Tag Archives: traditional

Incoming Rant: An Open Letter to Traditionalist Writers

To all the writers I know who scoffed, hesitated, or snickered when I said I was self-publishing,

Thank you for devaluing my hard work. In one instant, you went from supportive friend I was probably itching to talk to about my work to “that jerk” who once again reminded me of the ignorance of some writers. You are the ones who make me hesitant to admit that I am a self-published author when I am damn proud of my work and what I have accomplished in a little over a year.

Thus far in my fairly short career as an author, I have received tons of support from friends, fellow writers, and even people I met through Facebook and Twitter. I’ve even gotten messages saying how people loved my work or my characters, which made my day, but what always sticks out are the friends whose reactions surprise you by how subtly patronizing or rude they are.

They stare for a moment as the words “self-published” leave your lips, and with a small chuckle and glance to the side, they mutter, “That’s great.” Then either go off topic completely or ask you why you are not saving yourself for a traditional publishing contract like you’re supposed to do.

Well, I don’t want to. I want my freedom. I want to control all aspects of my work. I don’t want my characters homogenized or my work shelved after it doesn’t move twenty-thousand copies in a month. I don’t want my work’s worth to be solely valued for how much someone else can make off it. Yes, I could have possibly ended up with movie deals or a display in Barnes and Noble, but more than likely, that wouldn’t have happened even if I did go the traditional route.

I say all this, having repeated it numerous times before, and then you say the worst thing you could ever say to a self-published author. “But anyone can slap a book on Amazon.”

Thank you for devaluing all of the work I put in to making that book successful. Yes, anyone can slap a book on Amazon, but that doesn’t mean it will sell, and by saying that, I have to wonder if you have any idea the amount of work that went into slapping that book on Amazon.

First there were the hours I spent writing that book, editing it, having beta readers and an editor take a look at it. The amount of hands it passed through alone should be enough to impart some legitimacy to my endeavor. Then, I worked with an artist to create my covers, and I formatted both versions of the book myself (ebook and paperback). What takes an entire publishing team at least a year to do, I do in a few months. You have no idea how much I do, and I don’t think you care to know.

While you’re waiting for that agent or publishing house to respond to your query, I’m working on building my business. More than likely, I have never said anything negative about your thousands of query letters or that I think your time would be better spent self-publishing, gaining a following and presence, and working on your next book even if I’ve thought it. You may not know it, but a lot of authors self-publish and traditionally publish and they get those contracts because they have proof their books sell. I may have even sent you links to open submissions or contests to help you while you chose give me a patronizing pat on the head.

I have proof that my way is working. I have sales and fans and people who like my work. While you could say anyone can find someone who will like their work no matter how bad, just know someone could say the same about you.

Signed,

Your friend who chose the other path

Advertisements

6 Comments

Filed under Writing

On Being a Female Writer

The other day, I was required to read Virginia Woolf’s “Professions for Women” and A Room of One’s Own for my Women and Autonomy class.  I’ve read them both several times over the course of my schooling, but after publishing, I think they resonated more.  Both pieces discuss the issues and hindrances women have in the world, particularly the writing/publishing world, and despite the works being written about eighty years ago, I think a lot of the problems still persist.

Woolf discusses the prejudice women face when writing because the literary canon is male-dominated.  The publishing world was established by men, for male works, and often the only way for women to enter that field is through subversion.  In the 19th century, the Bronte sisters wrote as the Bell brothers in order to publish their works, and today, writers like J.K. Rowling use initials when publishing in fields that are “not for women,” like science fiction and high fantasy.  If Rowling was writing romance, chick lit, or bodice-rippers, then she could have easily used Joanna Rowling, but because she was writing a story about a young boy in a magical setting, her publishers believed her book wouldn’t sell as well with a woman’s name on the front. Pfft, I mean, women don’t write fantasy well, right? She adopted the initials J.K., which relate back to her real name, but they also harken back to J.R.R. Tolkein, one of the fathers of the fantasy genre.  When Rowling decided to branch out into crime novels, she switched pseudonyms to a outright male name.  Why would she do that if her name is already famous and would draw crowds? Well, crime fiction is another genre where women are often kicked to the curb.  Unless you’re someone like P.D. James (neutral pseudonym) or Sue Grafton (whose female detective hit me as a man masquerading as a woman), you will probably not be taken seriously. To break into this genre, Rowling and/or her publishers believed she had to be a man to do so.

Sadly, I have seen this in real life.  At a book fair, we were rained out, so I was parked inside next to a huge table of female romance writers.  As people walked past my table where I sat with my boyfriend (who came as a second set of hands and a coffee-runner), they asked about my little brown book… to my boyfriend.  Quite a few people thought he was the author.  I wondered why, especially when I was the one trying to engage customers. Did they think I was some lackluster Vanna White? My hypothesis is that my little brown steampunk novel is not what one would expect from a female writer. No stock photos of women in ballgowns or half-naked couples, which is what people seem to expect from female authors.

I recently read an article saying that in the New York Times’ book review section, books by men make up sixty-something percent of the reviews.  Why would there be such a disparity?  Men’s work couldn’t possibly be that much better than women’s writing, but the explanation may lie in what the New York Times deems worthy of review, literary fiction.  The definition they are using of literary fiction is a novel that doesn’t fit any genre conventions (no wizards, no space travel, no steam-powered devices, and no straight up romance. Plot vs. character driven is irrelevant at this point). It seems men write genre fiction and women do not. This little tiff between lit and genre can be seen in Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel The Buried Giant and how he made the comment that it wasn’t fantasy and that his previous book wasn’t scifi when the book had elements of it.  Ishiguro is automatically a literary fiction writer despite the fantastical elements in his work while a writer like Ursula Le Guin openly states her books are scifi.

Why is Le Guin okay with her books being “genre” fiction while Ishiguro isn’t? Because genre fiction is the niche women have carved for themselves over the last century.  Even though men still dominate certain genres, women authors are more likely to be found in the genre categories of Amazon than men. Even though amazing authors like Le Guin, Rowling, and Rice write in this area, the canon and literati consider it lesser than “literary” fiction.

The same is emerging with self-publishing. More women are self-publishing than men.  Why? Because they can subvert the traditional publishing industry, which has not been as open to them as it has been for men, and self-publishing is the niche where they can succeed.  Strangely, Woolf self-published all those years ago.  She had the right idea, and it’s lasted until today.

4 Comments

Filed under Writing

Why Buy Indie?

Department stores are to traditionally published authors as independent bookstores are to indie authors.

We are the small businesses of the writing world.  Unlike authors who have published through traditional means, we are often the editors, marketers, formatters, and creative directors of our work.  Our publishing house consists of one person.  This means every success and failure falls on our shoulders, but it also means so does every cost.  Our resources are our own, and especially in the beginning when we do not have many books or readers (remember book two always sells book one), most of our expenses come out of our pockets.  We pay for the cover artists, the editors, the box of books we lug to conferences and author events.  It can be a hard road, especially when we don’t tend to get shelf space at your local Barnes and Noble or Waterstones.  Just remember that for less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks, you are buying something someone worked on numerous hours to perfect. Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Writing