Friday, 27 July 2012

Do I really need a publisher to become a "proper" writer?

I've now written five books, and am almost halfway through the first draft of my sixth, yet, I'm still uncomfortable calling myself a writer.  Why?  Well, I'm cursed with a constant lack of self-confidence for one, but that's not actually the reason why.  The reason why I feel a little uncomfortable is, I guess, because of the ever-present stigma that still surrounds the indie author.  I know that self-publishing and indie authors themselves have come a long way, and there truly are some amazing writers out there who come under the "indie" banner, but there's still - and I don't know whether this is just paranoia on my part - that worry, that feeling that people look at the indie author and think that we're just "playing" at this, that writing is nothing but a nice little hobby and we can't really be any good otherwise an agent or publisher would have snapped us up, wouldn't they?  Wrong.  Very, very wrong.

I never set out to be an indie author.  Like many other writers out there I spent more time than I care to think about contacting agents and publishers, only to be met with the usual rejection email, or ignored altogether.  I could've let that get to me; given my lack of self-confidence it could've led me to give up my writitng dream altogether, but it didn't.  Instead I took the indie route.

However, when you read about fellow indie authors who've been signed up by publishers and then claim that they now feel like a "proper" writer, how is that supposed to make those of us still trundling along that road of self-publishing feel?  So, having a publisher makes some people feel like a "proper" writer - as opposed to what, then?  What does that make the rest of us unsigned authors?  Kind of rankles me a bit that, or maybe I'm just bitter because no publisher wants to sign me. (Tongue was very firmly in cheek there, by the way.)

One thing I do know for certain is that we indies don't sit on our arses doing sod all, there's no chance of that.  Being an indie means you have to do everything yourself and I refer you to a great blog post from a fellow indie and lovely friend of mine Amanda Egan as an example of just how hard an indie author has to work.  So it's not a nice little hobby, okay?

The big question is, then, would I - despite the rejections I've recieved in the past - still like to be signed by a publisher?  If I'd asked myself that question a few months ago I quite possibly would've said yes, mainly because, for a time, I'd started to believe the notion that having a publisher suddenly makes you a "proper" writer.  But I suppose the real major perk of having a publisher is that they can take the edge off the workload in terms of fine-tuning and editing your work, helping with cover design, etc.  All things that take up a great deal of time for the indie author going it alone, so of course I wouldn't be averse to that kind of help, would I?

Me and books...
But I've been thinking about this a lot over the past few months (ever since my last rejection, actually) and I guess that, well, my quest to find a publisher is coming to an end.  It's done.  It's over.  From the feedback I've received in those rejections, I just don't write what people are, apparently, looking for, (or was that just a nice-ish way of saying I'm crap?)  But I write what I write, and I can't change that.  Sorry.  And, to be honest, preparing letters and chapters and synopsis after synopsis to send off to publishers is a long, long process - and it can be more than a little soul-destroying too.  It takes up so much time, time I could be using to write.  Which is what I want to do.  I want to write, not spend my days composing covering letters in the faint hope that some publisher will eventually snap me up.  I'm probably coming across as quite bitter again now, aren't I?  But I'm not.  Honestly.  Yes, I can totally understand how exciting it must be to be told that a publisher wants your book because, for as long as I can remember, that has been my dream.  And up until a few months ago I'd thought it was something I still really wanted.  But, realistically, it's probably never going to happen for me but that's fine.  I'm really happy for those fabulous indie authors who've managed to achieve that dream of having a publisher recognise their work, it must be a fantastic feeling.  And I wish them all the best for their publishing future.

But indie authors should never be dismissed just because they're not signed to any publisher.  It's something I feel so strongly about, having read some quite brilliant books by indie authors that have been just as good as, and sometimes surpassed, anything I've read by a traditionally-published author.  People shouldn't dumb us down or class us as second best, or assume that just because we're going it alone and self-publishing that our books are inferior to anything that's traditionally published.  Do that, and you're going to miss out on some great reads, believe me.

As an indie author there are perks - apart from the fact that I get to keep 70% of the profit I make from selling my books (which doesn't actually add up to a great deal by any means so its just as well I never came into this for the money, but it's a higher percentage than I'd get if I was going through a publisher - although they might sell more, I don't know, that's a whole other blog post there!), it also means that I can carry on at my own pace, writing the books I want to write, in the way I want to write them.

Yes, that means I'll continue to constantly have that shed-load of work that goes way beyond just creating characters and writing stories, and no, I'll never have that publisher behind me backing my work and giving me that extra little boost.  But, does all of that mean I'm not a "proper" writer?  No.  It certainly doesn't.  In fact, at the beginning of this post I claimed I was uncomfortable calling myself a writer whereas now, do you know what?  I'm proud to call myself a writer.  Because that's exactly what I am, and I don't need a publisher behind me to reinforce that.

So, long may us indies go from strength to strength, showing everyone that we don't need a publisher to make us feel as though we've achieved our writing dreams.  Let's just get on with writing the best books we can, and together maybe we can show those publishers just what they're missing.

And if you want to check out some fabulous indie authors for yourself, there's no better place to start than a great site called Famous Five Plus.   Discover some great authors, a huge range of books and read all about the varying experiences of each of the very different authors this site showcases.  Give it a go!  You never know, you might just discover something really great to read!

1 comment:

  1. I'll drink to that, Michelle! Keep up the great work - us Indies deserve medals (if only for dogged determination!) Oh and thanks for the mention too :) xx