Self-inflicted wounds?

Straight to it: As self-published writer, I’ve been told repeatedly I’ve blown my chances of ever getting picked up by an agent/big house. That not only will my material get ripped off, (’cause I don’t have the protection of a Major Publishing wetworks/legal team?) but that my early, lesser quality material will forever bias readers against later works.

Oddly enough, I have read several recent genre novels that contained scenes/phrasing eerily similar to big chunks of my stuff, and I know – like all craft – I need to improve. (See Malcolm Gladwell’s Ten Thousand Hour Rule) however, I’m not convinced this is true.

Here’s an article from an apparently prolific writer I’ve never heard of. My takeaway line:

Then Publisher’s Marketplace followed with the line:

“As everyone knows, originally self-published books made for a number of high-profile crossover deals in 2012–though in total numbers, we recorded 45 such deals in all.”

Of the 300 or so six figure deals that were reported to them in 2012, 45 were from books that started off self-published.

Indie publishing is now a clear route in.

As a self-employed, self-taught stained glass artist, my experience in the last 13 + years is Earn as you Learn is a hulluva lot better than Pay As You Go.

Yes, there have been mistakes, difficult clients, dead-beats, re-dos, refunds and a couple flagrant attempts to rip me off. Yes, there have been lean times. (It’s one of the reasons I started writing fiction.) I’ve had to downsize to a non-retail location. Stop giving classes. Lose walk-in traffic and a chunk of retail revenue. No, I don’t hobnob with the ‘Wine/Cheese/Gallery’ crowd here on Cape Cod. (As a tradesman, I’m the piranha in the koi pond) And no, I probably won’t ever make the cover of Stained Glass Quarterly.

Looking back, are there things I’d do differently? Who can’t say Yes to that? Has my technique improved over time? You bet.

But I have a long list of satisfied clients, starting with those first simple commissions. I’m still in business. I’ve always paid my bills on time. I’ve got projects stretching ahead of me, and thank God, the phone keeps ringing.

Fact is, I had to start somewhere. I wouldn’t be able to tackle my current jobs if I hadn’t learned on those first, simple ones.

In line with that, your can’t write your second book until you’ve finished your first.

Sure Pat, hype and encourage yourself all you want, but the numbers don’t lie.

Amen. In 2012 I sold over a thousand books and netted just under 2 Grand. I average fifty copies a month on Amazon in a ratio of 40:1 ebook to paperback.

So for my writing, I have another year’s worth of experience, some income, a thousand plus new people who are familiar with my work, regular blog traffic, thirty-nine Amazon reviews between two titles, and a Facebook Page. None of which I had before.

So do Real Writers Wait?

Some do. And that’s their choice. Am I inferior or cheapening myself for launching off without official approval? I don’t think so. Am I set irrevocably on this course, forever destined to navigate the murky swamp of indie fiction? No and no.

I’ll end with this thought from the man whose prose first captured my imagination:

If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go into business, because we’d be cynical. Well, that’s nonsense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.
Ray Bradbury

3 Replies to “Self-inflicted wounds?”

  1. I think your statistics say it all. You’re on your way.

    Those arguments against self-publishing are old fashioned, made by people who obviously aren’t paying much attention to the ways the publishing world is changing.

  2. For years I heard the same things, then things changed. I was told by a number of fairly well known, and well published authors that this is the case. Kate Wilhelm, Jerry Oltion and Elizabeth Haydon, to name a few, all told me the best way to break in NOW is to self-publish. I did, thus I think your choice was right… and waiting might have seen your novel swamped by the flood that is to come.

  3. Anyone who doesn’t see that the literary world is changing is sticking their head in the sand. While this absolutely lends itself to sub-par material getting published, it also makes it much, much easier to be an entrepreneur in this industry. You know as well as I do, there’s so much more we’re able to do as do-it-ourselfers than we’d have the availability to as peons at the bottom of the corporate latter. Yes, there’s junk out there. But there’s also us. People who take this seriously, people who put in the time and the effort required to not only do it right, but to succeed.

    I love the success you’re having, man – you deserve it. Now just write faster. And when you figure that part out, explain how it works to me, too. 🙂

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