Thursday, 6 June 2013

The Religions of Publishing: What Works For You

Everyone just chill out, seriously.

Picture this: You're watching a Hare Krishna and a Buddhist monk. They circle one another, faces red. They yell at one another, each telling the other that their religion is false. Each one growing angrier as they pick at every little detail of the other's beliefs, tearing them apart. They even go so far as to make fun of one another's robes.
Finally you can stand it no longer, and you step forward. "Stop it," you say. "This is ridiculous! You both stand for peace, love and tolerance. You even sort of look the same. Why are you fighting? You're on the same side."

Now re-imagine that scene, except this time you're looking at writers. A self published writer, and a traditionally published writer. They both love reading, they're both passionate about writing. They both want to bring words to life and encourage other people to read. So why are they fighting?

There are few subjects that get people as impassioned as religion. One of them for writers, is the subject of publishing. Some authors are so passionate about their career path, that it borders on a religious belief. Twice now, such people have told me that my chosen path is foolish.

These people basically told me that if I wasn't interested in self publishing, I must be an idiot. They demanded to know why I would want to be traditionally published? Why would I want to give my money to the greedy publishers? Why did I want to give an agent a cut? Why wouldn't I want full control over my books?

I didn't answer. Because if someone showed up at my door and demanded to know why I was a Christian, and not a Jehovah's Witness, I wouldn't feel the need to explain myself either. Because that is the path I've chosen. If you want to discuss it in a rational way, I'm game. But if you're just here to preach to me and tell me that your way is the one true way, try to the next house.

I have nothing against self publishing. In fact, I review self published books, because I want to help the authors.And so far, every interaction with the authors I've reviewed has been wonderful. But the thing is, the path I have chosen to attempt, is the traditional one. I might not make it, but my mind is made up. I'm going to try.

There's a salon article up right now that has a lot of people up in arms. It basically calls self publishing a "cult". Personally I think this is a bit far fetched. It's a little unfair, actually. Because I've come across traditionally published authors who are every bit as vocal about "the right way to go". I'm not making this a rant about self published author's behavior. I think there's too much of that out there already, and I don't think it's very fair. There has been just as many incidents with traditionally published authors acting rude or crazy. So this is about author behavior in general.

Everyone has to choose a path that works best for them. You research traditional and you research self publishing, and you decide which will work best for you. Nobody should be able to tell you you're making a mistake, or that your path isn't good enough.

If I do end up getting traditionally published, I have no right to tell my friend he shouldn't self publish. Just because I chose a different path, does it make mine superior to his? No.

Which path works best for you?

I lurk on a certain set of writer's forums, where I always see the same lady giving the same publishing advice when people ask. "Don't try to get an agent" she tells people, "you're wasting your time. Get published with a small publisher first, then you'll get picked up by someone bigger." I objected to that, because that wasn't my experience at all. I queried for a long time, and then I got an offer, and that's basically what I told her. But she dismissed this and she continues to preach her advice like it's the gospel truth. Because that was her experience.

Now, if you ask me for publishing advice, I'll say "Query agents! Don't give up! You can do it, it just takes patience". Because that was my experience. Everyone has a different path, a different way of doing it that works for them, and if you ask their advice, they're going to give it to you. And they're going to preach it like it's the one true way. Not because they're stuck up, or because they want to mislead you in any way. It's because that's what worked for them.

Take every bit of publishing advice with a grain of salt, and whatever you do (no matter what you're experience was, or what worked for you) don't scoff at another person's chosen path. Remember, we're all in it for the same thing. We love writing, and we want to share our words with the world.

What path have you chosen? Have you experienced persecution or preaching because of it? I'd love to hear your thoughts/stories in the comments.


  1. Nice! Haven't heard the salon article, but I have been hit with a bewildering amount of advice about publishing, from many opinionated people who treat their publishing experience as the only valid way.

    1. Yes that's exactly my problem. People don't seem to consider that maybe their way isn't best for everyone.