If you’ve been living under a rock these past years, you probably still believe the only way for a writer to “make it” in the world of books and publishing is to struggle for years and years perfecting a novel, then trying very hard to find an agent who will — like the old Calgon bubble bath commercials — take you away! Wisk you up to that lofty Publisher-on-high and make you a star.
Maybe you peeked out from under your big round stone ten or twelve years ago and noticed something called Fanfiction, breeding all over the internet. Perhaps you saw things like Vanity publishing leaking off like the trails left behind by slugs, and a plethora of web sites made by colorblind individuals who thought a moving mailbox and a flashing red banner would entice you to read their little ditty. Then, convinced your life under that granite was really for the better, you went back down for another spell.
In that case, you’re unable to read this blog and haven’t figured out that this is the best time to be a writer. In fact, I can’t think of a better time. The world has opened up, or if you prefer, blown up, scattering into infinite possibilities going in a myriad of directions.
The rest of you should be rejoicing! Not only do you not have pebbles in your underwear, you’re writing in what has to be the most awesome era for story-telling.
Today, a writer has endless avenues and possibilities available to get their stories out to the reading public. If you still want to use the Traditional route, it hasn’t gone anywhere. There are agents aplenty, and a few massive conglomerate publishing houses who like to do things the old fashioned way.
But that’s no longer the only way up the mountain. Nor is it exclusive – – you can take that path, then come back down and find another, then angle left and take another. There is nothing stopping you from taking every single path to the top that you can find, and then some.
Want to Indy publish? Fanfreakin’ tastic!
Prefer a small press? Do you have any idea how MANY there are these days? Head over to Doutrope when you’re finished reading this blog and expand your mind.
You’re no longer forced to walk the one path to true enlightenment, and struggle to sell a midlist paperback trade. If that’s your goal, more power to you.
If not – we have a buffet of Audio publishing, Epublishing, Self publishing, Indy publishing, Small Press, Large Press, Indy Press, Free press – web sites, blogs, hell you can even Twitter fiction these days. Write short work for reading on cell phones, pen some Flash fiction in a banner ad, set up your own Podcast radio station and read your work, get a camera and post fiction on Youtube. Start up a website and charge subscription rates, or ask for donations, or give it away for free !
You can write novels, you can write shorts, you can write whatever the hell you want. With the plethora of small presses available today, a writer could make a solid living selling only short stories, audio fiction, podcasts.
You can sell your audio rights to one publisher – then turn around and sell first print rights to someone else, foreign rights to someone else again (read your contracts)
Sold a Novel? Nothing says you can’t turn around and Indy publish some Shorts !
Sold a Short? Put your Novel on Smashwords and control your destiny. Tweet your poems, audiocast your Flash. Sell another short !
Do you dream in Serials? Miss the old days of pulps and continuing stories that unfold week after week, exploring a vast, wide open world, but you don’t take the time to write one because you can’t find a publisher? What’s stopping you? Do it ! Sell it yourself, sell it to a small press, create a subscription readers list. ASK one of the small presses out there if they’d be interested – the worst they can do is say “No.” What writer hasn’t heard that before?
It’s a big wide open world for writers — the sky isn’t even a limit anymore. The only limits you’ll find, are those of your own expectations.
“There, see, Ethel – I told you there’d be a catch.”
“Oh hush up and keep reading!”
There is a catch, but the catch is – it’s all inside your own head. Your expectations aren’t what some nameless, faceless writing group tells you they should be, or what the guy down the street says they are. Your expectations aren’t what the media claims they should be, either.
Your expectations are entirely your own, but if you’re sitting at home, constantly rewriting that one novel, rewriting your query, tweaking a sentence here and a paragraph there, trying desperately to win over an agent, get that one book deal, then sit back and lead the life of a wealthy, famous author . . . I can offer you a great deal on a bridge over some Florida swamp land, cheap.
If that goal — that one singular mission — is all you expect and hope for out of this writing life, then I wish you all the best of luck. If you “make it” there, it’s because you’re the top .028% of the population struggling toward that same goal. Congratulations, and I mean congratulations. You had a goal, and no matter how long it took or how hard it was, you’ve achieved it.
