R.G. is still trying to find the lost tomb of whomever, so here I am again. I caught this blog yesterday by groovy author (and Penmonkey!) Chuck Wendig, over at his “Terrible Minds” site. It’s called “The Publishing Cart before the Storytelling Horse,” and in it, he wants to know why people fight over traditional vs. self publishing. Mr. Wendig, it should be noted, has self-published some of his work, so bear that in mind when you read his blog.
The short answer to this blog’s title is: There is no war. There shouldn’t be. Who cares how you get a great/quality story to the reading public?
So let’s talk about this a bit more…
That said, the core of Wendig’s message is: Time to upgrade the discussion. Rather than those in one camp dissing the others, how about…
Instead of trying to convince people to self-publish, it may in fact be time to help people self-publish well. While self-publishing may by this point be a proven path it doesn’t remain a guaranteed path. In fact it’s no such thing: I know several self-published authors out in the world with great books, kick-ass covers, and they are certainly not selling to their potential. In fact, if they continue to sell as they appear to sell then I would suggest these books would have done much better had they been published — gasp — traditionally.
Indeed. Help people self-publish well. That’s key, I think, to changing the tenor of the debate which, I think, shouldn’t even BE a debate. As writers, should we not be helping each other and exploring new models and striving for the best kinds of storytelling and the best quality writing each of us can produce? There’s a fake fight, here, and Wendig, I think, nails it. This isn’t trads vs. selves. Whichever route you go in terms of publishing, it’s not “worse” or “better” than anyone else’s route. You do what works best for you at that time. And hopefully, you’ll keep growing and keep building community with other writers.
Wendig also suggests that we
…take a step backward. Here’s another problem: maybe we should stop putting the publishing cart before the storytelling horse. In self-publishing, I see so much that focuses on sales numbers and money earned, but I see alarmingly little that devotes itself toward telling good stories… .Any time you hear about the major self-publishers, it’s always about the sales, the percentage, the money earned. What’s rare is a comment about how good the books are. When the narrative was all about Amanda Hocking, everybody was buzzing about her numbers, but nobody I know was buzzing about how good those books were. Focus less on the delivery of the stories and more about the quality of what’s being delivered.
We could extend this argument to traditional publishing, as well, in some cases, but consider Wendig’s point before you freak out and accuse him of dissing self-publishing. Remember, he, too, self-publishes some of his work.
And something else that Wendig notes needs an overhaul is attitude:
Traditionally-published authors are not slave labor. They’re not idiots or fools. They’ve not made “the wrong choice.” You went one way. They went another. Sometimes your paths converge; other times, they do not.
I agree with that assessment. The fact is, whichever route you go in terms of publishing, do it because you’ve thought about it, you’ve weighed the pros and cons, and you’ve determined what would work best in your life at that moment. Traditional vs. self publishing isn’t (or shouldn’t be) a “war” between people who proclaim their choice is the best vs. other people who proclaim the same thing. Ultimately, whichever publishing model you choose should be based on what works for you.
Currently, I’m working with traditional publishers. It’s something that works for me and my schedule at the moment. Does that mean I think self-publishing is stupid or wrong? Absolutely not. Let me make that abundantly clear. Self-publishing works for some people. It doesn’t for others. Still others do a mixture of self- and traditional publishing. And others move from traditional to self-, and then there are those who go from self- to traditional. It’s not about which is “better.” It’s about what works for the individual author, and it could change for each author as circumstances in her life change.
As Wendig says, there is no self-publishing vs. traditional publishing fence between us as writers. A good book is a good book, no matter how it’s published. So how about we instead help each other tell great stories rather than diss the vehicles that bring them to market?
That’s the kind of ride I’d like to see.
Happy reading, happy writing, happy publishing (no matter how you do it)!