When I attended my first James River Writers Conference in 2006, I was just beginning to explore this crazy notion of putting words to paper. I went back the next year with a finished manuscript and pitched it to an agent. The next time I attended the conference, that agent had my novel out on submission to editors. I remember wondering how it would feel to attend the conference as a published author.
This weekend I get to find out. Continue reading
I say: “I’m a self-published author.” “I write chick lit or you know, women’s fiction, or whatever.” “My novel is more commercial than literary.”
Which sounds a lot like: “I’m not ready.” “I don’t believe in my story.” “My book isn’t worthy.”
Outside the writing/publishing industry issues about traditional publishing, self publishing, chick lit, women’s fiction and the never-ending battle between commercial fiction and literary fiction aren’t particularly hot topics. I’ve never understood their divisiveness and command of debate within the industry. I still don’t.
What I have come to understand is my role in perpetuating the power of these labels. Every time I qualify something I write in one of these ways it sounds like I am making an apology. Which I most certainly am not.
So instead, I will say: “I am an author.” “I write.” “My novel is awesome.”
I encourage you to do the same.
You can be assured the publishing industry is in a state of flux. I can’t remember a time in my (relatively short) “writing life” during which we weren’t discussing the effect of e-book sales on traditional book sales. Or the importance of protecting author’s digital rights. Or the relevance or irrelevance of the big 6 publishing houses. Or the effect of Amazon on . . . whatever.
The hot topic du jour in the writing world is the effect of self-publishing on the way in which literary agents acquire new talent; the notion that cruising the self-pub bestsellers list will render the query letter irrelevant. This blog post from Rachelle Gardner directly addresses the topic. I recommend you read it, as Ms. Gardner makes a very clear and concise case for why this will not happen. I want to add to the discussion with what I have learned as a newly self-published author:
1. Your self-published book will not be the road to a book deal and big advance from a traditional publishing house. Publish because you want people to read what you wrote, fall in love with your characters and get lost in the world you created.
2. Marketing and selling your self-published book is a full time business. Just because you wrote it doesn’t mean people will read it.
3. You are a brand and your work is your product. You have to be okay with self promotion – no one is going to do it for you.
4. You cannot write to a market or make yourself create a product that you are certain will sell. You must write what speaks to your soul. This is the art of writing.
I have made mistakes over the course of self publishing my first book and still occasionally struggle with the aforementioned points. But I’m going to keep working at it. Why? Because I believe my words are meant to be read.
Please share your truths about self-publishing in the comments below.