Anyone who knows me will tell you that if you can leave me lost for words, you’ve won.
Congratulations, everyone… you’ve won. The outpouring of support and encouragement I’ve received since I launched my book last weekend has left me speechless. I don’t know what to even say except thank you.
It’s been an interesting experience, this whole thing. Several people have asked if I self-published. I guess it’s not as easy to tell with electronic books. Yes, I published this myself, under the name of my happy little indie publishing company, Top Down Publishing. I will admit I’ve been criticized, either to my face or by a conspicuous silence, for not going through traditional routes to get published. Some of my fellow writers have chosen to completely ignore my book, while others have been wonderfully supportive.
Self-publishing, also known as indie publishing, is a divisive topic among writers these days. Many who have been published the traditional way look down their noses at it. They say that electronic publishing has made it too easy for anyone with a computer to declare themselves a writer, pound out a couple of hundred pages, and upload it, without paying any or nearly enough attention to proofreading or editing or even getting a decent cover for it. And they’re right. I’ve noticed it myself in a huge amount of e-books lately. People see it as a quick way to make a lot of money (spoiler alert: it isn’t) so they put anything they can think of out there and call it a book and in the process, grievously underestimate the reading public. A typo can happen to anyone – I’ve seen them in bestsellers – but blatant mistakes, repeated spelling and grammatical errors and overall sloppy writing make the writer look like a hack. It cheapens the reading experience for readers, and the writing experience for writers.
That said, there are a number of amazing writers out there who, for one reason or another, turned to self-publishing. Sometimes it’s the ability to keep more of the royalties, but more often than not, it’s because they’ve been repeatedly denied entry into the traditional publishing industry. Given what I’ve now seen in the indie publishing world, I even feel a twinge of pity for agents and publishers. They must be deluged with poorly-written manuscripts. How can they weed out the good ones without having to stop after every third envelope and have a stiff drink?
I will tell you that I have approached agents and publishers in the past with a manuscript that’s now somewhere at the bottom of a drawer in my writing room. It has been edited and revised and rewritten and polished within an inch of its edges, it’s been read and additionally polished by a small group of trusted writer friends. So you can imagine how it felt to get rejection after rejection from agents who couldn’t be bothered to even ask for samples, or send anything other than a pre-printed postcard that said “Sorry, not taking new clients right now.” My favorite was a two-inch, crookedly cut slip of paper that was stamped with a generic rejection message. It showed up in my mailbox less than 24 hours after I’d sent the query. I had visions of a bored intern methodically opening each envelope, taking out the SASEs, stuffing rejection letters into each one and shoving them all into the mailbox on her way to get lunch.
There’s an adage in the writing world that says to get published, you need an agent, and to get an agent, you need a miracle. I used to think it was funny. I don’t anymore. I’m a professional, widely-published (just not books), award-winning writer. I would no sooner send an agent a sloppy, ill-written manuscript than I’d spit on my grandmother. I just happen to not have gotten that break, that miracle.
A few years back, I went to a writers’ conference in New York. The room was packed to the rafters with aspiring writers who listened raptly to a panel of agents telling us what to do and what not to do when attempting to find an agent. After the panel discussion, the agents were stationed in different places around the room, and we were shuttled, like cattle, through long lines and then, in pairs, we were given five minutes to pitch our ideas to an agent. That comes out to 2.5 minutes for each writer to try and convince an exhausted and harassed agent why they should represent us. Needless to say, I didn’t hear of anyone who walked out of there with even a glimmer of hope. The agent I spoke to actually told me that she can’t sell fiction, and the only non-fiction she wants are trashy celebrity stories.
I weep for this country’s intellect if that’s true.
Some months ago I got into a bit of a heated discussion with a woman on a social media site who has found considerable success as a novelist and has an agent and a publisher and all the bells and whistles that come with the package. I don’t know her, she’s the friend of a friend, but she made a sweeping statement about self-published authors being amateurs, making it sound like everyone who doesn’t have a six-figure publishing contract is a poser and a wanna-be. I took exception to that, explaining to her everything I’ve said above. Her condescending response was that if I’d been rejected by the traditional publishing world, it was “for very good reasons.” And the horse I rode in on too, no doubt.
Yes, I self-published “The World Was My Oyster But I Didn’t Know How to Cook.” I didn’t even bother trying to find an agent, or sending it to a publisher. It’s been heavily edited, many times. It has a professionally-designed cover. I’m now knee-deep in learning how to promote and market it. Is it perfect? I’ve no idea. But it’s as perfect as I know how to make it, and I put my name on the cover. For someone who has known she was a writer since she was six years old, that’s a big deal. I decided to make my own miracle.
So much for being speechless. Again, thank you all for the incredible support you’ve shown me in this new venture. I appreciate it, more than I will ever be able to express.