But if that’s your sole idea of “making it” then you have my sympathies, because I’d be willing to bet it’s not going to mean what you think it means. By setting that singular goal, you’ve probably also built up a vast expectation of what it’ll be like when you get there, and I really don’t think you’ll ever be satisfied.
Who gets to determine whether or not you’ve “made it” ? Will getting an agent mean you’re there, or does that have to wait until you have a publishing contract?
What about when you have a publishing contract, but your book isn’t out yet, did you make it? If your book is on the shelves, but you’re not being asked to do a book tour, have you failed to make it?
What if they never buy another title from you, are you still there? Did you still “make it”?
I skipped my High School reunions, all of ‘em so far, but I’ve heard from friends who attended, and the funniest bit — the most telling of all the stories that stuck with me all these years, is how the High School jocks had all peaked. They were now balding, shadowy shells of their former selves, heads bent, “yes, dear” on their lips, desperate to relive the glory days because for them, their entire expectation out of life was to be the Big Guy on Campus. After that, after making it there, they had nothing else to do. There was nowhere to go but down.
They’d made it, but then what?
“She’s confusing me, Ethel.”
“Shut up and keep reading, Maude. I swear, you’re getting’ senile.”
If you’re a writer who’s sold some Short stories, maybe you’re struggling to finish that first Novel and you have high hopes a small press will buy it – – have you made it yet?
What if all you write is Short stories, have YOU made it?
Maybe you write Novels and put them up for sale at Smashwords, have you made it yet?
Perhaps you’re a writer who sold a handful of Short stories to small presses, maybe an audio book here and there, you’re working on a novel you’d like to sell to a Traditional house and you really want to see some of your work up on the web for free, have YOU made it yet?
To all of you, Yes, you’ve made it. You’re writing, people are reading, you’re writing more and people are happy to read whatever you bring out – You’ve made it. You’re there. Celebrate ! You’re a Writer, you’re entertaining people, you’re weaving tales and expressing yourself, maybe you’re being paid, maybe you’re not. Maybe that’s important to you, maybe it isn’t. Maybe you’re Traditional, maybe you’re Indy, maybe you just stand at a corner and hand printed pages to folks boarding trains.
Whatever your methods, whatever the media, you’re there! You made it !
Even if you have other goals in mind, even if you’re still moving forward, exploring new options, writing new and exciting things, always looking for that “next big thing” – rejoice! You’re moving forward, but you’ve already made it. You ARE a writer.
Nothing pisses them off more. And by “them” you know I’m talking about the old time Traditionals. The ones who believe, unto their deathbeds, that THEIRS is the Way, the Only Way, and forever will remain The Way, Amen.
They look at you, Small Press Author, and you, Audio Fiction Writer, and even you, Indy Published Scribe, and they scoff into their Wheaties “You haven’t made it! You’re not a real writer! Until you’ve sold a book to a publisher using an agent, you’ll never make it!”
Screw ‘em. They’re bitter, old coots, more often than not. Angry that it took them years to achieve their goals, only to find those goals less satisfying than they’d expected. They were so busy reaching for their brass ring, they didn’t realize so many of us were already holding them. They’ve been told by so many people there was only one road up the mountain, they didn’t notice how many mountains there really are.
One day I realized just how much fun I was having with my current novel, and how much unadulterated joy I was taking out of being an Indy writer, and just being a writer. I’m not concerned with genre, or what is or isn’t selling right now. I’m not developing heartburn over writing a query, or researching agents, and I’m not pining away at my desk, wondering if and when my first novel will see the light of day, and be read by the world. Writing is a joy, it’s not a struggle, it’s not a time-suck. I don’t complain about lack of writing time, I don’t stress over ideas or plots or direction. The writing world is my oyster, full of pearls (which is a good thing because shellfish makes me wanna gag).
I can write Novels, I can write Shorts ( a newfound skill that is just awesome! ) I can sell them here, I can sell them there, I can do anything I want with them. I can go Indy, I can sell Small Press, Audio, Traditional, any and all!
I’m there. I’ve made it. I climbed to the top of that mountain, and the next one, and the next one, and I’ve seen just how many more mountains are there for the climbing, and I can’t wait to summit them all.
I’ve made it, I shitz you not, and there isn’t a soul on this world or the next who can tell me I haven’t.
How about you?
Power to the People!
Make Love, Not War!
“Maude, shut up and eat your Wheaties”