Friday, April 8, 2011

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

If there’s one thing I can safely say about the business of publishing books, it’s that it is hard. Writing a good book in the first place is a monumental effort. Finding an agent usually requires dozens, if not hundreds of rejections. Landing a publishing contract is achieved by only a small percentage of the writing public. Self-publishing requires a whole skill set that requires you to wear multiple hats and “do it all”. Once your book is out there you might think, “I’ve made it.” But that just means you’ve graduated to a whole new world of challenges. You need to find an audience, suffer scathing reviews, and balance promotion time against writing time.

With all the challenges that writer’s face, shouldn’t we celebrate and support our fellow writers and the choices they make in their path to publishing?I’m speaking particularly in the “traditional” verses “self-publishing” rhetoric that seems to be dividing the writing community. Depending on which of my posts you read, I’ve been accused of being singularly focused on self-publishing or too na├»ve about the horrors of the traditional publishing world to know better just how terrible a choice it is. People on both sides proclaim theirs is the only “right” path and the other side is misguided and misinformed.

I have a foot in all three avenues. I’ve successfully self-published my husband’s Riyria Revelations (The Crown Conspiracy, Avempartha, Nyphron Rising, Emerald Storm, and Wintertide) selling more than 60,000 books and earning enough that we can both quit our day jobs and live off his writing income. I run a small press, publishing works by Nathan Lowell, Leslie Ann Moore, Marshall Thomas, and Todd Fonseca, just to name a few. I’m working a 3-book six-figure deal with the fantasy imprint of a big-six publisher (Orbit Books of the Hachette Book Group). This gives me an interesting perspective as I see advantages and disadvantages in each option. I FIRMLY believe there is no “right path” just a path that is right for a particular individual and each person should be free to choose their road without the ridicule of others who “know better.”

There’s no doubt that the times they are a changing, and it’s both exciting and frightening. I love seeing the passion that the ebook revolution has sparked. I don’t think there has ever been a better time for someone who wishes to make a living by writing than now. Regardless of the paths any of us choose, we should all be grateful that there are now legitimate options for writers. The continued success of self-published authors will ultimately benefit everyone, even those publishing traditionally, as contracts will need to shift to be more author friendly in order to attract or retain talent.

People are excited and this is a good thing. I love that people share their opinions and experiences in an attempt to make sure people are well informed. But let’s not place ourselves as “our brother’s keepers” or “catcher’s in the rye” as the only defense against what we think is a terrible mistake they are making if they chose a path you would not decide for yourself. Celebrate their decisions and wish them success. After all, this business faces enough challenges from the outside without tearing at one another from within.

30 comments:

E.J. Wesley said...

Totally agree Robin. Do what's best for you and your writing, and don't hate others for doing the same.

Very well stated,

EJ

Robin Sullivan said...

Thanks E.J. - My daughter pointed out that "haters gotta hate' it seems like such a waste of energy.

David Ross Erickson said...

Pettiness and hyper-competitiveness and arrogance and bitterness and defensiveness and ... I can't wait for my second full month of self-publishing!

Robin Sullivan said...

I agree David that there is some arrogance and defensiveness in some of the retoric...but I also see an increasing number of people who see to think it is their responsibility to prevent someone from making 'a terrible mistake'. Their intensions are good but they should trust that others aren't going to 'blindly' choose a path without some research.

Wendy Tyler Ryan said...

I agree absolutely. I would add somethng to what you said, and I did! See inserted brackets below:

"...just a path that is right for a particular individual ('at a given moment in time') and each person should be free to choose their road without the ridicule of others who “know better.”

I am very close publishing the first novel in my trilogy and I am hoping I, too, won't need a day job because I love writing and I know what happens to my writing after getting home from a 'day job'. I have been blessed to have the last year and half off in order to follow my dream and I am doing my best to make it happen.

Great post.

David Ross Erickson said...

