Monday, December 12, 2011

Inglorious Bastards – Part 2

Like I said in the first part of this post, this is not a rant against publishers, but my answer to a certain misguided attitude from certain authors regarding self-publishing.  So what's the deal with the publishing business?

Agents have contacts and know their way around a publishing contract. They can maximize your profits from things you might not even begin to consider like foreign rights. Publishers understand the market, they know how to produce and sell a professional book; their editors help shape up novels and they can get you into all major bookstores. Is there quality control in the type of stories and the writing? Of course, no company is going to invest money in a bad product. And that brings us to a very important point: in the end, the publishing business is just that, a business. The days of the family-owned publishing house willing to bet on a writer's talent are over sadly; well really, they are gone in every artistic venue. No more letting a writer mature into his art with his first books or slowly building a readership. Like it or not, we live in an instant gratification, mega-corporation, bottom-line world.

A publishing house is just part of a larger conglomerate and the people who make the decisions read figures and percentages, not prose. People have jobs, bills to pay and profits to show at the end of any given quarter. You can write the next literary classic, but if your chosen genre is not popular at the time, it won’t see the light of day. Do you ever wonder why bookshelves are flooded with celebrity ghost written books and self-help books? There's profit in it. I mentioned in another post that regardless of Robert Ludlum's passing in 2001, books are still being written under his brand.

The words "wannabe authors" have been thrown around as a synonym for self-published authors. "Indie" has been used as a euphemism for this as well. I have no quarrel with the publishing world, but I'm not so insecure that I need their blessing to validate myself as a writer. Most books are published for their marketability. When the Da Vinci Code became a worldwide phenomenon, every single book that had anything to do with deciphering arcane codes and controversial religious storylines suddenly flooded bookstores. A few years ago, zombies and vampires were as dead as their namesakes; now everyday seems like Halloween. Today, there’s the emergence of the tween market. Guess what books publishers are angling? This is another reason why writers are not encouraged to steer away from the genres for which they’ve found success. They have a name and a readership already established and to walk away from that could mean career suicide. It’s not good or bad, it’s just the way it is.

I admit it; I have made mistakes along the way. Some of them are even embarrassing, but that's because publishing is new to me and the learning curve is rather steep. Add to that budget issues and you can begin to understand how a self-published work can suffer. I'm basically a one-man operation. Like I said in the first part, being published is not a walk in the park. Only the big names get to sit back, research (or use their research teams/assistants), write and do publicity for their books. Everybody else has to hustle. In fact, the percentage of authors who actually make a living through their writing alone is small. It’s a tough vocation. Now imagine having to do everything–and I mean everything–by yourself with no other guidance than what you can learn from books and the internet.

I didn't just research and write my novel, I hired editors and proofreaders, and designed and laid out the book. Then I created my own publishing company, found distributors, worked with marketing teams and advertising agencies, created a book trailer, designed ads and bought advertising space. I have run giveaways, built a webpage, set social media venues, dug for reviews and wrote blogs. I also give interviews and keep in touch with my readers.

Are all self-published books undiscovered gems unappreciated by the larger publishing world? Of course not; but in the same vein, not every published book is a branded literary classic.

Keep on running!

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