Anne R. Allen made me ask myself again why I want to self-publish my book. She suggests, based on the brouhaha last week in which a sensitive self-published author had a very public meltdown, that maybe some of us want to self-publish because we can’t take criticism and rejection from agents and editors. If that’s the case, maybe we should look ahead to the reviews we may get on a poorly crafted self-published book.
I would never claim to be thick skinned. I’m prone to crumble at criticism with the best of the crumblers. But really, is anybody immune? Some people just fake it better than others, I think. Anne quotes Isaac Asimov as saying there are two kinds of authors, “those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review.”
Still, I don’t think my main reason for wanting to take an alternate route to publishing is to avoid professional criticism. Honestly, I would love professional feedback. When I won a contest and the prize was a special open door to an editor of a big house, I thought at last I would get something helpful. A contract would have been great, but even some personalized advice would have made me happy.
A year later I received her kind rejection saying something like, “You are a gifted writer, but this is not right for my list.” Several of us from the same conference received the same semi-personalized form letter about the same time. I was . . . disillusioned.
I have been frustrated with the system for some time. There are too few open doors for all the good writers. Editors and Agents are flooded with submissions and exhausted by the deluge. If your query comes to the top of the pile at the wrong moment in their long day, that’s it. That was your chance with that person. A year wasted, and you’re not even sure if it was you, or them, or that they already have too many super-pig/troll dance stories at this time.
The other thing about self-publishing is that your goals don’t have to be as lofty as would be required in traditional publishing. Understandably, a publisher won’t take your book on unless they think it could have a really big audience eager to buy it. In traditional publishing it’s go big or stay home. Staying home gets old.
And then there’s that other nagging issue that Anne brought up. Quality. In my last post I asked, how do you know when your book is ready? Anne is editing her previously published, out of print book, Food of Love, to re-release as an e-book. She says she had one of those “OMG who wrote this crap?” moments. She’s become a better writer in the last ten years, she says.
Of course, she has! Isn’t that what happens when you are allowed to keep writing and getting feedback, practicing and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Would she have become this better writer if she hadn’t been working and sending her books out into the world to be tested? Is perhaps the act of trying our best, making mistakes, and learning from them what eventually makes us better at whatever we do?
That’s my working hypothesis, anyway. So here’s to thicker skins so we can all swim with the crocodiles and come out better for it.