I was doing my morning chores of social media networking and read an article in Forbes by David Vinjamuri titled, Publishing Is Broken, We’re Drowning In Indie Books – And That’s a Good Thing. I immediately felt a bitch blip coming on in response.
“Great success is not possible without a certain degree of shamelessness, and even of out-and-out charlatanism” ~ Stendhal.
I have often felt like a greasy saleswoman involved in rabid self-promotion, and that I’m carrying around a medicine tent I set up to woo and wow the crowds. Fairy dust, scones, and dream quotes offered with purchase of a book! Once I was asked to be the feature speaker at a senior luncheon in a church basement. I set up my table with posters and books, but before I was scheduled to speak, in walked a tall, gloomy, man with bushy eyebrows, who said to me that he was the featured magician (his real job – lawyer). “After you…” he said, as he swept his arm towards me as if he was giving me some of his magic. Consequently, he stole my magic that day. The oldies were more amused with his take on Jack the Ripper than stories about The Great Hunger, an immigrant woman, and my take on writing and hope. Not surprisingly, the seniors devoured my scones, but they hated the fairy dust, and didn’t buy many books. Although there was an agreed upon stipend, I never was paid. However, when I sell at Irish festivals, I usually reel in the customers who spill Guiness on my books and tell me about their great American novel they’re writing. By the end of the day, I am drenched in sweat clutching lots of money. I also conduct school visits dressed as an immigrant in a long, cumbersome, dress carrying a cage with a live clucking hen who once laid an egg. Ha! There was my magic, alright.
I would not self-publish for many reasons and ended up with one small (unknown) traditional publisher and one independent publisher who recently closed her business (a year after my third book came out). So…an agent says I have to have a rip roaring success with my next novel (that might take years to finish) in order for the novel I labored over and was initially doing well with can rise and take flight. Although I’m not a Sue Grafton reader, I somewhat agree with the above-named article that quoted her:
To me, it seems disrespectful…that a ‘wannabe’ assumes it’s all so easy s/he can put out a ‘published novel’ without bothering to read, study, or do the research. … Self-publishing is a short cut and I don’t believe in short cuts when it comes to the arts. I compare self-publishing to a student managing to conquer Five Easy Pieces on the piano and then wondering if s/he’s ready to be booked into Carnegie Hall.
I’ve sat at many local book events with self-published authors whose books have had very little copy editing. I want to support them and buy their books, but am mostly disappointed.
I’ve been a speaker at writer events and cringe when wanna be writers ask me how he or she can get published (and now) or tell me they are paying to have their book published after only working on it for a few months. It does take blood, sweat, and tears. And I’m not saying my books are superior because it took me that route, and I’m also not saying that some self-published books aren’t worthy ones, for we know of certain self-published authors, such as Amanda Hocking, who became a rip-roaring success. But as Steven Pressfield says, “The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell, whether he knows it or not. He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation.” But not all is so hellish, for in between those times he writes of, there are the many seniors to read to, magicians to ward off, hens that lay golden eggs, and the invitations to hawk books while Whiskey in a Jar, the Irish tune, turned techno, plays in the background.