From Joe Ponepinto at The Saturday Morning Post:
“Literary writing teachers are fond of telling students they should write for the love of writing itself. But I wonder what they would tell their charges if the university wasn’t sponsoring that philosophy; if they had to work eight hours in a cubicle or on an assembly line.
That attitude also conditions writers to believe they don’t deserve to make money from their writing, and helps make it easier for publishing companies to keep straight faces while offering today’s Draconian contract terms.”
It’s nice to see that sentiment spreading. Writers have been offered little or no pay only because so many writers are willing to accept little or no pay–not because there is no money to be made from writing. Even as novel advances fall and royalty rates remain low, and writers are given the impression funds are scarce, major publishers are posting incredible financial gains. When a publisher can afford to give all its employees a $5000 bonus, you know things are good.
But the writer is told to never expect to make a living from such work–usually by the folks who make a living processing and packaging the work of writers.
In contrast to Ponepinto’s reasoned piece is this in Salon. It is, sadly, a view inside the mind of a writer who jumped into self-publishing without researching the business, and who is now angry and resentful that the world hasn’t responded as he wishes. Had he invested perhaps a month or two investigating what are fast becoming Professional Practices in self-publishing, he would have known that 1) self-publishing isn’t synonymous with ebook only, and hasn’t been for quite some time; 2) sending mass emails to reviewers is the fast-track to being ignored; 3) self-publishing sales tend to happen over a period of months and years rather than weeks. Lastly, he’d know there is a community of writers who are making good sales and are willing to help other writers do the same.
Every published writer deserves to see their publisher act with competence, diligence and professionalism. When a writer is self-published, the writer should expect the same of herself.
Alas, given the tone of his piece, I suspect he’s a person who will have a hard time putting down his anger long enough to learn what will actually help him. Too often, writers who’ve been trade-published expect self-publishing to work the same way and, when it doesn’t, call it a failure. And that sense of failure will persist until a shift of thought is made.
Is the self-publishing market different for literary works than it is for genre? Of course. But “different” isn’t insurmountable. It’s merely challenging.