I read a post this week written by an agent who had clearly had her fill of being referred to as a ‘gatekeeper’. Her feeling is self-published authors view agents and editors as people determined to keep other people out of publishing. She points out in the post that selecting who to work with is a business decision. Everyone has a pot of money and a pot of time. In choosing an author to work with, the agent or publisher is choosing who to invest that time and money in. (With an agent, I think it’s more of a time is money thing.) They are going to choose the projects they believe have the best shot of producing a great return on that investment. Those pots aren’t bottomless. They can’t choose to invest in every project offered to them. I’ve been thinking about that post for days.
I’m often asked if I’m self-published and when I say ‘no’ there is almost always a follow-up question seeking an explanation for my choice. I usually explain my day job makes me aware of the number of people and talents it takes to bring a project from manuscript to the bookshelf. Neither I nor any person I’ve ever met possesses all of those talents and skills on a professional level. I also sometimes admit I worked so long for this it would have felt like giving up on myself to self-publish. I always clarify with this how I think and feel, but what is right for me is not going to be right for everyone, so each of us should make our own choice. It always ends up with me feeling like I’m almost apologizing for finding this open door and running through it. I’m not going to feel that way anymore. I worked long and hard for what I have now, and I’m glad for it.
At the same time, I understand the ‘offense is the best defense’ approach many self-published authors adopt when they bash traditional publishing and everyone in it. Self-published authors earn a much bigger percentage of the sale price on each book sold. First, of course, they have to sell the books. Self-published authors have a tougher time getting their books in bookstores and libraries. They struggle for world-wide distribution. Even building a name is harder when festivals that draw readers most often won’t accept applications from self-published authors. I can understand why sometimes it must feel like the whole publishing world is throwing walls up between them and their goals. That said, every choice we make in life has benefits and consequences. If you’re going to reap the benefits of your choice, then you have to shoulder the consequences of it too. Don’t blame agents, editors, or traditionally published authors for those problems. You chose that path, because you believe it is the best one for you. Travel it proudly.
Let’s all try to get along a little better. It’s a big world. It doesn’t have to be traditional versus self-publishing, where only one survives. There’s room for both. We can have traditional and self-publishing available to us.
Keep writing and keep reading!