Today on his blog Joe Konrath asked me if I was an idiot. OK, he may not have used quite that word. And I suppose he wasn’t exactly talking to me. (Joe doesn’t know me).
But I felt as if he were.
It used to be that if you wanted to publish a book, and you hadn’t been graced with validation from a publisher, then it meant one of two things.
1) Your work wasn’t very good
2) Your work was good but publishers didn’t agree and so you’d better be ready to fork over a lot of money, and a lot of shoe leather, to try and prove it
I know several people who did exactly that. One fell into category 1) and the other into 2). All that differed between them was their level of success eventually. But the blood, sweat and tears along the way were the same.
Now, as Joe points out, and out, and out (because dummies like me might need to hear it twenty-hundred times as my five year old would say–the twenty-hundred, not the dummy part) you can publish a book that publishers won’t touch. For free. And quickly, too.
All it takes is a smattering of technical skill, or some cash to pay someone with a smattering of technical skill–or a baby and six years.
By that time, the baby will be able to get your book out on however many apps we’re using then. Maybe imprint it directly onto your retinas. Saves the piracy problem.
What does this mean? Well, first of all it means a lot of [insert word here] stuff will be put out there.
Mystery novelist Jeff Markowitz said at a recent Writing Matters panel that 80% of Americans think they can write a novel.
“Eighty percent of Americans,” said Jeff. “Can’t boil pasta.”
So there’s going to be a lot of [insert word again] clogging the pipelines. But so what? Did you think everything the majors publish smells like daisies?
Joe wisely points out that most self-published writers won’t make a living off their writing. Then again, most traditionally published authors don’t either. The figure I’ve always heard batted around is 200.
Two hundred Americans earn a living off their fiction.
I am pretty sure my book isn’t [insert word]. It’s gotten more than a dozen blurbs from big authors. Ones who weren’t contractually obligated to read my book since, well, no one would ask them to do that. It’s been blogged about and tweeted by two authors whom I’d count among the best.
So why I don’t I follow Joe’s advice? Like, tonight?
Two reasons. First, I love print. I am thrilled if people–more people by all accounts–are reading digitally. I’m happy (OK, more than happy) for them to read my work that way.
(Ooh, and now you can! Yes, go to this link and you can download a short story of mine that represents my very first paid for piece of work. No one’s reviewed it yet as far as I can tell, so if you do you get an extra doughnut, or at least my heartfelt thanks).
But, all the above notwithstanding, I do love print, and I love bookstores (duh, that’s obvious, my 7 year old would say before I nailed her with a mommy look) and I’d also like to be able to read my own book. Joe’s method doesn’t cover that because he believes books are going the way of the T Rex.
The second reason is that I’m searching to repair an age old wound of invalidation and lack of recognition left over from childhood days at school.
Well, I am.
Don’t a lot of us want to be published traditionally for the validation? The, “See [insert name of prom king or queen/varsity star/valedictorian here]? I did it!!! You wound up dried up and dried out and wallowing in a bog somewhere and I. Got. Published.”
Joe would say that a hundred thousand readers and a million bucks will afford a lot of validation.
And maybe he’s right. Maybe it’s time to put away childhood–and childish–things and follow the eleventh commandment of Nike.
You know what that is, don’t you?