Monday, January 21, 2013

MMWUC: The answer is blowing in the wind

Involuntarily, I got dragged into an argument over self-publishing vs. traditional publishing. Some days I get tired of this discussion. Bottom line: every writer needs to go the best path for him or her.

"Chatting with the same friends over
& over is great, because I forget after
about ten seconds what they say."
Yes, we all know that the traditional publication business favors massive block busters and celebrity one-shot wonders. The business is in disarray and the big houses are collapsing into each other. Soon they will be a BLOB with only smaller presses hovering around it like small moons around a giant gaseous planet. However, like in all walks of life, there are still honest and reputable persons in this industry (agents and editors and publishers) sniffing around for that writer who has that something else, the zing to their words, that style to their prose, that story that rises above all the other barely retreaded tales with a fresh perspective on humankind. If you have that, you should really, really look for an agent despite the miserable returns they offer--the potential national exposure far exceeds what most writers get from hobnobbing with the same people over and over again on the social media marketing circuit.

"It's Marvin Gaye. 'What's
going on?'"
Conversely, self-publishing is not the panacea to literary stardom or financial independence that people shout about. Sure there are those exceptions who make it, and immediately sign with a big traditional publishing house, but, in general, most self-published writers are too impatient with their wares, unwilling or unable to deal with the soak time and editorial bitch-slapping necessary to make their story rise above the average story that is 5-rated by friends and family and then sits, after about six months, on the shelf like another can of beans (thanks for the image Billy Joel). But it can be fun. It can be exciting to try different styles and genres without the gate-keepers. I'm publishing a book of poetry in April, after having put out a short story anthology, which was preceded by three mystery novels of considerable length. Would happen in the traditional publishing world. It makes me happy to do the side projects. Just wish it made me money...I'm honest.

"Murder! Murder! I'm outta here."
I remember taking a fiction writing class with Lee Smith in 1988 at NCSU. A well-respected agent was brought in as a guest lecturer one week to talk about her job. Like lap dogs, we all asked the normal questions, but the tone got a bit more contentious when Lee asked why the agent's share (and many other agents) had recently gone from 10% to 15%. The agent seemed a bit offended by the question, but slapped on that professional smile and said, "Well, I have to work a bit harder now to make a sale." End of lecture.

Well, I have to work a bit harder now too, and it didn't seem like a good reason for her or the industry to pick the pocket of the person producing the goods at the time. Why is it always the producer (writer, artist, farmer, fisherman, etc.) who always seems to get screwed the worst? I guess it's because we love what we do the most regardless of how we find those who appreciate it.


dolittlesaymuch said...

This is a really good and timely post, Rick. I think I shall share the link. :-)

Rick Bylina said...

Ms. Dolittle does a lot by sharing. Thanks mucho.

Rosalie Skinner said...

Well said, Rick. While we love what we do, the dollars (incoming-if and when they arrive) are a bonus. Hearing from readers who enjoy our work is the motivation and reward, or else we wouldn't be writing.
Whether published or self published, the bottom line is how we love to share our words.
Great post.

Rick Bylina said...

Thanks Rosalie...Gotta love the words or the words won't love you back.

Anonymous said...

You bring balance and perspective to what is often an acrimonious partisan debate. Thank you.