Choices

0104170931    When I moved here, I looked around to see what kind of support systems there were for writers in the area.  I found one with some sort of “Writers League” name.  It had been around for a long time and seemed to have a lot of prestige, so when I saw they were giving a panel talk, I went down to listen and perhaps join up.

All of the panelists were “traditionally published”, which is great if you can get it.  I’m old enough to remember dreams of being some day published (back then ‘traditional’ was the only game in town).  I dreamed of being edited, coddled, feted and sent around the country on my publisher’s dime to meet people and sign my Great American Novel.

It’s a little different now, even if you do score a contract with one of the Big Whatever-number-they-are-now-it-keeps-getting-smaller.  No big travel budgets, no coddling.  You had better do a professional editing job (or hire it done) before you even send it in to the slush pile.  And if you aren’t a Gaiman, a Kellerman or a Patterson, good luck with that.  You probably won’t make the first assistant reader.  But that’s okay, because now, frankly, we have choices.

Which is how one of the panelists answered when someone in the audience said her daughter had written a novel and was thinking of self-publishing, and how did they feel about that?  The first panelist was a decent man, and although you could tell he didn’t think much of it, he tried to answer honestly.

“It’s one way to go,”  he admitted.  “Just tell her to be ready to do all the work herself.  Not just the editing, and not just all the marketing at her own expense, but the formatting, creating a cover design and discovering how to submit cover and manuscript to the right commercial platform, depending on whether you want ebook, paperback or both.  She will have to do it all.”

It was a fine, sensible answer.  Wannabe bestsellers need to realize how much work it is when you try to self-publish.  And if you hire someone else to do the work, odds are you won’t make your investment back.  But you will be published.  Do it right, and you’ll be up on Amazon within a month of sending it in to Createspace or one of the other publishing platforms.  Right up there with your name in lights.  Or at least on a search engine.

Then the next panelist leaned forward and said,  “Actually, people who self-publish are just lazy.”

Really?  Did you not just hear the warnings about doing all the work yourself?

He went on,  “They just don’t want to bother going through the rejection process.”

The rest of the panel bobbled their heads in agreement.

So writers only self-publish because they are too lazy to spend two years or more trying to get an agent or a publisher to pay enough attention to their manuscript to tell them how to rewrite it so they can send it in again.  And again.  And maybe again.  They’d rather go the lazy way and learn how to edit, program, and format their entire manuscript, along with learning how to design a cover and price their product.  And then how to set up at least five different marketing media platforms.  That’s so much easier.

He went on in this vein for some time, not letting anyone else have much of a say.  I don’t think he ever realized the point at which he had pretty much lost his audience.  No one was rude enough to get up and walk out right then.  But from the comments I overheard afterwards, a lot of people had decided that if this group was too elitist to stick their heads up out of the twentieth century and see what was really happening in the publishing world, then they had nothing to teach the rest of us.  That’s a shame, because I’m sure there is a lot they could share.  They just have to work on their presentation.

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