Selling ourselves short

The closer I get to publishing my first book in the Elemental Mysteries series, A Hidden Fire, the more publishing and promotion comes to the forefront. Yes, I’m a writer, but because I’ve decided to do this my way, I’m also the publisher and promoter of my work. I’ll be honest, the publication and promotion part of this business is not thrilling but, like everything else in life, I’m trying to see it as an opportunity to learn new skills and enjoy a new challenge.

There has been some debate in the blogosphere this week about price points and promotion. (See this link to Dean Wesley Smith’s website for a really good comment thread.) To be totally honest, I feel poorly qualified to chime in much on this debate because I haven’t actually published and sold anything yet.

But it did get me thinking. Besides the monetary value we put on our work, there are many ways indie writers may be “selling themselves short.”

 I’ve talked about this in the past, but the creative world grants a level of respect and credibility to independent artists, musicians, and filmmakers that indie writers have yet to tap into. Why haven’t  we? Just because a New York publishing house chooses to publish a book doesn’t mean it has any intrinsic artistic value; it means they think it will make money. There’s nothing wrong with this—it is, after all, the publishing business—but lets not let the approval of major publishing houses be the measure we use on ourselves.

Let the world know there are many reasons writers decide to publish independently, and not all of them have to do with mainstream publishing house rejection. Maybe you’re writing in a genre that traditional publishing decided was “played out” (western authors, I’m looking at you.) Maybe you’re a short story writer that likes the flexible pricing inherent in electronic publishing. Maybe you have written a book that was rejected by New York as being “good, but not marketable.”

None of these things have to do with the quality of your work!

I’m sure when the indie boom started in filmmaking, the major studios bemoaned the flood of sub par movies that would be made. Anyone with a camera and a computer could make a movie, so how could anything quality come of that? Sound familiar? Now, we don’t think any less of independent films. In fact, they are often where we turn for quality and creativity.

Once upon a time, a musician was limited if they wanted to produce an album. Now, thousands of musicians sell their albums, songs, and videos online and lots of them are breaking out and making good money without any push from one of the major music studios. Sound familiar?

In my opinion, independent publishing is no different. The only difference is how we see ourselves and how we market ourselves. I don’t think there was any organized movement within independent music or film to bring legitimacy to what the artists were doing. They just created great work and people started to take note. We can do the same thing as independent writers.

Don’t sell yourself short.

 Writers, in what ways do you sell yourself short when you market your books? Do you find yourself hesitating to call yourself a “real writer” or announce the publication of a new book to friends and family? Readers, do you have a different impression of independent film or music versus independent books? Why?

Thanks for reading,

E

Posted in Original Fiction, Publishing, Random, Uncategorized, Writing and tagged , , , , .

6 Comments

  1. I think we’re in the same place. Do we write to accomplish the work or do we write to please a publishing house? Personally, I don’t have the capability to pull out whatever genre and theme that the publishers want. I write because I need to get these ideas that are inside my head out. Adding some discipline and elbow-grease to it makes it into something others can enjoy, but it doesn’t always fit the order. Does that mean I give up and don’t do it? That would be unfortunate.
    Thanks for putting this idea out there!

    • And thanks for reading, Kate!

      As I’ve said before, publishing isn’t dying, it’s growing, and there’s lots of room for all kinds of genres and forms. It’s an exciting time to be a writer and there’s so much opportunity.

      E

  2. Great post! I have to say, seeing your journey the past year has been really inspirational to me and I have a lot of admiration for you. The analogy you draw between independent musicians and the potential for independent authors is right on target for me. There’s no reason that writers can’t have the same success in going their own way rather than publishing the traditional way. I think independent publishing is only going to continue to grow. I read an article forecasting that e-readers would be selling for less than $100 by the end of year. It’s only going to get easier and appeal to a wider audience.

    My best friend is an independent musician and artist, able to support himself playing guitar and selling paintings. He writes and speaks and lectures and travels the world and never spends a minute of his time doing things he doesn’t want to be doing (or at least mundane things like renewing your driver’s license are more fun when you love what you do for a living). Every time I complain about my soul-sucking 8-5 job and tell him how jealous I am of his freedom and faith and joy in what he does, he always reminds me that I could do it too, if I put myself out there.

    I respond by pointing out the reasons why I can’t do that now, but I never tell him the real reason I think he’s been able to make his career this way and I haven’t, which is I don’t have his ego. There were two Mike’s on our floor freshman year in the dorms, and he quickly gained the designation “rock star Mike” because he always had faith in his music. He knew he’d be a rock star one day. He’s always making connections and spends his work day promoting himself.

    If I did ever explain what I see as the key difference between us, I know he’d tell my self-deprecating self to shut the fuck up and get some confidence. I’m sure there are plenty of self-important, egomaniacal writers out there, but I’m certainly not one of them. For me, it’s asking for a bit more of an investment from people to read a book than listen to your song. It’s more of a time commitment to read most books versus listening to a song, attending a concert, or watching a movie.

    I also think with music, at least in my hipster-infested town, there’s a trendiness to following the most obscure bands. Independent musicians can get cred in working outside the system. I think some of my snobbier acquaintances who love their independent music and independent art house films but only read best-sellers and classics would laugh and judge me if I told them that I was thinking about writing (or even read) independently published books.

    All right, my comment has practically turned into a post in and of itself, so I’ll shut up for now 🙂

  3. Thanks for the really thoughtful comment, mo! I think you make some great points.

    “I think some of my snobbier acquaintances who love their independent music and independent art house films but only read best-sellers and classics would laugh and judge me if I told them that I was thinking about writing (or even read) independently published books.”

    I think you are absolutely right about this! And it’s a testament to the power of the major corporate publishing houses that they’ve been able to create this mystique around being published through one of their presses. And yet … so many of what we consider “classics” now were the popular literature of their day! So don’t be discouraged and don’t stop writing. I can’t wait to read the original work I know you’ll do someday.

    E

    P.S. Maybe indie writers need to start badmouthing people who “sell-out” by signing with major publishers … NAH! No negativity here, thanks very much.

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