Memo to Publishing Industry: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

In addition to feverishly working on my edits for In the Red (I’m still on schedule, yeah!) I’ve spent the last few days reading the flood of posts that are out there regarding Author Earnings: The Report. There are a slew of posts, including:

Anylyzing the Author Earnings Data Using Basic Analytics

Hugh Howey’s Author Earnings Report Is Going to Cut the Anti-Self Publishing Rhetoric Off at the Knees

The New Class System

Fisking Donald Maass

Needless to say, my head is spinning. What strikes me most is the ill will being put forth by both the traditionally published and self-published camps. Call me naive, but why must we label and gang up on one another? The long-standing traditionally published (“snobby,” “elitist”) authors versus the up-and-coming, entrepreneurial self-published authors (“hacks,” “bottom feeders”). It’s a regular Lord of the Flies out there! Perhaps this is the way change works — it’s ugly and people take sides because they’re scared that they won’t have a place (or might lose their place) in the new regime. But, people, I think we all need to work together rather than choose sides. Isn’t it fair to say that self-published books, as a group, are truly making inroads within the publishing industry and that there are many talented authors who are choosing to self-publish? And isn’t it also fair to say that there are many, many self-published books that are truly awful?

No system will be perfect. And I do think there were problems with traditional publishing before. It wasn’t (and still isn’t) about the best books getting the publishing deals. (C’mon, I’m not THAT naive.) Here’s my little example: As readers of this blog know, before self-publishing Baby Grand, the book went through a limited round of editors of Big Five publishers. Some of them didn’t like the book, which is fine and valid. But other comments they had befuddled me. Some passed on the book because they said Baby Grand was difficult to market or classify: Was it thriller? Was it women’s fiction? (Apparently, I was instructed, if you want to cross genres, it was best to do so with your SECOND book, not your first.) Some told me that the problem was that a rape scene was too violent. Too violent? And that my bad guy was too likeable, and it was confusing. Confusing? These comments led me to believe that traditional publishing was more about coloring inside the lines, which surprised me. Also, the decisions seemed arbitrary. One editor said my writing was weak, but my story was strong. The next one said my writing was strong, but my story was weak. So I was left with a decision to make. Do I keep going and eventually (because I believed I would) find a place in the traditionally publishing world for Baby Grand? Or do I take a chance and go it alone?

I decided to self-publish. And I consider my ride thus far to be modestly successful. I’ve made back my investment and then some. I’ve gained a following. I’ve gotten many four- and five-star reviews. And, interestingly, readers have responded positively to many of the things editors would have me cut or tone down.

Is my experience typical? Atypical? Who knows. And, frankly, who cares. I’m not anti or pro any specific form of publishing. I’m a believer in whatever method gets your stuff out there to the reading public, because — guess what? — they don’t dare either, as long as you’ve given them a good story in a well-presented package that’s decently priced. I believe, in the end, authors should stick to their guns and write the book that fuels them and that they’re passionate about. Whether that puts them in Freight or First Class, as denoted by Donald Maass, is really irrelevant.

Can’t we all just get along?

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11 thoughts on “Memo to Publishing Industry: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

  1. Great post, Dina. We all need to realize that it isn’t really “us against them”. Publishing is a subjective business and whatever choice a writer makes is theirs to make. It is also unrealistic to assume all levels of publishing don’t have people who are simply interested in the bottom line.
    Congrats on staying on your schedule – looking forward to your next book!

    • Kellie! So nice to see you here! And thanks for your comment! I’m hoping that as all the kinks get worked out with indie publishing, agency-assisted self-publishing, etc., all the rhetoric will calm down and we can play nice. But who knows? There are still members of the literary establishment who won’t ever accept someone like Jennifer Weiner as someone who belongs in their circles, let alone a self-published author. I guess that’s just the way it is. To think, I can remember a time when Stephen King was considered a hack and that Barnes & Noble (being a big-box store) was ruining the industry and not trying to save it. Me? I just want to read a good book. :)

  2. Dear Dina,

    You are a breath of fresh air! Thank you for this post and for including all the links. We writers need each other more now than ever.

    Proud to know you,

    Kathleen

  3. OMG. I’m sitting here RIGHT NOW with about five different tabs open in an attempt to get up-to-speed on the latest “fisking” and sniping, and I WAS THINKING THE SAME THING. Can’t we all hold hands and sing Kumbaya together??? With a round of ‘smores for everyone? I bet that would get everyone to calm the eff down.

    Great post, Dina!

  4. By the end of this year – if not sooner – I will be submitting a manuscript (again) to go the traditional route. I am in the process of doing, hopefully, the final rewrite.

    I’ve got other irons in the fire on smaller projects that I am now considering self-publishing.

    I don’t see anything wrong with doing what you’re comfortable with. The idea of doing it myself scares the crap out of me but…that’s OK. Nothing wrong with learning.

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