This is not a rant against traditional publishing, though I do have a few things about it that bother me. Namely that the number of rejections well-known published authors received has turned into a badge of honor in this industry when it really should be a comment on the shortsightedness of the industry itself. And the ridiculous wait times to even hear back. But that is neither here nor there. The reality is, like many artistic mediums, writing and the enjoyment of the written word is wholly subjective. Being traditionally published does not automatically make your work great. Sorry. I’ve read more than my fair share of traditionally published books that just frankly were not that good. To me. Let me repeat that last statement. TO ME.
For instance, the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. I didn’t finish the first book. I made it maybe halfway through before I stopped. Yet I know people who love the series. You can argue the reasons why, but the point is, they love the series. They love the movies. That trilogy is FOR them. It just wasn’t for me. On the other hand, I loved the Twilight series. Like walked around the house with the books to my nose shushing the kids who tried to speak to me loved it. I liked the storyline. I liked the characters. And I liked the writing style. I know people who had the same reaction to Twilight as I had to Fifty Shades of Grey. Those are just two series that always seem to have two camps: the loved its and the hated its.
I remember in college I had a professor who refused to acknowledge Stephen King’s works as worth being studied. Yet. He’s Stephen King. It and The Stand are still two of my all-time favorite books, right up there with Gone With the Wind.
The reality is, until the Internet if you wanted to make a living writing, traditional publishing was really the best route. Nowadays though, except for the chokehold the traditional publishing industry has on certain aspects of publishing, that’s not really the case.
I’ve been through this battle once already. In 2011 I launched an online news site in my small town. At the time, online-only news was still kind of new. While news outlets had websites, they often published their papers first and then shared them on their websites. When I launched the business, I didn’t publish a paper version at all. I didn’t even bother to get a brick and mortar location. At that time, it was an uphill battle without either of those things to convince some that I was legitimate. But I did and while I recently shut that site down for a variety of business reasons, namely the changes in how businesses advertise and what people are willing to pay for, it made its mark.
Traditional versus self-publishing really is no different. The vehement refusal to accept self-publishing as a valid route to publishing is simply a knee-jerk reaction by the old schoolers to stem the flow of their competition. If they can’t stop it, they just try to make it seem “less than”. I went through that already. What I learned is, it doesn’t really matter what those established powerhouses think. The readers make the ultimate decision.
With self-publishing becoming more and more commonplace, it would be wise for those traditional publishers to start paying attention. Blockbuster ignored Netflix once. Look where that got them. I’ve been told more than once that if I self-publish, I basically kill my chances of getting a publishing contract for that book unless it gains a lot of traction on its own. My question is, if it does that, then why do I need a contract then? Why sell myself out and give someone else a cut of the profits? To say I have a publishing contract? Nah. Most of the other stuff is business and the business I can learn and do myself. I can hire people to edit, create covers, market, etc. Maybe I won’t make a Best Selling list or maybe it won’t be in certain stores, but as long as its selling somewhere and I’m making living so I can keep writing, then that’s good enough for me.
Does that mean I would turn down a contract? No. I would definitely consider it. Of course, having all those aspects in place so I can focus mainly on writing words would be a good thing. But getting a traditional publishing contract is no longer my goal.
My goal is simply to write. My goal is to make a living writing.
The rest is just fluff.
I figured it out once. I’ll do it again.
Michelle Leigh Miller is an independently published author, freelance writer, and blogger in Southeastern Ohio. Basically, she is just writing words.