BECAUSE I LOVE BOTH KATY PERRY AND E.S. POSTHUMUS
Hopefully this post won’t come off as sounding hypocritical as I have adamantly pursued the traditional-publishing route with my writing and have no plans to self-publish. But I did want to weigh in, regardless, because I’ve run into this “us vs. them” attitude floating around the interwebz regarding traditionally published authors vs. self-published authors. And I just don’t think it’s productive.
(Not that I’m published in ANY way whatsoever. But anyway.)
Here’s the thing. There is nothing (nothing!) that will deter my unabashed love of Katy Perry. There is also nothing that will deter me from wasting entirely too much time browsing CD Baby for my next-favoritest album. There is room in my life for paying $1.29 per song for Teenage Dream and Firework on iTunes and dropping $8.99 on two unheard-of bands that sound like E.S. Posthumus (one of their songs is on the soundtrack to my book, ya’ll). One does not necessarily obviate the other.
In fact, every time I get on CD Baby I end up spending more than I intend to. And then they send you a free album for every few you buy, and then I find a NEW band I like, and then… you get the idea. It appears that reading and listening to music (and watching anime, and eating cupcakes, etc.) are two things that I possess an infinite capacity to consume. And the more I do it, the more I do it.
It’s kind of like the era of Napster, a glorious wonderful shiny time when music [sampling] was free and pink bunnies roamed the landscape, skipping through fields and meadows of wildflowers. I downloaded some stuff. Yes, I admit it. But I also bought the albums for the artists I loved–and more music than I ever had before. One great song isn’t enough. I wanted the whole album. And then I wanted to go to a show. And then I wanted MOAR music and more shows. And ultimately, I wanted to support the artists. Even the already-famous ones.
So I kind of have this happy fantasy in which self-publishing does the same. It may take more work to find a self-pubbed book you love–there are no gatekeepers to guarantee it’s well-edited, no agents to find its niche in the market, and some duds out there–but if you do, you’re a loyal customer. And if you’re me, you’re still going to buy that Katy Perry album, too.
Because you know what? Suzanne Collins is awesome. And so are a lot of writers out there who never got their big break the old-fashioned way. There is room in my brain for both. Yes, my wallet has limitations on it, but I still shop at Amazon for backlisted classics and at Flyleaf Books for signed copies of local authors’ books.
So in honor of the era of napster, I’d like to share five reasons you should support self-pubbed authors. Because how sad would my college-ipod be without Beulah?:
1) There are great authors out there who don’t publish the old-fashioned way. Maybe the market can’t support a huge advance. Maybe they don’t have a timely topic. Maybe there’s another book out there similar to theirs that didn’t sell for no reason in particular. Maybe they tried it the traditional way and didn’t like it. Or maybe they never even pursued that path. Whatever the reason, their work doesn’t fit into the traditional market. It doesn’t mean their book isn’t well-written or interesting.
2) Writing is a process. We’re all at different places in our process, and we all learn different ways. Even if you see an uber-crappy self-pubbed work out there somewhere, it doesn’t mean that particular writer may not learn. We’ve all written uber-crap (I certainly have). The trick is learning the difference between uber-crap and uber-awesome. That takes time, and we all have different tools for doing it. I would like an agent and an editor and a copy editor and etc. etc. etc. to help me get my act together. Others want to put their work out there, get feedback, and go from there. Same goal, different approach.
3) The difference between a published author and an unpublished author has just as much to do with LUCK as it does skill. I feel very VERY fortunate to have landed an amazing agent. With my first book, which I think was pretty good (although I am bias ), I had no such luck. I hope that my current work will make it to bookstores and allow me to really indulge my writing in the future. But there are no guarantees. Any creative endeavor is a subjective experience and it’s important to take into account the impact of luck and happenstance on success. It’s also important to realize that there are people out there who are talented, who work hard, and who won’t ever be able to publish a novel the old-fashioned way.
(I just shuddered when I wrote that, ya’ll. *shiver* I’m an eternal optimist, so I hate to admit this possibility. Oh well. If my book never gets picked up by a house, at least reading this post will make me feel better. I hope.)
3) Creative endeavors really are subjective. I mean that. That’s why I’m repeating it. I really, really do. There is a current trend in writing to make things a certain way. As it so happens, I agree with most of these trends. I prefer Hemingway over Faulkner; efficiency over language for language’s sake (most of the time). I like things action-packed and fast. I want symbolism so subtle I don’t even think about it until two days after I’ve read the book. I like unrequited love, cutesy-ness, double-entendres, sword fights, zombies, and girls that kick-ass.
All of this is fortunate for me because I think it helped me land an agent. But I also love Victorian Lit., which has overly-complex plots and musings about clouds and and an inordinate amount of surmising. I love poetry, and enjoy Walt Whitman chatting about Captains and Keats getting all emo about urns. One of my favorite books is about a guy standing on a bridge. And I find Thomas Pynchon interesting, but I never make it through more than ten pages. We all have preferences. And there are enough books in the world that we can satisfy them. Limiting yourself in any way is your loss.
4) Writers are a community, and I don’t think there should be a hierarchy. This one is tricky, but I think it’s true. I don’t expect anyone to treat me like Stephen King or J.K Rowling. But you know what? Before they sold millions and millions of copies of their books, they were unpubbed, too. You should treat every writer you meet like the next big thing. Not for personal gain, or so that when they’re famous they’ll write you a blurb (although that would be cool. OMG that would be SO. COOL. But anyway.).
But because writing is a Cool Thing and isn’t it cool that we share this Cool Thing that we love to do? And isn’t it neat that we can connect with total strangers over this Cool Thing? And isn’t it Cool that all of humanity shares this desire for narrative structure (sorry to get meta, there) and that we feel so strongly about it that we feel the need to spend hours and hours and on a pursuit that may never do more than keep us up at night pondering plot problems? Yeah. COOL.
5) It’s fun. In all honesty, I’ve just begun to scope out some self-pubbed books I want to read. But I’m having fun, and every single self-pubbed author I’ve run into on Twitter has been awesome. And even when I scope a dud-book on amazon, I still feel pretty optimistic about the world-in-general. Writing is fun, and getting excited about writing is fun, and the more people read the more people read and the more people write the more people write and there is an exponential growth in literacy and the quality of the human experience shared and blah blah blah (did I mention how I’m an eternal optimist?). Sharing is part of human culture. So let’s do it.
Download a few self-pubbed titles next time you’re on Amazon. And then pick up the latest debut YA from S&S. You know you wanna.*
*(Also: if I had a book out to pimp, this is where I would say “please buy my book, too!” I’m not too proud to ask, ya’ll.)Read More