Professor Trelawney: See? Right here. You may be young in years but the heart that beats beneath your bosom is as shriveled as an old maid’s, your soul as dry as the pages of the books to which you so desperately cleave.
[Hermione gets up and leaves, angrily]
Professor Trelawney: Have I said something?
~ Harry Potter And The Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling
I’ve read some derisive articles lately targeting indie authors. While I understand why the bias still exists (‘self-published authors are ruining literature! Self-published authors purchase all their reviews and awards!’), I always wonder at the motivation behind these types of articles, especially when they are allegations with no proof sources whatsoever.
Is the person(s) making these claims (and without a shred of proof, aren’t they really just opinions?) a failed writer? Are they drowning in envy that an author they have personal issues with, for whatever reason, is successfully selling books and has maybe even been picked up by a traditional or hybrid publisher? Are they just angry people with no other outlet?
Who knows? Who cares?
My point is this: writers write because we have to write. That’s what I want to address today, so let’s deconstruct.
DEFINE YOUR SUCCESS
I get emails and tweets frequently from people who want to know specifics of my success: exactly how many books I sell every day (on average, about 20, sometimes more, sometimes less), if they can quit their day job after they publish (don’t, I haven’t, and I have three books out), and wanting to know the reality of making this their life (different for everyone).
I don’t have all the answers, of course. But it’s more than that: every writer I know, who has had a modicum of success, writes because they absolutely must. It’s no different than a musician making music or an artist painting — it’s in our blood. We as authors must decide what defines our success, nobody else!
- Is it putting pen to paper and creating something out of nothing? That’s huge!
- Is it selling 20 books per day? Are you not successful if you sell 1 per week?
- Winning awards?
- Getting picked up by a publisher?
- Is it sharing expertise?
- Is it writing about difficult subjects?
What bothers me most about articles like the ones I mentioned above (and am purposely not sharing here) is that they are trying so very hard to quash someone’s dream, and who gives them the right to think they even matter? They don’t. If you want to write, write. My only suggestion is to ignore this babble and do your thing.
IGNORE (BUT ACCEPT THAT THERE WILL BE) THE HATE
It’s very easy to get sucked into the negativity. I have, you have, we all have, so we know. Instead of wasting our time with the haters, focus instead on the positives. For example, I received such a beautiful fan letter from a reader this week who shared how Broken Pieces resonated so deeply with them as a fellow survivor of childhood sexual abuse. The letter was so touching, I cried. That, for me, means more than my awards, my sales, all of it. That is my success.
But hate can be destructive and pulls the wind out of many an aspiring author. And guess what? Once you release your book, there will be more haters.
And we are no different, even though we think we are. I HATED Mr. Caucasian privileged who thinks he’s better than well, anyone, writer, Jonathan Franzen’s book The Corrections with everything I am, but others love him. I think, as readers, it’s sometimes difficult to separate our dislike for an author from the material itself, and that’s human nature. It’s our job as readers and writers to rise above that, or at the very least, separate our feelings about the work from who created it.
We will write books people will hate. Fine, whatever. Keep moving forward.
CHANGES IN PUBLISHING
In this terrific article by my author friend (and NYU branding professor David Vinjamuri) in Forbes this week:
EXLUSIVE Bowker data (released in advance of official reporting) shows that self-published output has grown by 422% over the past five years, and is up 58% in the last year alone.
Does that mean it’s ALL bad? Certainly not. More self-published authors than ever have been signed by one of the Big 5 (formerly the Big 6), more self-published titles are hitting the national top bestsellers’ lists, and more authors than ever are entering the market.
That can certainly be both positive and negative. Some of it is crap. But so what? If you don’t like it, return it or give them a bad review. Creating a book isn’t easy work, as any writer will attest. This vengeance some people have toward tearing down authors makes me extremely sad, when that book could be an author’s greatest work.
Self-published authors haven’t cornered the market on crap. Those who treat it like a business, who hire professionals to edit, proof, format, and design graphics, who connect with readers at a more meaningful level than ‘Buy my book!’ — these authors are more in tune with what the market will dictate and how to make it work for them — and are more likely to sign with a publisher…or not. That 70% royalty is nothing to sneeze at.
These naysayers who put down indie authors remind me of Professor Trelawney’s comment to Hermione about cleaving to the dry, soulless pages. Bitching about change doesn’t make a case for it — it just makes you look like a whiner.
Be the change that you wish to see in the world.
~ Mahatma Gandhi
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Also, if you’d like to sign up for my newsletter (I never share emails with anyone), please fill out the form over there >>>>. Finally, Broken Pieces and my two humor books are are available on Amazon.