Taking A Step Back

September 13th, 2004 · 2 Comments
by Booksquare

It seems, lately, the news has been filled with self-publishing success stories. Awards, major contracts, fame, keys to the castle…all of this and more (except maybe the keys thing) is available to authors who eschew traditional publishing routes and strike out on their own. We admire moxie and we admire faith.

What we’re finding worrisome is the lack of cautionary wisdom in these stories. It’s easy to read this:

He [Peter J. Murray, a successful self-published author] said: “People said to me that if I wanted to get published I should expect 40 rejection letters and that it would take two years before the book appeared.

“I didn’t want to wait. I wanted to get the book out there for readers, so I decided to do it myself.”

and walk away thinking publishing success is as easy as investing a thousand or so dollars. We have read self-published books by authors who chose to skip the rigors of developing skills (including the use of the spellcheck functionality commonly available to all computer users…though we don’t use such nonsense, we heartily suggest others do) — why focus on craft and structure when you don’t have to? Each of us believes we are talented beyond compare, and if you don’t believe us, ask our mother. She’ll tell you the truth.

We are going to be blunt: not everyone who writes is a talented writer. We have seen far too many unfortunate examples of this. We have watched as would-be authors soak up encouragement; this happens all the time on writers’ (and readers’) listservs. Since we’re being blunt, we will say that complete strangers cannot assess your talent. It is possible that some are writing what you want to read. Don’t equate polite encouragement for sincere endorsement of your talent. This you must do yourself, and it will not be a pretty process. This we can promise you.

While some aspects of the art may be learned, it does not change the underlying facts. Self-publshing your work is not a shortcut to glory. Writing as a business is not healthy for the soul; if you cannot face your talent (or lack thereof) honestly, you will discover how few blows it takes to break an ego. If you are meant to write, you will persevere. Those who rush into self-publishing because they don’t want to wait are not likely to be successful. For every self-publishing success story, there are far too many failures.

We believe self-publishing is the right route for some people, but we also believe working traditional avenues builds experience and wisdom. Without honest appraisals of your work (and what are those letters from editors and agents if not a sometimes-brutal mirror?), judgment is clouded. Mothers, husbands, friends, mailmen…no, they’re not going to offer the kind of honesty that leads to smart self-publishing decisions.

It is our nature to crave success in the form of money and readers. While we like to think we’re a thoughtful species, evidence suggests we spend less time thinking through choices than the average Golden Retriever. Instant gratification is fun. It may not be cheap, but, boy, it sure beats an honest assessment of the situation. This reminds us of our friends, the ones who purchased the extremely large, heavy, room-dominating television. They’re the couple who regret this choice. Why, oh why, didn’t they wait until the prices on the flat panel screens dropped? And they did drop almost the day after the hulking set was purchased.

Some people have to consider kids as they shop for new residences; these friends have to consider their television.

When it comes to art, the desire to fulfill a dream may become all-consuming. Just make sure you’re getting what you want before you end up with a television that won’t fit through the front door.

File Under: Square Pegs · Tools and Craft

2 responses so far ↓

  • Tony Hellmann // Sep 14, 2004 at 9:34 am

    Just so you know, the text advertising that appears next to your entry is: “Get Published $399 Christian Authors get published We distribute to 25,000 stores”

    Gotta love Google advertising!

  • booksquare // Sep 15, 2004 at 9:53 am

    Yes, I do love the Google ads ! I can appreciate the irony and…how in the world do they come up with some of the matches? I look from the post to the ads and wonder what sort of algorithm put the two together. Thanks for the laugh!