Before addressing the main issue of this post, I’d like to provide a bit of background. When somebody hits that magic “follow” button on my blog, I get an email telling me about it. Here’s a sample email I received this evening:
Sometimes I scan down the short list of “great posts” and see things like “One strange tip for making money on eBay.” I delete the email and move on. Sometimes I see fascinating post titles like the second one in the image above. That made me want to follow the link to Shannon Thompson’s blog and read the article Why Are Authors “Hating” On One Another?
I ended up subscribing to Shannon’s blog post and deciding to write my own follow-up post on her topic. That, my friends, is known as a win-win situation. When she clicked the “follow” button, she didn’t just sign up to read my posts, she gained a reader for her own blog.
Why the hate doesn’t make sense
Shannon’s post ponders why traditionally-published authors, self-published authors, and small-press authors spend so much time and effort verbally assaulting each other. That’s a fine question, and one I’ve pondered myself.
You see, all three of those descriptions fit me. My first two books were self-published, one was large press, and the rest have been small press. Now I’m pondering what to do with my upcoming work. Let me provide my perspective on Shannon’s observations:
“I’ve seen hate from traditionally published authors, generally saying anyone else is not ‘good enough’ for bigger publishers. Ironically, a lot of these authors have admitted to previously knowing someone in the industry. Even worse, they don’t seem to consider many authors aren’t comfortable with traditional publishing houses monopolizing the market.”
Let’s get real here. It’s often not the author that determines whether a particular book is suitable for a big press, but the book. I decided to self-publish Inside Captioning because the market was too small to interest a big publisher. With a total potential market of only a few thousand people at the time, it also meant that I couldn’t make enough money to be worthwhile from a buck or two per book in royalties. I went ahead and printed 1,500 copies, which was quite an investment, and started speaking at conferences. I sold all 1,500 books — most of them through back-of-room sales and hallway book signing tables at conferences.
The best part is that when interest in closed captioning expanded and the government passed laws mandating television access for deaf and hard-of-hearing people, I made a proposal to a large publishing company and it was accepted largely because of the platform I’d built with the self-published book and the speaking engagements (among other things).
As a traditionally-published author, how could I possibly hate on self-published authors when that’s what got me started?
“I’ve seen hate from small press published authors, saying almost the exact same thing about self-published authors.”
The same argument applies here. Some books fit better with big presses, some with little presses, and some with self publishing.
“But I also see hate from self-published authors, saying they don’t like traditional publishing houses for the reasons above but also hating on small-press published authors, because they aren’t ‘capable’ at marketing themselves and, therefore, have to rely on someone else by means of payment.”
The latter part of this argument is really silly. I didn’t go from self-publishing to traditional because I couldn’t market myself. Traditionally-published authors have to market themselves, no matter how big the press. The thing is, even though I make the majority of my income through writing, I still do have a day job. I also really like the traditional publishing model for cash flow: all money flows toward the author. I don’t like paying for my own cover design, copyediting, proofreading, fact-checking, ebook conversion, layout, and printing. I also don’t have time to do many of those things myself — and I freely admit that I’m not the best cover designer in the world.
We are not in competition with each other
It’s easy to convince yourself that every other author in your genre is in competition with you. After all, there’s only so much publishing money to go around, right? And there are only so many readers in your genre, all of whom have fixed budgets for books.
In fact, reality works exactly the other way around. Let’s say I write steampunk dragon mysteries. I’ve written two, with modest success. Now you come along with your own steampunk dragon mystery. Yours sells like hotcakes. What happens? More people get interested in steampunk dragon mysteries. After they read yours, they look for more in the genre, and they find mine. Realistically, nobody is going to say they can only afford one steampunk mystery novel this year.
A high tide floats all boats.
In fact, if we’re smart, we’ll do some cross-promotion. Maybe follow each other’s blogs. Perhaps blurb each other’s books. Does it matter if one of us is small press and one is Big Six? Not a bit.
We all have a common goal, which is to keep people interested in reading. Specifically, reading the kind of cool stuff that we like to write (although making the house payment is a pretty important goal, too). Let’s stop fighting with each other and focus on the important things in life, like em dashes. Don’t you just hate it when people confuse them with hyphens. Drives me nuts.