There’s cool aid in traditional publishing AND self-publishing. What’s in your cup? Either is drinkable, but how do you know which one is right for you?
What do you want? What’s most important to you?
I didn’t start out planning to make an author website, blog, edit and proofread my own work, figure out how to format for pub and print or any of the other twenty things I’m self-learning now. I wanted an agent and a publisher to take care of me so I could do the most important work: write.
But over the course of two years of searching for an agent then going to New York City to make my own contacts then getting traction and having purchasing editors at major publishing houses request to read my first novel, I learned just how much creative freedom means to me. I cut my grocery bill down to $25 a week and backed away from traditional publishing because creative freedom means everything to me.
Traditional publishing has changed drastically in the last quarter century with many venerable companies getting gobbled up into just five large corporations known as the Big Five in the industry. According to Forbes, 2013-14 marked one of the busiest mergers and acquisitions seasons in publishing history.
Of course, there are small and mid size presses out there doing amazing work, at times even beating the pants off the Big Five, such as in “Number of Titles In Amazon’s Print Bestseller Lists.” But it’s still the Big Five that rule in revenues and influence for now.
With the ever growing consolidation trend in publishing, some people say the Big Five operate much like a cartel. Others say absolutely not. Love them or hate them, the U.S. Department of Justice did sue them, along with Apple, in 2012 for price fixing e-books.
The simple truth is publishers are in business to make money, and the world has benefitted from it, too. Also, publishers have a business model that works for them, which means the onus isn’t on them to change, but on me to evolve, because I realized…
I wrote. I edited. I tested my books on unsuspecting people. I got hammered. I got better. Then I got praised. I learned. Over six years.
Dreaming is easy. The actual work of chasing dreams can be back breaking work. When I finally grew a backbone, I went to New York City, attended writers’ conferences, pitched agents, but mostly purchasing editors from major publishing houses. Along the way, I met someone who changed everything for me.
Meet the screaming idiot who changed everything for me by pushing me away from traditional publishing towards self-publishing. The irony is he doesn’t believe in self-publishing and considers it illegitimate or inadequate or whatever bad adjective you want to use. He was a self-professed industry expert who had published a book years ago and turned it into a cottage industry of conferences and what not.
I paid a lot of money to attend one of his exclusive conferences where he lectured me and a room full of people how self-publishing was a bad myth. Nobody succeeds in it, and you’re not a real writer unless you go traditional.
Every one of us nodded gratefully at what sounded like, not sage advice, but Biblical truth. He turned out to be an ASSHOLE. I don’t use the term often, but when it applies, there’s no other word quite like it to say everything I feel in two syllables.
He never read my work but told me it was crap. He said I was years away from publishing and doubted if I’d ever get there.
Fair enough, as I doubted it, too.
He said that if I were to pay more money for another one of his conferences, he or one of his colleagues would critique my novel. I paid and asked when I could send over my 500 page tome. He flew off the handle and said he never said he’d read so many pages. I cut and pasted copy directly out of his website and asked for clarification as to what “review your manuscript” meant. He called me an amateur and told me I wasn’t right for his other conference.
To this day, I can’t understand the cause of his vitriol, which was the kind that Popes used to resurrect crusades. The heat and hate in his emails – just because I asked questions – made no sense.
Am I overly sensitive?
Sure, it’s possible. But I tend to turn I turned quiet and passive when under attack. I even apologized for any mistakes I made. After all, he had one book under his belt. I had none.
I backed out of one conference but attended another. It was clear he had warned the other organizers about me because they handled me with suspicion and a dismissive attitude. As the paying customer, that’s what I felt. I told myself to forget all that crap and just learn as much as possible. I can honestly say, I did learn at the conference and made meaningful contacts inside traditional publishing houses.
But success breathes its own unintended consequences.