First, I apologize. I'm a horrible blogger. That's probably why no one reads this thing and really, the only reason I'm writing something now is because I think it's a good exercise for my writer's brain.
Now that that's out of the way, here's my paltry contribution to the internet wisdom pool, which amounts to pissing in the ocean.
I'm sure there's more than one raging debate going on over at AW, the writer's forum. But one in particular sucked me in the other day and I had to get involved. Now I know it's a fool's errand to argue with people over the internet. One: People who post their opinions behind the shield of online forums quite often are there for one purpose; to be disagreeable. Certain internet posters will argue about anything. If you tell them the sky is blue and the grass is green they'll try to make some grand academic proclamation about how insensitive you're being toward people who are color blind. Granted, I've participated in some perfectly proper discussions with perfectly reasonable, logical, intelligent people on internet forums so I know it's possible. But like any club that has no criteria for membership, you're going to run into some attention depraved loons.
Which brings me to the "discussion" that reeled me in on traditional publishing vs. self publishing; one of those hot point topics among writers that many find devoid of middle ground. You're either in one camp or the other. Choose a side. Except that's absolutely ridiculous. This debate, like just about anything else concerning the craft of writing, has more shades of gray than a pickup truck in a trailer park. Immediately, some frustrated erotic novelist chick, who claims she's from Ireland, jumps in and makes it sound like self publishing is only for those who flunked out of seventh grade and that she would rather preform lewd acts with a donkey before even considering debasing herself by self publishing. Then she goes on about all the checques (regardless of the spelling I still suspect this person is holed up in some New Jersey Starbucks) her publisher is filling her mailbox with, like she's some hugely successful author, which makes her an authority on everything. Let me tell you, the first lesson I learned when I attempted to present a logical contribution to this discussion by making the point that the more avenues of getting one's writing into the hands of readers the better. But it's pointless to try and talk sense to idiots. Idiots will counter logic with illogical statements and never look back. They will always be convinced they are winning a debate even when the foundation of their position is made out of Dixie cups. So getting into an argument with these types is not only pointless, it only leads in one direction - Frustrationville. Lesson learned. Stay away. But for those of you who aren't entrenched in one side or the other of this topic, those who are curious about the revolution underway in the book publishing world, along with several other creative mediums like music, art, and theater, here's what we're looking at:
Self publishers, small presses, niche writers, and the like should be hopeful. The alternative road to publishing is in no way shape or form indicative of a writer's level of talent, and it's growing. The reality of today's traditional publishing industry is that regardless of a work's brilliance, it is still possible for it to be overlooked. This is due to a multitude of reasons. Maybe you're a great writer but aren't great at composing a compelling query letter. For those of you who don't know, writing a query letter is like sticking hot pokers in your eyes. Making your intricate, multidimensional, 300-page novel sound intriguing in 250 words or less is about as much fun as puking up spoiled macaroni salad. The process of snaring an agent or editor makes even less sense than American politics. (And don't even begin to tell me that our political system isn't broken.) Unfortunately it's the only process we've got and honestly, I'm not sure if a better way exists (the publishing process I mean, not American politics). Certainly it's not going away any time soon.
Then there are trends. Publishers need to make money. And with their profits shrinking, they're more skittish than ever to gamble on a new, innovative author. For over a decade now, the percentage of dollars spent on unknown commodities by publishers has shrunk down to practically nothing. I'm not saying this is wrong, it's the reality of the business. With so much competition for the shrinking entertainment dollar, the safe bets are on the proven best sellers - Koontz, King, Grisham, Evanovich, and the like. Couple that with the number of people writing books and the odds of getting traditionally published turns into a crap shoot similar to today's job market. Good isn't good enough. To take a cue from the Occupy movement, there's the one percent, then there's the rest of us.
But here's the good news. Technology is opening up a whole new world to writers just as it has already done for musicians. It used to be unimaginable for a band to produce a professional quality recording in their home studio unless the bass player had a rich father (which was usually the criteria for hiring a bass player in the first place). Now, for less than the price of a '95 Buick you can build a home studio and crank out quality recordings even though, following an afternoon of smoking weed in the park, you dropped out of high school and decided to become a rock star. In fact, for writers it's even easier and less expensive. Sure, this opens the doors to every hack that ever thought it sounded cool to be referred to as a novelist. And yes, there will always be steaming piles of poo to wade through in search of those self-published gems. But at least the option is there. And just because a book resides in those steaming piles of poo, don't automatically assume that it's not just as good as something published by say, Random House or Simon and Schuster. It's a simple case of supply and demand. Something any idiot can understand, right?