ll be happier knowing you’re on the right path.
For example, it was obvious to me from the posts I read that Amanda Hocking really wanted to be traditionally published, no matter how successful she became self-publishing. And she made it. I’m thrilled for her.
* * *
So what do you think about self-publishing? Love it? Hate it? Wish we could go back to the days of parchment and quills? Tell me what you think.
Oh, and for those of you who like frogs, check out my novella, Cleverest of Them All on Amazon and Smashwords. It’s the latest in The Clever Detective series, which first appeared on this blog (a word that rhymes with “frog”).
PS: If you’re into social networking (and who isn’t these days?), I’m talking about Kristen Lamb on my own blog today, if you’d like to stop by.