Last week, I asked the broad question, Can anyone write? Because the question is so broad, I broke it down and asked just this: Can anyone write to entertain themselves? This week, I’m asking myself, Can anyone write books and publish them?
My answer: Pretty much, yeah. Doesn’t mean anyone SHOULD write books and publish them. Let me explain.
If you have the gumption, you can write a book or twelve or thirty-seven and self-publish them. Is it advisable? Sometimes. Not always. It depends on your goals as a writer.
Five years ago, witty blog posts abounded on topics such as how many rejection letters an author received before they got published and how many books they wrote before they finally landed an agent or caught the eye of an editor. These posts have titles like, How I rose above the slush pile…My journey through the slush pile…Slush pile purgatory, and so on.
There are fewer posts like that going up today. More people are turning to self publishing after handfuls of rejections instead of bucketfuls. They are self publishing their first book rather than writing another and another and another and honing their craft. Is this bad? NO! It’s kind of awesome, actually.
The freedom self publishing gives an author is wonderful. You can get your work OUT THERE and let the READER see you develop as an author. They can WATCH you grow as work after work hits Smashwords or Amazon and your voice gets tighter and tighter and your plots more and more compelling.
Was I tempted to self publish as my rejection pile grew and grew?
No. I never was. I suspect it has a lot to do with laziness. I spent enough time learning craft and strategies for building an author platform. I didn’t feel like learning how to publish too. I didn’t want to spend money on an editor or cover, but I wanted stellar editing and an eye-catching, professional cover. Essentially, I didn’t want the hassle of having to either do everything myself or pay for it myself. But it was more than that. A lot more.
I wanted validation.
As long as my work was being rejected, I figured I wasn’t done cooking yet. I actually don’t think any of us are ever done cooking. Whether we’re no-name Sally Q. Author or Stephen King, we’re always learning how to improve our writing. But I didn’t want to hit the table early and give everyone food poisoning, so to speak.
I craved the knowledge that I had grown to a point where not only could I finish a book but that I had written a good one that people would want to read and a publisher could sell with confidence and enthusiasm.
It wasn’t enough for me to have a publishing credit if no one was going to buy my book. That’s ABSOLUTELY not to say that self-published authors can’t be bestsellers. They can and have (ahem, Kristen Ashley, ahem). But there’s a difference between self publishing because you want control over your work and pricing and going at it with a well-developed marketing plan and throwing your work up on Smashwords because every agent and publisher on Query Tracker rejected you but you just KNOW you have best seller material on your hard drive and the world is missing out by not having it available to them.
Honestly, I didn’t want to embarrass myself. I don’t trust myself. I am horribly impulsive in some areas. I also am not known for my amazing, solid judgment. Just ask my critique partners who have had to point out to me that a bestiality scene in a fantasy romance might be a mood breaker. Yeah. Bad judgment. For ME, I needed an editor to say, I love this. You are ready. I can teach you how to become even better, but you’re starting out at a decent level.
As long as I wasn’t hearing that, I knew that FOR ME I wasn’t ready.
So my answer to the above question is yes. Anyone can write a book and be published. But not everyone should. Authors considering self publishing should have a marketing plan, an author platform, a plan for what they’ll write next. That is IF you want to build an author brand and an audience. If you just want to publish as a hobby and you don’t care if anyone but your mother and your aunt buys your book, knock yourself out. Like I said in last week’s post, if you’re meeting your own goals as a writer, you are a successful writer.
What about you? Do you think anyone can write and be published? If you’ve self-published or are thinking about it, what types of questions are you asking yourself? What are your goals as a writer? If you’re a reader, do you make distinctions between self-published and traditionally-published works? I’d love to hear from you!