I didn't mean to direct my comments strictly to self-publishers.

Robin said: "I also see an increasing number of people who seem to think it is their responsibility to prevent someone from making 'a terrible mistake'."

I don't think these people have good intentions at all. Whatever good intentions they profess to is just so much BS. They seem to be driven by fear. But of what I haven't a clue.

Robin Sullivan said...

Wendy - great point about the "at a given moment" as one path might make sense "today" and a much different one in the "future". Thanks for a great addition!

Robin Sullivan said...

@David - I can only tell you what "I've heard" and that is that they are afraid that someone who self-publishes "too soon" (i.e. before the book is "ready") will hurt their reputation.

Personally, I think if this does occur it will give the author some valuable feedback (quicker than rejected form letters) and they could revise/improve it. But that's just how I would react to negative reaction.

Robert Bidinotto said...

I think a lot of veteran writers who are now stridently on the pro-self-publishing bandwagon are understandably upset by some of the deals and treatment they've endured in the past. Many look back on years of time wasted in the "query go round" and feel bitter. For them, self-publishing may be more than just an opportunity; there may be a bit of "payback" in their attacks on legacy publishing.

On the other hand, some of those who have successfully and happily published through the legacy system may see the self-publishing revolution as a threat to the world with which they're familiar. Their harsh dismissals of self-publishing may contain a measure of defensiveness.

I think we should step back and see it this way: that the self-publishing revolution has opened up unprecedented options for writers, and multiple ways to succeed and achieve their personal goals. That seems to be your perspective, too, Robin, and I commend you for promoting it. Let's all keep our eyes on the prize.

And by the way -- happy birthday!

Lindsay said...

Not everyone can or wants to follow the same path. We each know what and how we want to be published. And with the advent of not only dedicated epublishers but self-publishing has opened new and exciting avenues for us all.

Lexi said...

Sometimes in my car, I get the impression the guy behind me isn't satisfied with driving his own vehicle; he wants to drive mine too.

Some authors are like this - witness all the threads on pricing, as well as self-publishing versus mainstream. We should all do our own thing. We are responsible for no one's work except our own.

Sarah said...

" I FIRMLY believe there is no “right path” just a path that is right for a particular individual and each person should be free to choose their road without the ridicule of others who “know better.” "

So true! Thanks for your insight.

Keri Knutson said...

Great post. And I think it's also becoming true that not only is indie publishing versus legacy publishing a choice to be made effectively by individual authors, but can also cover individual books. As the stigma of publishing yourself is eroded, authors will be able to go with a traditional publishing deal and then independently publish something they love that doesn't fit in the traditional publisher's view of the landscape. There's no reason not to take advantage of the positives on both side.

Kate said...

Thank you SO much for writing this! This is exactly how I feel. I'm so tired of the us vs. them comments whether it's the indies or not.

We need to get along and support each other as writers and stop focusing on the journey or where we end up.

Alex F. Fayle said...

To me it shouldn't matter to anyone else what route(s) I pick. I don't care what anyone else does.

The thing that gets me riled up is when people choose one path or another "just because" - to me choice needs to be informed or it's simply following. Small business people (which is what authors are) can't afford to be sheep if they want to be successful and not to be taken advantage of.

Lindsay said...

I've had several authors, with traditional publishing houses, express their, for lack of a better term, disappointment that I prefer to self-publish. I just think that I'll be better served doing it that way since I want my books to be ebooks from the start.

Jada said...

Thank you so much for this post Robin! As always, you hit the nail right on the head. Since 2008, I tried to go the traditional publishing route. It did not work for me, but I am not giving up, not can I knock those who became successful with it. Now, with self-publishing options such as e-books, indie authors can open up doors for themselves by first self-publishing, proving they have a following and then make a decision if they choose to answer those doors traditional publishers are knocking on. I believe your daughter, like my son, know already in their early lives that haters are gonna hate and that's with anything. Whether or not one is publishing traditionally or self-publishing, we all should still applaud one another. Whatever works is my motto, as long as one is smart with their own path.

