I am SOOOO going to get flack for this, but it needs to be said. In the writing industry, I have met many people. I have met NYC best sellers, traditionally published, independently published, agents, professors who think they’re authors, editors of all kinds-including acquisitions, and probably more that I’ve forgotten. I’m here to tell you, the best advice comes from the traditionally published industry.
“Wait, aren’t you being snobbish?”
The traditional authors I met gave me great advice, were HONEST-COMPLETELY HONEST about their sales figures, even when they were NOTHING (I knew one who sold less than 5000 in one year-which for a traditionally published author, is nothing.) The traditional editors I met tried to help me in every way they could with advice that would HELP ME SUCCEED. On the flip side, my traditionally published friends are less helpful to an extent, they’re quieter. In other words, they aren’t going to offer as much advice. Whether it’s because they’re too busy, don’t know, or want to keep it to themselves, I have no idea. But after spending so much time in the self-industry, I find the traditional side foreign, which scares me. I mean, if I wish to join that business, which I do, I need to understand it better.
The agents came in two forms, better than me and helpful to me. I have met some agents I could just hug and kiss and others I can’t wait to see fall off the face of the planet. They are a fickle bunch split between wanting to help authors and knowing the power they wield.
When I joined the self-published community, I learned many things. One of those is that they are very different from the traditional bunch. They are angry. Desperate. In their desire for recognition and “hey, look at me” status, they inflate their sales figures or at the very least hide their non-existent ones. Some of them “try to help you” by telling you that your writing is bad or that your terrible, terrible cover is, in fact, wonderful. They are the only bunch I have ever known to know about and enforce “writing rules”. They are ignorant, and some on purpose. I knew one that said, “I go out of my way not to learn about the traditional publishing industry”. They can be a snobbish bunch who think anyone outside of their narrow opinions are wrong or, ironically enough, snobbish. (Please understand this does not represent ALL self-published authors, just my experience, and I’m sure the worst of the worst are who stand out in my memories.)
The independent editors I have met have less versatility. They don’t understand the differences of style and writing fads (yes, that SO exists!) That professor that thought she was an author actually gave us such bad advice, I walked out of her classroom. She said, and I quote, as she held up a worn copy of Writer’s Market, “This is ten years old. You don’t need to update these. They never change.” She then went on to have us write a query with, “Dear Sir or Madam” at the top. W-O-W. (For those who don’t understand why this is significant, the Writer’s Market is a listing of all the agents, publishers, etc out there at the time of its publication. It changes so often, most people just buy the online subscription to it. In fact, my two year old one had many out-of-date listings, some of which had even closed to the point I could no longer find them anywhere on the internet! Also, you never, I repeat NEVER address a query, “Dear Sir or Madam”. If you don’t know the name of the person to address it to, find out or forget it!)
I will say one more thing. The traditional industry is slow to change, and for good reason. But sometimes that can be a bad thing, or at least in my pointless opinion. One example is in “novellas”. Shorter works are in more demand, but the traditional industry refuses to support them. I believe this to be a bad decision, but what do I know? So, that example alone proves that self-publication has its advantages and even necessity to exist.
Please note, I am not writing these words to offend others. These are just trends I have noticed. The divide between traditional and self seems to be getting wider. If it grows too wide, where will those that fall through the ravine land?