For the past few weeks I've been reading lots and lots about how traditional publishing is dying, bookshops are disappearing, and the only way forward is to self-publish via Kindle and Smashwords. I've been reading about how this will revolutionise the publishing business and rake in thousands upon thousands of dollars for self-pubbed authors. I've been reading about how this is the only way forward
, and how all those brilliant writers who've been ignored by traditional publishing and those nasty, self-serving publishers will finally reach the audience they deserve. About how anyone still seeking literary agents and traditional publishing is a coward, looking for validation, a dinosaur, or a plain old moron, because we could be sitting on top of a pile of cash right now from our Kindle publications.
I have to say, it's made me pretty depressed.
Why, you ask? (and if you didn't ask, I'm answering anyway, so you may as well read on).
1. I love books. I am one of these dinosaurs who doesn't own or plan to own an e-reader. I'm not saying I'll never be converted, but for the foreseeable future, I'll stick with my paperbacks, thanks. There's nothing appealing to me about curling up with an e-reader, or relaxing in the bath with one, and yes, I know these are just sentimental reasons, but I don't care. I love
books. I don't love technology. The idea of not being able to browse in a bookshop or carefully arrange all my favourite authors' works on my shelves genuinely upsets me. And I don't care if that means I'm behind the times or in denial.
2. I want my books to be books. The idea that my parents might never be able to hold a copy of my novel because it's just a file on a computer bothers me a lot. It bothers my parents a lot too, for what it's worth. If I work for six months to a year on something, fuelled only by love and hope, I want to be able to hold the end product in my hands. The proudest moment of my writing career so far was holding my copy of AFTERLIFE for the first time, and I want to look forward to many more such proud moments. Again, that probably means I'm in denial, but again, I don't care.
3. I'm not really in this for the money. I know! Of course I would love to be a full-time writer. Of course I would. But mostly I just want to be published and have people read my stuff, and hopefully enjoy it. All these thousands and thousands of potential dollars I could be making on the Amazon Kindle don't entice me, because frankly no matter how many people I hear shouting about these piles of cash, I'm pretty sure there are many, many more making no more money than I do sitting at this damn desk all day.
I want to be clear about this: there's nothing wrong with writing for money. There's nothing wrong with writing for any reason
. I'm lucky that my livelihood doesn't depend on my writing career, or I'd be living in a box. A really crappy box. And yes, I am insanely jealous of people who get to write full-time, but such is life. I don't see why there's such a divide between those who write for entertainment and look down on people who want to make a living out of their creative works, and those who write for pay and look down on those who write for entertainment. I've said time and time again I hate the stereotype of the tortured artiste, so those who flounce around talking about their deep and deathless prose and scorn writers who just want to have fun or make some money irritate me beyond belief. But everyone else? Whatever your reason for writing, do it and don't worry about what everyone else thinks of those reasons.
Anyway, I'm getting distracted now.
4. I just want to write! I don't want to worry about cover art, editing, distribution, getting attention, and basically being a businessman. Mostly because I would suck at it and be living in that crappy box. I want to write a story and let someone far more qualified than me go about making that story into a book. If I was solely responsible for the publishing of my novels, they would never see the light of day. Again, hearing that self-publishing is the only way forward freaks me out because I simply don't have the skill set to go it alone. And yeah, I could probably learn, but I don't want to.
These reasons, and more, threw me into a complete slump for a couple of weeks as I wrestled with myself over it. Is the death of traditional publishing just around the corner? Will the Kindle destroy us all? Am I missing out on heaps of cash by sticking with my agent and hoping for traditional publication? Am I wasting my time working with my agent when obviously nobody is ever going to get published by NYC ever again unless they write sparkly vampire porn? What's the answer? What should I do?
In the end I flipped out completely and decided the easiest answer was to stop writing altogether and remove myself from the whole debate. Then I remembered I'm actually under contract for two more Urban Wolf novels, so quitting writing was not a viable option.
So then I sat down and thought about what I actually want. The reasons I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), and the reasons I keep on doing it despite the doom and gloom hovering over publishing right now. I thought about the reasons self-publishing (whilst clearly a more valid choice now than ever before) is not for me. And my conclusion is thus:
It's what I've always wanted. I've been writing stories since I was at primary school. I've always written and it's the only thing I've ever done that I've really believed is worth me doing. I don't say that at all lightly. Anyone who reads this blog knows I'm often rendered useless (and possibly annoying) by self-doubt. But even at my lowest moments, I've clung to the writing. Always. And ever since I first realised that man, people can get published and be in freaking bookshops! that is all I have wanted. To be able to walk into Waterstones and see my book on the shelf next to authors I love is my life's ambition. To have someone pick that book up, read it, and love it, is all I aspire to. The Kindle won't give me that. Does this mean I'm one of those people seeking validation from "higher powers"? Yeah, probably, but so what? It's my dream; it doesn't need anyone else's seal of approval.
Maybe one day I will be a full-time writer. Maybe I'll be a bestseller and go crazy and make a fool of myself on Twitter on a daily basis. We can but hope. In the mean time, I'm writing what I love to write. I have an agent who either believes in my work or is crazy herself (far be it from me to judge which). I have two books out there that are getting great reviews from people I respect. And that's enough to keep me on my chosen path and stop listening to all those depressing, distracting, and often bitchy arguments going on between the indies and the traditionals.
And you know what? That's my
choice. If your choice is another route, then go for it with everything you've got. There's no right or wrong here. There's only what's right for you.
PS - If, like me, you're in need of an inspiration boost, the Deadline Dames
are charting their paths to publication at the moment.