“So many writers still want that traditional “validation.” They want someone else to take control of their career. They want someone else to praise their book and make it a bestseller.
They want to put their entire artistic and creative future into a machine that’s designed to chew people up and spit them out—even if those people aren’t on some blacklist.
I see writer after writer after writer who wants to sell their books to traditional publishers or who want to go into Hollywood with a “free” option or who willingly give away the rights to something just for “the opportunity” to play in this shark tank.
The film industry hasn’t yet gone through the full-fledged transition that book publishing and comics are going through right now. It’s not easy to make a film without big money backing and get it distributed worldwide. It is possible to write a book and get it distributed worldwide now.
That self-published book just won’t get the attention that a handful of books got thirty and forty years ago. But that 2018 book will stay on the virtual shelves while the older books rarely stayed on any shelf.
There’s a lot of upside to indie. A bit of downside too, which we’ll be discussing in the next few weeks. But the biggest upside to me is that we are not subject to the whims of someone who will only spend money to market a book on a writer because she’s pretty or because she meets the current cultural norm.
(I just got offered a big quick turn-around tie-in novel this past month, for which I would have been paid in the low six-figures. When I said I wasn’t interested and offered to give the person a list of writers who might have the time to write this project, she asked if any of them were female. I said no, none of them were. [I wasn’t looking at gender; I was looking at availability for a rush job.] Well, to be honest, she said, we only picked you because you were the most visible female tie-in author we could find. We don’t want men at all. Again, that flash of disappointment rose in me. I was chosen, not because my work is good, but because I’m female. I understand the corrective urge in the marketplace, but jeez, that comment felt as insulting as having my book marketed because I was considered pretty 25 years ago.)
Writers who choose to take their novels and their nonfiction books into traditional publishing are choosing to give their careers to the “tastemakers” who sometimes make their decisions based on their prejudices, their “understanding” of a marketplace that (in reality) does not exist, and who will do their best to destroy anyone who questions them.
Think I’m exaggerating? I’m not. I’ve been through my share of whisper campaigns too, including one that went on for nearly thirty years—from the moment that guy lost a big prestigious job to me until the day he died.
I used to tell writers that you need a tough skin to be in this business. And you still do. Although not a scaly hide that nothing can penetrate. These days, if you’re going indie, you need to be tough enough to handle the ups and downs of owning your own business. You need to be tough enough to weather bad reviews and low sales. You need to be strong enough to keep moving forward in the face of disappointment.
If you’re going traditional, you need to be made of alligator skin. You need a hide so thick that nothing can pierce it, or if something does, you need to have a system to deal with the pain so you can get up and move forward again.
Just because we’re having these conversations in the culture right now doesn’t mean that everything has changed for the better. This kind of change doesn’t happen overnight, no matter how it feels.
Remember, the news cycle is on overdrive right now, and what might seem too big and important to ignore might vanish in the wake of yet another scandal or large catastrophe that we can’t even imagine right now.
I’m hoping this kind of change we’re seeing is not a bubble. But I’ve been through enough bubbles to know that’s a risk.
Is becoming a traditionally published author so important to you that you’re willing to succeed on any terms? Is becoming a traditionally published author so important to you that you’re willing to put your career (and your copyrights) in the hands of people who still haven’t figured out that diversity means more than publishing a few books about discrimination?
And if your answer is yes, then do this: Use your imagination.”
To celebrate, why not share some indie love by promoting an indie book or author? Or, you could read an indie book!
We suggest (cough, cough) THE AUTOMATION. It’s free to read in its entirety on Goodreads.
So, the monthly roundup isn’t so monthly anymore…
In June, we posted about how authors shouldn’t guilt trip readers and about Theodora Goss on why she writes. One of June’s BookTuber Tuesday posts covered an interesting discussion on Book Packagers, and a GABBLER RECOMMENDS included Maria Bamford’s Lady Dynamite.
In July, we started the EPIC CATALOG category on the blog. Check out all the lists we have categorized so far. That month, we posted about a film written by AI and what not to do with a nom de plume. Also, why we need to consider how ghostwriting/ghostwriters harm our culture.
August led to BLA’s rants on The Cursed Child and this post about how multiple versions of a book might sway opinion of it. Gabbler RECOMMENDED this RadioLab podcast about why Homer never mentions the color blue (not just because he’s never sad; seriously, listen to it!).
In September we celebrated the anniversary of THE AUTOMATION by hosting a giveaway. If you didn’t win, that’s OK, you can read it for free or download it as an ebook on Goodreads. A #BLAThoughtOfTheDay included this post on why we need to talk about Lionel Shriver. And, to end with, we really recommend reading this opinion piece by Amy Hungerford on why you might not want to read ALL THE BOOKS.
Here’s to the next season when we’ll eventually get to our monthly roundup!
Recently, Lionel Shriver, author of We Need To Talk About Kevin, was the topic of this post by Yassmin Abdel-Magied, who walked out of Shriver’s speech — a speech which deliberately brushed aside cultural appropriation and all the problems therein.
Shriver has been a childfree voice (if her book Kevin isn’t enough to convince you to not have children, I don’t know what is), which our own views align with, and we’ve featured her on BookTuber Tuesday.
However, her response to the controversy seems to be the worst part:
Of course people can tell their stories. But if “telling your story” is the equivalent of shouting to the wind, there is inequality of platform here.
Gabbler makes some more good points here:
I leave you with this quote from Amy Hungerford:
“Sometimes scholars will need not just to silently make their choices without acknowledging the choices forgone, but to refuse, in a reasoned and deliberate way, to read what the literary press and the literary marketplace put forward as worthy of attention. This requires a distinctly nonscholarly form of reasoning: One must decide, without reading a work, whether it is worth the time to read it or not…” [Via]
We are entering a time where we must refuse the scholarly conversation of literature–at least until the time when “scholarly conversation” can include all voices. Until that time, it’s not very objective. Which isn’t very scholarly at all.