I read an interview recently in which a well-known author belittled self-publishing authors and summarily dismissed members of the writing community who participate in the new publishing model, labeling self-publishing a lazy alternative to doing the real work and allowing the universe to do the rest...or something along those lines.
I love me some universe and all, but really?
I was more than a little disappointed to hear an artist discouraging other artists from embracing the new tools at their disposal, as though the severely-compromised legacy publishing industry is the only path to having a successful career as a published author. And I was stunned to see how casually this author tossed off the notion of the new guard doing things the new way, effectively reducing the mantle of independent author to that of lazy hack. In essence, she was ripping on indies.
It’s kinda the opposite of what we do here on Joe’s blog.
And so, we’re gonna do what we like to do best: Elevate the non-traditional.
I know on a personal level – and interact with on both a personal as well as a professional level – a great many independent authors who have indeed studied their craft. Even more fortuitously, these folks have a natural affinity for storytelling and yet, recognizing the need, insist on actively honing their abilities, through education and peer feedback, by workshopping and participating in writing exercises, and by caring about the level of their craft. They are not phoning it in, and they aren’t doing this solely for the sake of becoming the best writers they possibly can be; they’re also doing it to become savvy about what being an author truly means in the 21st century.
And what exactly does it mean?
It means that if you aren’t fortunate enough to be among the top 1% blessed by the traditional model (which is becoming trimmer and trimmer all the time), it’s still possible to have a happy, fulfilling, successful career as a writer. Instead of engaging an agent or a publicist, though, they will be doing all of the hard work themselves – the true hard work, the stuff that only starts after the novel is finished. They will be organizing their own author profiles and learning how to maximize online methods such as search engine optimization in order to propel their own sales. They will be brainstorming to find ways outside of their comfort zone to publicize their books. Beyond the novels they’ve crafted, they will be writing more than they had ever anticipated – guest posting on the blogs of others and posting on their own, submitting interviews and reviews, creating flash fiction and participating in anthologies and all other manner of general interest compositions to get their work read and their names know. They’re willing and ready to do this.
They are doing it, in fact.
I see brilliant, talented, ambitious folks who understand what the new challenges are, and I see them rising to the occasion every day.
They are not lazy.
And they certainly aren’t waiting for “the universe to come to their aid”.
They are coming to their own aid, rushing headlong into the vortex and riding the stars.
And it’s working.
Independents and non-traditionals are polishing up their resumes, honing their skills, becoming proper authors as well as educated and informed marketing folk willing to pony up their own funds to make their work top-notch. And more and more, much of what they produce stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the so-called big guys still working within the traditional model.
So if it’s working anyway, why did I even need to write this post?
I think I needed to reinforce the idea that it does in fact work both ways.
Independent publishing has been vilified in the past as pushing low-quality, novice-level product into the market. But this no longer the case. And unfortunately, it sounds as if the tide has turned before some of the legacy ships have figured out how to adapt their course to accommodate the flow. Not unusual for this type of progress.
But we share the sea regardless.
I believe there is room for us all.
Indie folk: keep at it. Step up your game even more, write every day, do your research and refine your stories and your books. You’re doing it the right way. Keep on keepin’ on, and keep an open mind to what’s possible all the way around. Survival is not to the strongest, but to those who are most adaptable. Remember that.
Traditional folk: embrace the new. If you look hard enough, rather than seeing a threat to the good name of quality in publishing, you’re likely to find a slew of new talent to help elevate the industry and carry it forward. They may be your future talent pool, your next wave, and your new guard. Respect that.
Modern or traditional, we can each learn from the examples of the other and create a much richer experience for those who buy our books and read our stories.