Recently I came across a blog that basically told writers that if they were not here to sell books then move over for those who want to make a living at it, take your ‘art’ and post it on free reading sites and leave the publishers to those writers who want to make money.
Now as someone who has been writing for over twenty-eight years, I am both utterly disgusted and greatly offended at the implications made by the writer. Seriously, who the hell does -not- want to make money off of their writing? Who does not want to get published? Come on, face it. If someone is out there submitting manuscripts to publishers it’s because they Want. To. Get. Published. Why else would they go through all the red tape and rejection letters? Besides, as I have already stated in an article, the sheer amount of material that a mercenary has to churn out often leaves a lot of room for improvement in the quality of their work. And if someone is having to produce a book every month or two to keep a royalty check coming, then, it begs the question, are you really doing that great as a writer?
But that’s not the point of this article. When a mercenary writer says, “move over for those of us who want to make a living at this and take your ‘art’ with you,” my rebuttal is, “What makes you think we don’t want to make money at this? Why are we in the way of you? Maybe you are the ones clogging up the system for all the real writers out there who can’t get their foot in the door because the publishers’ inboxes are crammed so full of mediocre material from crackpot writers who are so busy trying to squeeze a few pennies out of their computer that those of us with real talent have to resort to other avenues of publication to get any recognition for all the hard work that we do. What, exactly, makes you so special that you think you are the only writer that counts? There’s plenty of readers to go around. ”
Yes, I know, bitch rant, but those statements do have merit to them. Still, this is not the purpose of this article. I have come across articles that have both praised self-publication and also shot it down in flames. As a self-published author, you already know where I stand. What I did want to explore in today’s article is whether or not deciding to self-publish is in essence ‘giving up’ on your dream of making a name for yourself as a writer or getting a traditional publishing deal.
Before I begin, I thought I would give you some inspiration, and maybe even a little hope, by listing a few authors who have went the self-publication route.
Mark Twain – self published The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Nathaniel Hawthorne – author of The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables
Zane Grey – author of over 60 western novels
T. S. Eliot – the Nobel Prize winning poet
Edgar Allen Poe – if you haven’t heard of him, then….well, do I really need to say it?
Earnest Hemmingway – self published his first novel
L. Frank Baum – author of The Wizard of Oz
Arthur Agatston – The South Beach Diet
Herman Melville – author of Moby Dick, had several books of poetry self published
Beatrix Potter – author of The Tale of Peter Rabbit
Edgar Rice Burroughs – creator of Tarzan
Howard Fast – Spartacus
Stephen King – yes, even Mr. King has went the self publishing route when he posted “The Plant” on his website in 2000. Remember that digital publications count as self publishing as well. It’s not just for hard copies any more.
Amanda Brown – Legally Blonde
Alexandre Dumas – author of The Three Musketeers
Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen – authors of Chicken Soup for the Soul which sold over 108 million copies
This is not, by any means, a complete list. In fact, I could list about a dozen more writers, but I tried to include names that people might be familiar with. A lot of these writers even went on to get traditional publishing deals. But do you know what set them apart from other writers who may not have gotten their shot at traditional publishing? They never gave up. Please, please, do not think that just because you decide to self publish something that you cannot keep pursuing traditional publishing avenues. I would strongly suggest that if you are going to self publish, keep right on sending out your manuscripts to all the traditional publishes as well.
Now I have come across articles by writers who stated that their manuscript had been turned down because they had decided to self publish. But as you can see from the list above, simply deciding to self publish does not make you unmarketable by traditional publishers. In all honesty, if a traditional publisher is going to reject you, they will use any excuse that they can think of to dissuade you from sending your work back to them.
I mean, let’s face it. If they think that they cannot make any money off of your ideas, then they simply do not want to mess with you. Now imagine that they sent you a letter that stated something like, “it has promise, we suggest you send it to a professional editor and have them help you with XX, and XX, and XX.” A letter like this leads a writer to think that they actually have a chance at getting published with this publisher if they will only get it edited. But if the company does not want to ever see your manuscript in their inbox again, they will have to come up with some excuse to dissuade you from trying to resubmit your work. If they catch wind that you have self-published and have not really done well in self-publishing, they will use that against you to keep you from bothering them.
But what if the opposite were true? What if you self published your work, had tens of thousands of hits on your website, had fans clamoring for more, and had already sold hundreds of copies or had your e-book downloaded hundreds of time? Is that even possible? Yes, it is. But it is a lot, and I do mean a LOT of work. I repeat. A. Lot. Of. Work. But if you do beat the odds and build up your own little fan base, and they do turn you down, well, you are already making money and have fans who want your work, so you have already met part of your goal and gotten your own bit of revenge on them. So who’s laughing now?
In my article “Self Publishing vs Traditional Publishing” I stated that a traditional publisher would not spend one red cent on a writer until that writer’s work proved that it would make the company money. Which means that the writer is out there doing their own advertising, setting up their own book signings, putting together and keeping up their own websites, doing their own networking, getting the word of mouth out about their work, etc. If you are already going to have to do that, then why not go ahead and self publish so when readers start getting interested in your manuscript, you will already have an e-book ready for download or a book ready for them to purchase?
In all honesty, do you really have anything to lose by self publishing your work? I would much rather get my name out there and be making money off of my work than I had sit around waiting for Random House to come knocking on my door. Because trust me. It. Is. Not. Going. To. Happen. As I said, you are not the next Anne Rice. But that’s okay. You don’t really want to be known as “the next” anything. Why would I want to be known as “The Next Anne Rice”? Then no one would remember my name when the name of a really great writer is placed in the same sentence. But I do want to be known as “N. C. Matthews.” After all, there is only one me.
So is getting self published a way of ‘giving in’ or ‘giving up’ on your dream of publication? Nope. In my opinion, it’s just a way to get published. After all, publication, in any form, so long as it is making me money, is dream enough for me.