But she’s not fooling me. Her last couple of paragraphs tell a different story. Every writer wants to have NYC look at them, promote them, lavish the love that we writers have heard you can receive. Jessica Park is no different.
Yes, I agree, after researching Amazon’s self publishing it is pretty outstanding! Up to 70% in royalties is pretty sweet. They also offer great marketing, editing and designing services which admittedly are worth their weight in gold. Jessica is on to something when it comes to promoting the Amazon.com self publishing route.
The thing is though until an good independent writer gets the “Twilight” treatment most writer will continue to be flogged by NYC and NYC will continue to offer book deals to the likes of Snooki.
There was one thing though that stood out to me about this piece. Her lament for the writers that are writing more than one book a year. She and I both agree that its nearly impossible to produce great material for two (or more) books in that amount of time and the writer who is shackled to those terms ends up writing two (or more) mediocre books rather than one really great book.
One of my former favorite writers Laurell K. Hamilton has fallen into this trap. Part of it is that she is arrogant enough and so invested in her iconic character Anita Blake as a reflection of herself that she is no longer interested in critique. But honestly, I think her contract is part of her problem. There was a time when she was working on a couple of different series but they alternated in terms of release date so that every 11-12 months you got one of the other series and you had to, yes, wait for the other. Of course, our society doesn’t like to wait. We are a “get it now” kind of society. Immediate gratification. So her books started coming every 6-9 months and she started writing ridiculous plot twists, short handed sex scenes that seemed to have been copied and pasted from her earlier books (names changed…sometimes). And then, when you are the touchstone for many current female urban fantasy writers you can get a bit of an over-inflated ego.
In her 21 book Anita Blake series I stopped reading around book 11 or 12. It just got…horrible.
And Laurell K Hamilton isn’t the only one.
One could argue that Charlaine Harris (famous for her Sookie Stackhouse series aka True Blood) needs to take a step back and slow down. Her books used to be better than the series now they just…exist. That’s not a good thing.
The funny thing is I’ve noticed that this happens to writers who get a name for themselves through different mediums they suddenly don’t see the holes in their work the way they did before. And maybe its because that once they get that name they get the treatment that they’ve always wanted from their NYC publisher and it feels good to just get a tad bit lazier. Fan base, check. Bigger royalties, check. Room of my own, check. No need to stress about writing, check. Which always and inevitably leads to a #fail for fans.
So sure, self publishing is wonderful (cause it keeps you honest) and if you’re the darling of the NYC industry its even better to have a big publisher. But for me the part of the piece that resonated the most, is the possibility that I’d be forced to write mediocre crap just so that I could keep up with…well…living. That is, if I could even get my books looked at.
The possibility that I could be overlooked is possibly the biggest fear my colleagues and I have in our MFA program. We know that it is more likely we won’t be published than that we will. We also know (and are told regularly) that we most likely that if we do get published that we won’t get a big publisher which means no big contract which also means working in another job for a living while churning out books in our basements ala Stephen King-style (before he was THE Stephen King).
So what makes self publishing an attractive option is the possibility. The possibility that I could make a decent living. The possibility that the only person I have to depend on is my team who’ll promote me cause I’m not interested in marketing and they are. The possibility that I could get a book out tomorrow rather than the normal nearly two years it takes to get a book published.
Yes, that’s something she didn’t tell the reader. The great thing about self publishing is that its immediate. Most of the big publishing house have their books set for 2014. When you finally sign you get in line UNLESS you have a big name. Then you can get thrown into the rotation because its a guaranteed seller. But most of the time writers who have books set for publishing aren’t seeing anything for anywhere between 1-2 years. Most of the time though you’re waiting around and in the meantime those contracts still require you to write at least two books.
The funny thing about being a writer is that people already think its incredible easy to do. Walk into any Barnes and Noble (the last of the actual paper book sellers) and there’s thousands of books lining the shelves. So the public automatically thinks that anybody can write and that anybody can publish. And sometimes they’re right when again, Snooki or Lauren Conrad (from reality show The Hills) gets a multi-million dollar contract to write some inane piece of garbage and they shower them with all the goodwill of an actual writer. This is the double edged sword of self publishing. Literally anyone can get published.
Certainly, the NYC publishing houses keep a good leash on what is “acceptable” by allowing entre to fewer people of color, LGBT writers, women and well anyone who isn’t a straight white male into the fold. Check out any day of The New Yorker or The New York Times reviews most of the people published or reviewed are white men (who are also writing a certain kind of literature i.e. Jonathan Franzen). So self publishing accomplishes a pushing open of the door if you will; allowing everyone and anyone who can (and sometimes can’t) string a sentence together access to the opportunity to publish. But shit, blogs accomplish the same thing. Still there’s something about saying, “I wrote a book.” versus “I wrote a blog.”
Still it was Jessica Park’s third to the last paragraph that made me chuckle just a bit.
What’s funny is that despite loathing publishing houses these days, I actually hope that they pull their act together. They have distribution power. They have dedicated, talented people in the industry. They have the capability to do wonderful things. But for now they are so messed up, so outdated in the way they structure their contracts, and so often very out of touch with what readers want. Smart editors are often ruled by archaic designs. Do I have plans to seek out a publisher? Um, no. I can’t imagine one would take me anyhow. And I wouldn’t consider working with a publisher unless (until?) they make drastic changes to their business model.
Yep, while she loves being an indie writer which she goes on to gush about here is her admission (in not so many words) that being with a NYC publisher would be AWESOME!! They literally have everything that a writer wants nee craves! Writers are vain individuals who want nothing more than to be showered with love and respect and of course, money. Any writer who says they’re not doing it at least partially for the money is a liar…or has a great crowd of sycophants around them. Every writer wants that Stephenie Meyer (another example of ugh, NYC publishing annoyance)/Stephen King/JK Rowling money & fame!
This semester we are going to read in my “The Novel” class a book by an alum of my program who came to my “Advanced Fiction” class. She’d received a “huge advance” as well as options for movie, distribution and other rights to any of the “stuff” that will accompany her book, Dark Star. One of the first things we were told is that the fact that she was picked up by a big publisher and given this huge deal is unusual and we shouldn’t expect this to happen to us. Its a sobering conversation to have with someone who is going into deeper student loan debt.
Ultimately the article was really great inspiration and encouragement to this poor MFA student. I was cheered that I didn’t have to depend on NYC for publishing. Particularly because my own series while supernatural in nature (a plus in this industry) is steeped with people of color (all of my main characters are black &/or visibly multiracial and therefore a minus in this industry) which makes the likelihood of publishing with a big NYC publishing house much less likely.
And although she managed to give me hope for my future of publishing when she ended with…
I wouldn’t trade that for all of New York.
I almost believed her.