Let the Reader Decide.

This morning I received a guest essay by Maxwell Cynn for my alter ego’s forthcoming book on publishing and marketing realities, and it reminded me of something I had forgotten.

He writes: “the modern ease of self-publishing, in my opinion, is the greatest development for writers since the printing press, and it is bringing about a paradigm shift in the art of writing and how literary art reaches the public.” (read the entire essay here)

Self-Publishing, btw, is not vanity publishing. Thanks to Amazon & their Kindle, J. A. Konrath, and others, the stigma around self-publishing may be beginning to come to an end. Writers may once again have control of their voice.

My alter ego and her husband self-published their YA series out of necessity, after being duped by their original independent publisher. In the middle of a nationwide tour, there was no other choice without losing all their investment. It would’ve cost them thousands, so they self-published. And they have made a living, albeit a modest one, by doing so.

When I wrote Avalon Revisited, I never considered anything else. I never sent one query letter. But then, because of the quality of the work and my online presence, it attracted a NY agent. She’s absolutely fabulous, and it really served to validate my efforts. She has worked (and continues to work) hard to find a NY home for Avalon, and I sincerely hope she does. That would be very cool, and it would give me a new perspective as an author and a teacher for aspiring writers, enabling me to further advise which publishing path to take.

I’ve read so many blog posts and tweets, and taken part in panel discussions, that are either condemning self-publishing for “lack of quality” or praising it for being the voice of the artist, those writers who don’t fit into a certain box for NY publishing.

“Lack of quality.” What exactly does that mean?

Sure there are those self-published works that are unedited with shoddy grammar and sentence structure. There are those with amateurish cover art. There are those whose prose falls flat, devoid of emotion or any semblance of sense.

But there are also a plethora of self-published works that rival any NY published work. They are gems waiting to be discovered. They are unique or a multi-genred mashup. Perhaps some aren’t as polished as they could be with the help of a NY editor, others are. And both are still quite worth the time to read. Thanks to the eBook revolution and the Kindle, they are being enjoyed by an increasing number of readers.

Let the reader decide.

New York is publishing fewer and fewer new authors in these changing times, watching its own faltering bottom line. So where does that leave tomorrow’s great writers? If NY is only publishing more of what’s already out there, it’s akin to Survivor XXXIV.

And I hate “Survivor.” All of them. I hate “Dancing with the Stars.” I hate “American Idol.” “The Bachelor.” “The Bachelorette.” “How To Marry A Millionaire.” ad nauseam. I hate all those reality TV shows. Obviously many people love such programming because they keep producing more. But for me, if it’s on more than 30 seconds, I start to get physically ill.

On the other hand, brilliant shows like “Firefly,” “The Good Guys,” “Life,” “Jouneyman,” “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” “Arrested Development,” “Freaks and Geeks,” and countless others have been canceled. I loved those shows. They were intelligent, witty, and unique. Yet they were canceled.

People have different tastes because people are individuals.

Perhaps my audience is not J. Q. Public, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have an audience. Thank you, Maxwell, for reminding me of that.

I’ll let the reader decide.

Over the past few months, I have been struggling to regain footing after an “assault to my sense of self,” as Susan Anderson puts it. And she is absolutely right. With the devastating loss of my beloved/writing partner/cherished friend, I find myself questioning everything, especially my writing.

Nevermind that we’ve sold thousands of copies. Nevermind that hundreds of readers have responded personally and positively to my work. Nevermind that I have countless emails telling me how much they’ve enjoyed my books. Nevermind that just last weekend a woman returned to my Artist Alley table at NOLA Comic Con on Sunday, after getting Avalon Revisited on Saturday, to tell me she was up until 4am reading it because she was so enthralled. That was not by far the first time that has happened at an event. In fact, I’ve lost count of how many readers have returned the following day after being up all night reading one of my books.

Nevermind all that.

Still my sense of self has been shaken to the core. I wake up each morning wondering if I have chosen the wrong path. Wondering if I can truly write anything worth reading. Doubting myself. Doubting my craft. Doubting my worth.

At the beginning of the year I joined a critique group, determined to improve my writing, and thus far it has only served to further discourage me and my efforts. I read books and even submissions from the other writers in the group and I say to myself, “I can’t do that. I just can’t weave prose like {insert author’s name here}.”

It’s not their critiques, it’s my fractured sense of self. But that’s all it is, and I am getting stronger every day. I am still the writer I was last year. I’m an award-winning author. I have a readership who looks forward to the next installment and wants more.

My husband tells me over and over, “Just write in your own style, your own voice.”

And he’s right. After getting my fabulous NY agent last year because of Avalon Revisited, I realized, in hindsight, that I was no longer writing for myself, I was writing for NY. I was writing to please others. I was writing what I thought NY would want to buy…and I was writing swill.

Screw that.

I am a writer. I will write from the heart. I will write what my soul demands. I will write in my own style with my own voice. I will write and read and write some more. I will continue to hone my craft and learn and improve my style, find my voice, but in the mean time, I will write.

And I’ll let the reader decide.


J. A. Konrath on self-publishing: “Self-publishing is the most important thing to ever happen to writers. It liberates us from an arbitrary, unfair, broken system, and allows us to reach more readers at a faster rate than traditional publishing ever had. Best of all, as Blake said, self-pubbing allows writers to do it on our own terms.”

~ by omgrey on February 5, 2011.

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