Merrill Heath said...

It's ironic. Most readers don't care who the publisher is. They couldn't begin to tell you who publishes their favorite author or even who the major publishes are. But, at the same time, there is still a stigma attached to self-publishing. I think that's changing, especially with the adoption of ebooks, but it still exists.

Merrill Heath
Alec Stover Mysteries

Merrill Heath said...

...major publishers...

Oops. What can I say...another typo by another self-published author.

Merrill

cidney swanson said...

"Regardless of the paths any of us choose, we should all be grateful that there are now legitimate options for writers."

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Robin, for giving me an uplifting start to my day.

Donald Wells said...

Writers have never needed Legacy Publishers in order to get published. Many writers throughout the centuries have published themselves. Legacy Publishers just made distribution an infinitely easier process.
Legacy Publishers have always and will always need writers. They cannot exist without them. Every day it gets easier and easier for writers to distribute themselves and every day Legacy Publishers lose a bit of their usefulness (and power.)
Technology is destroying the Legacy Publisher's world and creating a new one for writers. Change is tough, and Legacy Publishers and Legacy Writers are going through a period of denial and adjustment that is breeding anger. Likewise, indies are getting a taste of the freedom they always craved and cannot understand how any writer would not embrace the new order that's emerging.
I think five years down the line things will be settling down and Legacy and Indie publishing will be closer to parity and will even co-exist. For the writer, the future looks to be a very nice place.

C. R. Hindmarsh said...

I'm with you Robin. You and Michael have shown how successful authors can be if they are willing to embrace all the options open to them.

It's just a waste of time and energy to attack others for doing what's best for them.

Great post.

A.M. Kuska said...

Agreed!

Lindsay said...

And when legacy publishers lose their power then they might listen.

Abbie said...

Hey, Robin, I saw your post over on Kindle Boards. Getting attacked on a forum sucks. :(

I know people have already said this, but it's worth repeating: the people responding on a hostile thread aren't your audience. If they were, there would be no reason to continue posting. Those people have invested their egos, and once that happens, you cannot convince them of anything. Your audience for that kind of discussion is the silent reader who is not posting on the thread, but who is absorbing everything that's being said. That's the person you're talking to. That's the only person *worth* talking to in the kind of scenario you described. That person has not yet invested their ego and can still be swayed by reason.

Making a point in that hostile environment is frustrating, because your true audience is silent, and you have no idea how large or small it may be. You feel alone, even if thousands of people are quietly changing their opinion in your favor.

But you're not alone. :)

Lexus Luke said...

I'm polishing my first novel now, and am leaning towards self-publishing it as an ebook only.

Robin Sullivan said...

Donald Wells said...
Writers have never needed Legacy Publishers in order to get published. Many writers throughout the centuries have published themselves. Legacy Publishers just made distribution an infinitely easier process.


To be honest Donald, Prior to November 2011 I really don't think self publishing was viable for MOST writers. There are always exceptions that can make a go of it but it wasn't until 10/2010 that I saw MANY authors reporting living wage numbers. - Just my 2 cents worth.

Robin Sullivan said...

Merrill Heath said...
It's ironic. Most readers don't care who the publisher is.


I agree with the "most" part but many readers do know a self-published book right away and some avoid them. This is one of the reasons why I price books from Ridan at $4.95 - it makes them look less like a self-published title.

When a reader sees a $0.99 or a $2.99 I'm pretty sure they realize that it is from an "indie" VERY few traditionally publihed books are at that price point.

Tara Maya said...

Reviewers pay more attention to publisher than readers. About half the reviewers I've encountered won't take a self-published book.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate

Lindsay said...

Tara,
If what you say about reviewers is true, and I'm sure it is, then they are missing out on a great many really good to great books.
Their loss.