With the current online hullabaloo over self-publishing (Amanda Hocking going traditional for big bucks; Barry Eisler ditching traditional and big bucks), people have started asking me my thoughts on it all.
Since I'm lazy, I wrote this so I can just start linking to myself any time someone emails me. If I write enough blog posts, soon I'll never have to have real conversations, I can just have dialogues totally in link. It's a great age we live in.
No matter what they say, the pro-traditional publishing camp (both writers and the people that actually work in it) seem to mostly have their visceral hatred of self-publishing shrouding their unexpressed fears of:
1. Self-published authors infringing on their territory via their own control of low, low, low prices.
2. Self-published authors not having been properly "vetted" like they were or like they do.
The first point is lame and usually shows how little the typical English major know about economics. The second point is the more interesting one to me.* You see, what the pro-traditional publishing camp seems to think is that any one that self-published HAD to self-publish because they were vetted--either by an agent or publisher--and turned down. That couldn't be further from the truth.
For most of the 2000s I would have loved to have been vetted. By anybody. I wasn't getting turned down by the people at the top (whether film producers or agents or publishers), I couldn't even get them to read my stuff!
Even to have had someone say, "You know, I really enjoyed your book/script, but I just didn't feel it was quite good enough for us to pursue," would have felt amazing. Instead I got nothing. Phone calls unreturned, emails unanswered, scripts and manuscripts unread.
Luckily, I had confidence in my work, and knew that when people read my stuff, they would like if not love my stuff, and I guarantee you said stuff hasn't gotten that much better in the last few years.
Finally, I caught a few breaks, actually did get some publishers to read HOW TO FAIL, got a few offers, and chose a small indie publisher. I didn't self-publish, but I could have. I was only "vetted" by 2 or 3 more people than any self-published author.**
Now that HOW TO FAIL has been a success--a major success I would say considering the handicap of indie publishing and its oftentimes inability to get shelf space and cheap attention--traditional publishing is finally willing to vet my stuff. And, they like it. Again, though, it's no better nor worse than it was when they refused to read it just a half-decade ago. Sometimes, it's the exact same stuff.
Even still, most of these people in traditional publishing are too damn slow, or too damn busy, to give me the time of day. Or, the time of the day at the speed of life I so desire. I had one woman at a Big Six publisher contact me on the heels of the HOW TO FAIL tour, asking if I'd be interested in having my next book potentially be with her company. Sure, I was willing to talk. Two months later, we still haven't talked. I don't have time for that shit, and neither should you.
Don't let overly busy--or lazy--men and women be the arbiters of your success. Don't sit around hoping and praying that someone will vet you and then choose you to be published. Believe me, it's not an accomplishment. Writing a good book, and selling copies, is an accomplishment (so is getting people to like your book), but just having a publisher say: "Yes, we will publish that!" is not an accomplishment. It's a phony validation at worst, and, at best, it's just a step. A step you now have the power to cut out of your life.
So, if you're not pleased that traditional publishing is ignoring you. If you're not pleased that traditional publishing won't even give you the time of day to reject you. If you're tired of sitting around in limbo for months, or years: self-publish. Don't continue being the girl that met the guy at the bar, really "hit it off," gave him her number, and now has sat by the phone for the last week awaiting his call.
I was so exhausted with the "real" publishing of HOW TO FAIL, I wasn't in the mood to go through it again with THE CHEAT SHEET. So I self-published. Cost me hardly any time and barely any money. People love it. And no one gives a damn who published it.
Read HOW TO FAIL to see what my published work is like.
Read THE CHEAT SHEET to see what my self-published work is like.
*And, I won't even discuss the point that quite a few "vetted" books suck hardcore. Nor will I be fair and discuss the people in the traditional world that "get it," though there are plenty.
**In fact, if you throw in all the friends and family and writing buddies and creative types that all of us writers let read our stuff before it gets sent out into the world, then you could actually say that most all writers--published or self-published--have been equally vetted.