This isn’t going to be one of those “let’s bash traditional publishing/self-publishing” posts. There are still too many of those opinions on both sides, and I don’t want any part of that.
Two people I respect blogged recently about publishing and kool-aid. Agent Janet Reid posted about the ten things authors should be doing right now. Number ten was “Do NOT drink the kool-aid on E-publishing.” Self-publishing guru Joe Konrath responded with a post titled, “Drink the Kool-Aid.”
If you ask me, they’re both being a bit narrow-minded and telling their readers to drink their kool-aid, whether that be pro-traditional or pro-self publishing. And I hate to say that, because like I mentioned, I respect both of them.
Who’s Right and Who’s Wrong?
The writing blogosphere includes tons of posts about how we shouldn’t compare our journey toward publication to anyone else’s. The reasons they typically list are absolutely true, which is why I don’t (usually) suffer from author envy. But one very important reason is often missed:
Every one of us has a different path to success because we each have our own definition of success.
I touched on this concept in my post asking, “Would you ever turn down a contract?”, and I think this point needs to be reiterated. Anyone telling us there is one right way or best way to publish our work is wrong.
There. I said it. I’m talking about how we shouldn’t make sweeping statements, and I just made a sweeping statement. *smile*
Unlike the other statements, mine says we each have to make our own decisions for what’s the best path for us. There is no right or wrong way.
Even those who self-publish navel-gazing, grammatical-error-flaunting crap aren’t doing it wrong if their goal is simply to be able to say they’re published, making their sales irrelevant. In that case, they’re doing what’s best for them and their goal.
How to Avoid the Publishing Kool-Aid
The trick is to identify our goals and keep those in mind while reading other people’s opinions. Someone’s advice about how much to spend on self-published cover art might not be applicable to us if their goals are different from ours. Similarly, someone’s advice about whether we need an agent might be irrelevant to our situation.
As I mentioned in my post about the traditional vs. self publishing debate, we shouldn’t beat each other up for our choices because we should be making choices that are different from others. My goals are different from my critique partner’s, much less from yours or some random writer.
For example, Joe Konrath’s goals include making money and focusing on ebooks. The advice he gives and the decisions he makes for himself won’t help an author who writes category romance, whose readers follow the publisher—not the author—and expect printed books.
Our wants and needs belong to us alone, so our path to reach for those dreams will be unique:
- Know what will make you happy, not just today, but in two years, five years, and ten years.
- Match your goals to meet those dreams.
- Plan how to reach those goals.
- Never let someone else’s advice make you think your path is wrong.
Once we know what will make us happy, we have to figure out our goals:
- Make lots of money
- Not spend any money upfront
- Start a writing business
- Start a writing hobby
- Retain full control
- Avoid non-writing activities
- Name recognition
- Become part of a publisher’s “stable”
- Get invitations to participate in anthologies
- See book in bookstore
- Sell print copies
- Provide stories in format readers expect
- Be a bestseller
- Write personally meaningful stories
- Write the kind of stories we want to read
- Meet the market’s needs
- Quit day job
- Not lose day job due to conflict
- Have fun
- Pad resumé
- Avoid embarrassment
Etc., etc., etc. I’ll stop now or we’ll be here all day.
All those goals are perfectly valid. Yet some goals that others would recoil from, we’d give a check mark. That doesn’t make them wrong or bad, just different.
We can get ideas for how to meet our goals by watching others’ success, but we shouldn’t try to copy them exactly. What works for Joe Konrath, who has his own perpetual marketing machine, might not work for us. Similarly, his observations about Barry Eisler’s success don’t provide an example to follow because the publicity surrounding Barry’s various publishing decisions created interest most of us can’t duplicate.
And lest it appear as though I’m picking on Joe more than Janet, let me leave off with this contradictory quote of Janet Reid:
“Do NOT drink the kool-aid on E-publishing. … We’re all learning this as we go and the right answer to almost everything is ‘we’ll see what happens.’
… Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Don’t be afraid to fail. Neither will kill you.”
So which is it? Should we hold off and “see what happens”? Or should we go for it and not be afraid to make mistakes? Once again, my answer is: It depends. Maybe that should be our motto. *smile* Everything depends on what we want and what our goals are.
Do you have clear goals? How well does your planned path match with those goals? Have your goals changed over time? Has your plan changed with them? When you read publishing advice, are you able to discern how the author’s goals might be different from yours? Or if they might have an ulterior motive?Pin It