Sunday, May 4, 2014

An Invitation To Condescension

I got an email from Writer's Digest the other day.  Of course, I get these all the time, and whether it's a call to enter the Annual Writer's Digest Writing Competition or a profile of a new agent, I usually skim through such emails for anything useful.  However, it was a recent email that reminded me just how much the traditional literary world looks down on those who self-publish.

The email in question was an invitation to enter a self-published novel in a competition.  First prize guaranteed that all kinds of editors and agents would read a review of my work.  Implied in this was that the wonderful world of traditional publishing would be doing me a great favor by reaching down and maybe, just maybe, noticing me for a few minutes.

I could certainly use the prize money offered, but the implication that all self-published writers need the traditional world was a bit insulting, especially today.  I started thinking that if my book was good enough to win this competition, I would probably be selling well and thus not need the traditional world to reach my goals.

It just reminds us that the folks who run traditional publishing think that those who indie publish are hacks who couldn't make it in their world.  Is this legitimate condescension, or is it the desperate cry from a dying industry?  My hunch is that it's a little bit of both, with the second part likely being understood only at a subconscious level.  More and more writers are eschewing traditional to go indie, and even several traditional publishing houses are using indie as a kind of "minor league" to find talent that was previously unknown.

But is it worth going through that?

I've said before that if the right deal came along, I'd certainly consider traditional publishing, but I don't think the things I have in mind would mesh well in that world unless gobs of money were at stake.  I think most indie writers would do better, in this day and age, to stick to trying to succeed in indie rather than groveling for some New York publishing house to notice them.  Whether we acknowledge it or not, most of us are ready to work without a net(at least those who can succeed are), and that net has holes in it anyway.

Don't give in to the temptation to go somewhere "safe" just because it might be scary out there on your own.  Trust yourself and understand that you can make it with enough effort and talent.  This isn't 15 years ago when you had to go the traditional route if you wanted any modicum of success.  New companies and technologies have made self-publishing viable, no matter what those in a world they want to monopolize will tell you.  It has them scared, and contests like the one above that promise you the scant attention of the "better people" at traditional might have been launched with good intentions, but it's little more than the last gasps of a once vibrant world.  That vibrancy now belongs to indie publishing, so leap at the chance to be a part.


  1. I've been querying a children's book that my mom and I wrote together and it's been pretty much ignored. I've been VERY VERY tempted to start a Kickstarter Campaign to get the funds to self publish it and to get a professional artist to draw the pictures. I'm not quite there yet, but I think you need to get to a point to just do it on your own.

    1. I would say to trust in yourself. The traditional world is more of a gatekeeper that doesn't realize the gate it's guarding has holes in its fence. With technologies and resources available today, indie is doable, provided one will put in the business side work that must accompany it. I know you can do it.