As we all know, the world of publishing has changed. For writers like myself and many others, the changes have opened doors that once seemed permanently locked and barred. Over the past few months of my publishing journey, I’ve taken note that some people think these changes are for the worse, which I found surprising. Isn’t a place with more books a better place?
Apparently some people don’t agree.
A new author has a 1-2% chance of being picked up by a traditional publisher. In 2002, 81% of Americans surveyed wanted to be an author. This was before the advent of simple self-publishing on the internet. Back in 2002 it cost upwards of $2000.00 to self-publish a physical book. I know because I looked into it. It was a daunting amount of money, and still is for many people.
In 2008, 5,000 books crossed publishers’ desks every year, which means approximately 50 of those books were chosen. In 2013 over 450,000 books were self-published. Think about that for a minute. 450,000 is really close to half a million people wanting to get their books out there, and is a much bigger number than 5,000. That shows how many people were not querying or who gave up completely after multiple rejections. It didn’t include every person who wanted to publish, either, just those who were early to the game.
I know writers get annoyed when talking to random stranger who say “I’m a writer, too!” It’s funny when you think about it. I’m doubtful that accountants are annoyed when someone says “I’m an accountant too! I’m all about accounts payable.” (I don’t know if accountants say things like that. I’ve never been to one of their parties.)
The reality is, there’s a very good chance that a person is gushing because their mom loved their stories from elementary school. They could be saying it because they think writing a book is easy, or that person could legitimately be a writer.
Think about your own writing. That 450,000 people is only a sample of the how many writers are really out in the world, all of them wanting to get published. They may or may not query. Imagine an agent’s desk drowning in a sea of books.
The reality is this: Rejection is Subjective, (and they almost rhyme, so that should tell you something.)
Proof of this can be found in best sellers. You can Google “how many times was my favorite best selling novel rejected,” and you can feel uplifted by what you read. You can say “Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected 30 times before it was published!” But think about what you’re really saying; 30 times an agent or publisher looked at it and said: “This is crap.”
A publisher is not an all knowing being in the clouds who can magically pick a masterpiece out at first glance. They’re human beings forced to make a choice out of an overwhelming number of selections.
Rejection doesn’t necessarily mean anything other than your book was dropped into the wrong hands. That’s why when I hear someone act as if a traditionally published author is somehow more magical and sparkly than a self-published author. I disagree. The only difference is that one won the lottery and the other didn’t. It’s the same as playing the PowerBall except the “ticket holders” have some skill and understanding on how to choose their numbers.
When the world of publishing eBooks became free, the flood gates were opened. Today anyone can jump out and publish a book. You can choose to do it poorly or you can choose to work hard and try to get it right. You can hire help with things or do your best to learn for yourself. The gatekeepers still stand at their gates, but those gates are no longer the only way into the palace.
Yes, there are a lot of books in that 450,000 which are poorly done, that’s true. I’ve seen some comments about how you can’t purchase an indie book because there’s a good chance that it’s bad. These less than stellar books are gumming up the system. They make the good indie authors look bad.
I hate to say this, but those books were already making writers look bad in traditional publishing. Remember the agent digging through 450,000 queries? How many times did that agent look at a horrible book only to then move on to another book with similar themes, plot, or characters to think: “Not another one of these rabbit zombie apocalypse stories! Ugh!” and throw it directly into the trash?
Agents are human. Wrong time and wrong place, grumpiness due to a bad day, and pre-conceived notions can all play a factor in their choices. I’ve seen agents on Twitter listing things that they don’t look for in an attempt to cut down the number of submissions they receive.
Now instead of one agent you have thousands of customers. You’re still in a pile of 450,000 books. The only thing that has changed Nothing has changed, except that now your book is floating around available to be read by millions of people instead of hoping just one will look at it.
The point of writing a book is to have it read, right? Even if the audience is small and you’re not a best seller, the goal is to reach at least one person.
I don’t self-publish for fortune.
I’ve made less than $30 in four months. Except for those “lottery winners,” both traditionally and self-published, it’s not easy to live solely off of your writing. Just because you have a traditionally published book with a marketing team doesn’t mean you’ll be successful.
I don’t self-publish for fame.
I’ve sold or given away 90 books. I’m still a big giant nobody.
Even if you’re a New Your Times Best Seller it doesn’t make you a household name. Authors like Stephen King and J K Rowling are exceptions to the rule. I’d guess that if I grabbed a random person off the street, they’d know the title Game of Thrones before they knew the name George R. R. Martin. (I give it a 50/50 chance, anyway.)
I self-publish because being published is my dream.
I wanted to be a author since the third grade. I’m guessing for most writers it’s a similar story. I just want a chance to tell my story. Maybe how I’m doing this isn’t perfect enough for some people. Maybe my lack of funding for an editor or graphic designer will cause people to turn their nose up at me, but oh well. If my story can reach a few people who truly enjoyed it, then it’s better than sitting down in the mud and giving up.
I’m also teaching my kids that you can make your dreams come true even if you have to get up and go to another job every morning. It takes hard work and dedication reach your goals. The Blue Fairy isn’t going to come down and smack you with her wand. I want them to see that nobody should tell you “you shouldn’t do this because of xyz reason.”
Even if your dream doesn’t turn out perfectly or the way you planned, reaching your goals is what makes life worth living.
Thanks for reading and I hope all of your dreams come true! Let me know your thoughts in the comments.