What is the deal with traditional publishing vs self publishing? This post is not going to be the only solid answer to that question, but it might shine a light on what is causing this rift between different kinds of writers in the first place.
I published my first book in 2010. Nahtaia was written on Wattpad around the same time. I didn’t know a whole lot of authors back then, besides the ones I was actively reading. I had a couple friends who were in the same shoes I was at the time–just trying to be seen and make friends who could help each other out.
As time went on, I wrote almost constantly. Nahtaia was getting millions of online hits, and I was being urged by readers to put some of my short stories in paperback form. I refused for years because I was querying agents at the time, and the last thing I wanted was to be an indie author. Why? Because I could see all of the negative reactions to them, and I didn’t want a part in that.
Through those years, I spoke with a lot of people in the business. I was, in a way, mentored by those who understood the business of writing, and they helped me see where I had to change to make it in the writing world. I was not looking for an easy way into publishing, because I knew there wasn’t one. Instead, I put my time, effort, and money into working with professionals. Including an editor from one of the big 5 publishing houses.
I also was not one to take criticism personally when it came to my writing. I knew I wanted to write, and I wanted to write well. I knew I was an amateur, and the only way I could learn and grow was by having my work dissected by someone who knew better than me. And holy shazbok, I’ll do it again and again when and where I can. It’s not comfortable, but it’s something everyone should do before even thinking about publishing. Back in those days, I spent hours every day on websites owned by Harper Collins, Random House, etc, where they had editors running competitions to have a first chapter critiqued. I soaked up those opportunities like a flower soaks its sunlight.
While I was doing all of that, I was talking to a lot of big-name authors on social media. Most of them didn’t know at the time that I was an aspiring author myself, because though we would talk about writing, I never talked about my own writing. I never asked them to look at my work or to push anything out. but when I finally took to Twitter and Facebook to promote my own story I published with a small press, many of them blatantly stepped away from all forms of communication. No more PM’s. No more interactions on Facebook. No more tweets. Even though none of my promoting was aimed at them.
Back to the point here, though.
I eventually published with another small press, and then self-published a few short stories. I did so mainly because of the amount of requests I was getting from fans and teachers who found me online over the years(I spent a LOT of time online). I got some attention from certain people in the indie scene, and eventually made friends with several of them. There are other small-press authors I knew for a few years who never quite pushed their own work to readers, and when they saw me moving up, a slew of messages started coming in.
“Hey, push my stuff to your ‘army.’ You have more followers than I do now.”
“Read my book. Tell me what you think. Share it with your legion.”
“Hi! I see you know _____ _______. Can you tell him to read and share my MS? Thanks.”
“I don’t know how you know ______ _______, but I’m glad you do. Give her this. Thanks.”
That left me just kind of like…”Wait, what?”
It would be a different story if they were friends, or people who even bothered talking to me over the years. But no. They didn’t know a thing about me. They hardly knew what I wrote. They just decided, since I was talking to someone bigger than us, I was going to be the monkey in the middle, and that made me feel like crap.
When this happened, I suddenly saw the authors who stopped communicating with me in the past in a different light. I could understand what they were probably thinking. We didn’t know each other beyond our social media chats. In all honesty, it would not have been surprising to them if they found me using them to get a seat at the cool table.
Obviously, that has never been the case, but there’s no way for them to know that. Big names have to deal with real douchey people. A lot. Especially in our day and age when everyone wants to be a writer, but not everyone is willing to work hard enough to find success. That is the big issue here. Not everyone who is trying to make a living as a writer is willing to work for it. There are many people who do half a job and give up. Or, they’ll do half a job, expect recompense, then rush the other half.
There is a major issue there. Let’s use Patrick Rothfuss as an example here.
Let’s say I’m a writer, trying to get seen, and I meet Patrick. We drink coffee, talk writing, and get along great. I tell him I have the first three chapters of my book with me, and I ask him to look at it. He takes the sample and I message him later, asking ever-so-sweetly to give the sample to his publisher or editor or someone. He asks if it’s finished, and I lie and say, “Yeah, man. I’ll have the rest to you soon if you pass it on.” Let’s say Patrick does it, because he’s trying to be nice. I end up with three chapters that has attracted the attention of his publisher and they ask for the rest. I try to rush writing the rest of the book, thinking “I’m in the big leagues now!” But the rest of the book is less than professional because I rushed. Now, not only do I lose the chance I would have had if I finished the book properly, but Patrick now has to deal with the publisher/editor he passed the book to. He wouldn’t want to have anything to do with me anymore, and I’ll look like an amateur.
This exact situation happens way more than you think. I have never done it myself, but I watched writers do it, and I watched big names try to help writers who lied and lazed their way to the top.
So, a part of me does think there is some unspoken rule traditional authors have that keeps them from becoming too friendly with indies, and I don’t necessarily see that stopping anytime soon. I do have to say, though, that I am a little more understanding about why this is the case. Which, honestly, really sucks.
But I guess it is what it is. There’s not a whole lot more to be done about it besides hope that, someday, those of us who take our craft seriously can catch the eyes of the big guys/gals, without having to be passed on to big publishers first.
Until then, I’ll continue pouring my passion and energy into writing and finding readers the best I can.
Check out this article about how fantasy world maps are made!
Also, my advice on writing 1000 words a day at The Book Tavern!
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