all that sparkles ain't gold

Is it me or is some of the furor (fever?) over self-publishing dying down? Or maybe I quit paying attention. I'm not sure. I kind of laid my path and I'm now fully investing my time into to-be-traditionally-published projects. Nothing against self-publishing at all. Every writer can find your own damn path and do it.

It was funny how people acted after I signed with Sara Megibow (the greatest agent in the world, love that woman). It was sort of like I was supposed to be elated, with post-coital glow emanating in my Twitter posts for days after. Truth? I felt relief after signing with her. There's just so much stuff I don't have to do any more, or even think about.

(I'd been a bit on the fence before whether I needed an agent or not. I'd been a bit of a fool. I can't do this at all well on my own. My husband oh-so-kindly pointed that out to me...he's run this artistic gamut with me before.) 

Granted, some folks love to make some covers and do all the techy stuff to upload their books to Amazon, or they love to throw down some cash to have someone else do that. What they love is control, maybe.

I don't want control! I'm not to be trusted with it!

What I love is doing the part of an art project that I love to do and that I hope I'm best at: painting, when I did custom tiles or writing when I work on a book.  I'm accustomed to firing the tiles and handing them over or typing the end and having it mostly be the end for my part (except for editing, of course, which is part of writing). When I painted for a client, I didn't really even care if I saw it installed. I don't need my art in a frame to have it feel complete for me...I'm all about the doing, man. Of course having your own book in your hand is uber cool, but really, for me, it's more the job-well-done feeling when I whip a book into some kind of shape for an editor, and then, laterm readers.

I do agree with this: from an interview of Ray Garton I read recently:

...the first thing that should be said about self-publishing — and it should be said often — is that anyone can do it.  Absolutely anyone. You don’t even have to be able to spell your own name correctly to self-publish. ... Now, with self-publishing so accessible, any nutburger with a side of bullshit can whip up a slick-looking cover and flash it all over the internet, and still not know the first goddamned thing about writing, or telling a story.

(go read the whole interview; it's interesting. I don't even know who Ray Garton is but I want to know now)

But I think he's made a point, though I'd add, without sales, self-publishing doesn't mean much. I'm not even sure it means as much as actually finishing the damn book (which most writers are incapable of doing).

There's also this: I've pretty well worked my ass in to a point (well, it's actually more a fleshy blob...) over the past 9 years learning my craft. Critique, submitting, writing seven books (if the shitty ones count), reading, editing, rejections--omg, the rejections--and millions of words. And I tell you what? I don't know much. So yeah, sometimes self-publishing as a collective whole, especially those with their first books, annoys the fuck out of me, especially when they think they know what they fuck they're doing.

All that said, my ideas on awarding merit on work are changing. Dollars speak to me. A self-published book that outsells everyone I know? Dude. Obviously they did something right. Even that one poorly written colossal bdsm misinterpretation touched a nerve with a few readers, eh? Yeah, round the fucking world. You just don't argue with gold in your pocket. Or sparkly child-molesting vampires, no matter how fucking annoying they are.


Anonymous said...

Definitely good points. Not only have you grown smarter, you're wiser too, and no amount of gold can buy wisdom.

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

Aww, thanks!

Peter Dudley said...

Let me first say I agree with everything you say after your opening question. I understand the feeling of relief instead of elation upon scoring an agent. I agree that the first thing everyone should know is that self-publishing is insanely easy and does not require any particular skill, talent, or luck. And "amen" to the seven crappy manuscripts that won't be published (I have five with my name on them).

I also do think that the initial fervor about self publishing is, thank goodness, dying down a bit. (So is the anti-self-publishing vitriol, thank goodness.) But don't expect self publishing to go away, and don't think it somehow less than traditional publishing. There are benefits and detriments to both methods.

I think self publishing is following, perhaps, a similar path as that of rollerblades. Remember when they suddenly became the rage? Everyone in the country suddenly bought them, with knee pads and wrist pads and helmets. Over time, the fervor subsided but a very real, very large, very successful market emerged from the original hype. Inline skates are still popular, but only with those people who actually use them.

Same thing will happen with self publishing. It's become a sudden fad, but when the dust settles we'll see it emerge as far less than the hype but a very healthy, productive, and sustainable market. It's not a shortcut to success any more than buying rollerblades was a shortcut to fitness. When writers really learn that, the ratio of quality to crap will improve. Just because anyone can self-publish does not mean everyone will self-publish.

In the meantime, there are lots of writers like me who have put our 10,000 hours into developing our craft and see self-publishing as a better avenue to achieving our goals. Not just faster--better. Faster is just a happy side effect. If you're ever interested, I'd be happy to enumerate my reasons for self-publishing Semper. Maybe over a beer when I'm in Denver in early October...

Wendy said...

One of the great values of self-pubbing is that people can get some fascinating niche books out that probably wouldn't stand a chance a few years ago -- things that might sell to just to a small body of people. It gives some really good books a chance at a life.

Yes, I think the downside is it allows a lot of crummy books to be out there, too.

For me, it's a super-ginormous thrill to be self-pubbing a book because it's completely from scratch. I mean, yeah, a box cake is tasty, but there are some bragging rights to a cake made from scratch. What a thrill to hold a book in your hand and look at it and think... yeah -- I made that cool cover, I wrote all those words, I designed the interior, etc. Personally I love it and works great for me, but I can easily see how it would be stressful for a lot of people if you don't love the design and execution aspects. (And actually it's kind of stressful even if you DO love those aspects...)