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Evolution of a Writer (redux)

Shannon Taylor Hodnett posted a thoughtful reply to my earlier post on the Evolution of a Writer.  (You'll have to scroll a ways to get to her comment)

She rightfully pointed out that the publishing industry is evolving too, and that not every self-published writer is a traditional-publishing reject.  I certainly did not mean to imply that kind of absolute, so I replied with this:

Good points, but I don't assume every self-published author is a traditional publishing reject.  The vast majority of them are, however, and I mean VAST, or they haven't even tried traditional publishing. A very small percentage of those self-published authors do have the ability to write a polished novel, and those are the authors whose names drive a lot of not-so professionally skilled into thinking they can do it too.

I agree that there's no doubt that the industry is changing, though. Possibly in the future there is no middle-man (agent/editor/publisher/bricks and mortar book store) between all who want to write and their dreams for publication. Publication, then, will become a true meritocracy. Every book will go out and have an equal chance of drumming up its own word of mouth or buzz or whatever will replace a traditional publishing push to sell books.

I think, though, in the foreseeable future that there will still be arbiters of acceptance whose imprimatur will be worth an unknown writer's time to achieve, whether they are responsibly edited magazines, e-zines, traditional publishers, e-book publishers, or the future equivalent of Oprah. Those arbiters of acceptance will be the ones who will promote the writing that will instantly gather more attention because they have marked it as one of their own for all to see.

As long as those arbiters of acceptance exist, self-publishing will be the slow road for the vast majority of unpublished writers who hope to achieve the levels of professionalism that they think they've already gained.


By the way, I reread what I wrote above, and the tone sounds a shade snotty and all-knowing to my ear.  Whatever "professional" writing is, I don't know the secret.  I often imagine myself treading water mightily, occasionally breaking the surface to breathe a bit of that professional publishing air, but most of the time frantically beating my arms and legs, looking up at the surface I can't quite reach.  Every time I've sold something it has felt like a bit of a miracle, and I can tell you that many of my publishing friends, some of them with much more extensive bibliographies than mine, feel exactly the same way.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 24th, 2011 06:07 am (UTC)

I thought you did quite well!

There is always going to be someone who 'reads' a certain way. It is a problem with the written word; we can not see the body language or hear the tone of voice and thereby, we are handicapped in our understanding and interpretation.

Thus, my over use of the smiley face. I want people to know that I'm friendly and light-hearted, in most of my posts.

Keep up the good work. One bad apple doesn't always spoil the barrel, if we pay attention. :o)

May. 24th, 2011 04:16 pm (UTC)
There is a lot of interesting stuff happening in publishing at the moment -- some of it "interesting" in the Chinese curse sense!

Since getting my iPod Touch and discovering that I actually enjoy reading ebooks on it, I've been experimenting with some self-published novels and the results are not quite what I expected. I'm hoping I might eventually have time to post about my findings before too long, but I have a dissertation to finish first. :(
May. 24th, 2011 04:49 pm (UTC)
I'll be interested in hearing your thoughts. I've read a fair number of self-published novels, and although a couple of them were truly horrible, the rest were competently written.

"Comptently written," however, is not a compliment in the publishing world. For me, what I want to read is the blast-me-out-of-my-socks stuff: the kind of writing that transports me to new places. "Competently written" work doesn't do that. I know who the characters are and what the plot is doing, but I never forget I'm reading.

A significant proportion of slush piles for magazines and book publishers are competently written, but they're not winners. I want to read winners. Life is too short for me to spend my time reading the also-rans.

Edited at 2011-05-24 04:50 pm (UTC)
May. 24th, 2011 07:21 pm (UTC)
Oh, indeed. I do take your point about winners and also rans.

However, it isn't as simple as traditional publishing = winner, self-publishing = also ran.

I have been taking advantage of Amazon UK's recent special off on ebooks and thus reading outside my normal genre. Two books I bought recently (published by normal mainstream publishers) definitely came in the "also ran" cagetory and one of the self-published novels was one of the best SF novels I've read for years. Well, there is a publisher's name, but they have only published the one book on their list, so that sounds like self-publishing to me. :)

Anyway, more details when I have time...
May. 26th, 2011 11:53 am (UTC)
I have to say that I disagree with your point about only occasionally breathing the professional air. I've found your short work to be about the best out there. I know that you can really only make a living through novels, but the short stuff, IMO, is what really distinguishes the great SF/F writers. So be as snooty as you like - you've earned it.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )