I’m currently reading Part Three of the second edition of Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran, which should be read by anyone thinking about self-publishing. You’ll get a much better understanding of the traditional and self-publishing industries in relation to one another.
But anyway, Part Three contains 30 brief self-published author success stories. One of them is by New Zealand-born, self-published author Shayne Parkinson, and she tells about what one person she knew in publishing told her that made me break out in figurative, writerly hives:
I’ve [Parkinson] never tried the traditional publishing route. Years ago, I asked someone in publishing if it would be worth my while submitting my books. He assured me there would be absolutely no interest in my long historical novels set in New Zealand.
The moment I read this, I thought I’d turn into a vengeful banshee. Assuring a writer that a publisher would have “absolutely no interest” in “long historical novels set in New Zealand” is the kind of depressing mindset that keeps writers from writing and submitting to publishers in the first place. Sure, if I submitted a paranormal romance novel to a literary fiction publisher, it’s likely that I’m not going to get published by them and that they’d have no interest in my work. That is understandable.
But being told what I primarily love to write would garner “absolutely no interest” is absolutely nonsensical. It’s defeating, limiting rubbish.
So, for all the writers out there that have been told, in so many words by a publisher or someone know, that no one will care, this open letter is addressed to you.
Dear Rejected/Lost/Confused/Disillusioned Writer,
I care about you.
I care about your unwritten novel, your partway-written novel, your finished novel, and/or your published novel.
And you’ve got this.
Traditional publishers might be the old standard, literary yardstick, but like many old standards, the bedrock is crumbling. The storm that is change is not just coming; it is already here.
And just because your book might not matter to Person A or Publisher B doesn’t automatically mean that it might not matter to Persons C, D, E, or F.
For traditional publishers these days, the only thing that seems to matter is whether or not they’ll land the next Harry Potter series or The Hunger Games in terms of success. They care about their editors, their publicists, and the rest of the middlemen. And if you’re very lucky, they’ll care about the writer that provided the major success in the first place and give that writer a substantial cut they can live off of.
They care about trends. They care about demographics. They care about money.
They don’t seem to care too much about you, dear writer.
But I do.
Because while I haven’t published anything other than what’s on this blog each week, I look at what’s happening with e-readers and self-publishing and the book industry as a whole. I truly wonder if shopping around for an agent or publisher in order to get recognized is really something I should spend my time doing. For others, however, traditional publishing and getting an agent to fight on their behalf is still a viable approach. I accept that. Everyone is different in their writing journey, just as you and I are different.
But if there’s one thing I refuse to accept, it’s watching writers get disrespected time and time again. It’s watching writers get a sip instead of their own full can of soda.
And if you’re sick of it, too, well…
You’re not crazy.
You’re not alone.
And you can do this crazy thing called writing.
You matter. Your book matters. Whatever genre it is. Wherever setting it is in. Whatever sexual orientations or disabilities your characters have. Whatever writing style you write in.
It matters, so do you.
And so long as you are true to who you are as a human being, you will continue to matter. So long as you are true to your writing, your writing will continue matter.
Far past even your own death.