My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Mailbox: How Could You Pick Non Traditional Publishing! How COULD You?

Why would anyone do epub/self pub? 

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer each Friday.  I will use your first name ONLY unless you tell me explicitly that you'd like me to use your full name or you would prefer to remain anonymous.  My comment policy also may mean one of your comments ends up in the mailbox. Hate mail is likely to amuse me more than anything, but it will make me extra snarky when I reply.]  

Today's offerings are the bile squeezings of an anonymous writer out there who apparently thinks that I will sniffle and cry when they try to hurt my feelings instead of using their hate mail to make more page views, money, and hook up crazy hot groupie threesomes.

Anonymous writes:

This blog/e-pub thing is a disgrace to real writers like me. You think you can just write anything and it will be just as good as published material, but it isn't. Any writer with skill would not pick e-pub over traditional, so you must suck. Grow a pair. Submit. Why would you pick e-pub unless you can't write?

I could obviously just write a blog and type anything and call myself a writer. I could even publish my first draft and make all my friends buy a copy. Writing takes more than that. You posers [sic] are putting a lot of bad crap out there and sullying the art. We used to have standards.

My reply:

Apparently you have a definition of writing that I lack, so if you'd like to edify me, you are most welcome. I write every day, I've been read by three quarters of a million people at a rate of about eleven to twelve hundred people every day on average, roughly 500 people follow my blog updates (not including the 11,000 on my Facebook page), I've been read all over the world including The U.K., Egypt, Indonesia, Australia, Canada, Japan, most of Europe, and of course the U.S. I get paid somewhere around $100-$150 a month on average--an amount that is slowly but surely climbing upward.

I guess I'm one of those fake writers. (You might want to look up the True Scotsman fallacy, just for shits and giggles.) I really ought to be read by a few hundred, perhaps a few thousand, make no compensation other than invitations to events with free wine and copies of the anthology in which I'm printed, and troll people's blogs to tell them they're doing it wrong. Because clearly in order to be a real writer the gatekeeper has to love me the most of all--that's what the skin horse says, anyway.

According to recent Disney movies, love also helps if you've recently been ice-javelined in the heart.

Honor requires that since you asked to be anonymous, I don't publish your name, but it was actually pretty easy to figure out who you were from your e-mail since you used your regular account. (Rookie move for proper hate mail.) I then Googled your name, and found your Facebook and Linkedin profile, but absolutely no mention of published works, so unless you've scribbled out all your masterpieces under a pen name while managing BevMo during the day, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that your loyalty to traditional publishing has not yielded the accolades you're hoping for.

The reason I picked e-pub/self-pub over traditional wasn't actually just to offend you. It is sort of a nuanced decision that has been evolving over the last couple of years, and it's not going to fit in a snarky reply, but I'll try to hit the highlight reel, and I'll use small words so you can follow along.
  • Traditional publishing is shrinking. So more writers than ever before are competing for fewer traditional publishing opportunities. This leads to more competition for less pay. It also means that what gets published is increasingly what gatekeepers think will sell or what gatekeepers think is worthy of being published.
  • Gatekeepers in the publishing industry are (still) overwhelmingly white and middle class and predominantly men. While the LGBT community (though really just the LG part) has made wonderful inroads into traditional publishing and the literary world, other voices are still marginalized. That means that what they think will sell (or deserves to be published even though it may not sell) is what resonates with them.
  • Traditional writers have to be able to work for years (often for hours a day) without pay. That's not really an option for people who need to work three jobs or are the only care provider for two kids or something. That means that only people with a fair bit of privilege can get through the "hazing process." Other publishing methods can generate at least some income while a writer is improving their craft, and that creates an opportunity for new voices, and often some of the most interesting.
  • Traditional gatekeepers are often a bunch of stuck up elitist snotrags--especially about what's good, what's "art," and which dialect of English is "proper."
  • Other writing forms are expanding. Computers have changed everything. Right now it is (significantly) easier for an unheard of writer to get started, make inroads and build an audience in non-traditional publishing, and then possibly go hybrid. As is evidenced by the fact that Googling your name turns up no publishing credits whatsoever. Let me know how that "real writer" shit works out for you.
  • If you've ever read a Harlequin romance novel or just a really shitty science fiction book, you know full well that just because something is published, does not mean it is good. A gatekeeper's approval doesn't mean you are good. It means they think it will make money. Those are the only standards "we" ever "used to have." All computers have done is make taking a chance on something less risky because the printing costs are a few cents worth of bandwidth and electricity.
  • If I can make as much money or more from writing as all you "real" writers without taking advantage of a system that marginalizes others, I'm okay never having a big five contract.

I would also like to offer you a tiny bit of unsolicited advice: when you're writing hate mail to a writer talking about how much better (or "more real") a writer you are than they, it might be a good idea to proofread for things like verb tenses and homophones. While these errors makes for interesting visuals, (like a bunch of bloggers posing for selfies) it's probably not going to cement your superiority. We all make mistakes, and every writer needs an editor, but that's just a particularly ironic time to be writing like a fifth grader.

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  1. You do seem to have far too much fun replying to mail like this... or if not, I have far too much fun reading them :-)

    Writer = one who writes.

  2. go get em, Chris!

  3. Being nice is probably as overrated as threesomes. :-p

  4. I'm not sure how overrated threesomes are. ;-)

  5. I dunno, I've had some really awkward threesomes. Or maybe I should say "attempts at threesomes".

    1. I think they're like hollandaise sauce. When you finally get them right...BAM!

  6. ...and i suppose it wasn't a real threesome because one of us was a plastic blow-up doll? Dunno...it seemed real to me.

  7. Ooooh, how do I start leveraging these groupie threesomes?? 🤔
    I think I need to start publishing more often...

  8. Thank you. Lovely reading. Made me giggle. Especially the snotrag comment. :)