by Marjorie Jones, Utah, USA
There are lots of reasons to write. For every would-be author out there, for every person who puts pen to paper, there is a force that drives them. They want to be famous. They want to be rich. They want to simply "be read" and know their words bring some level of entertainment, enjoyment, or deep thought to the one reading. Some write for commercial gain, to make a living, while others write for no purpose other than their own amusement.
Some of us can't even tell you why we do it. We just do.
This has always been true, but in the past there have been two inherent gatekeepers that controlled which authors' prose would fill our minds. The first of these gatekeepers was the bastion of literary defense - the literary agent/acquisitions editor. I'm lumping these two into a single category because their job, for our purposes here, was the same. They were charged (still are) with keeping the wannabes out of the printing room. They controlled what the world read by determining which stories were bright enough, smart enough, and (most importantly) well-written enough to receive capital investment. They decided which books would sell. They took the risk, reaped the rewards. They were, after all, in it to make a buck even if our end goal was to "just be read."
The second gatekeeper was good, old-fashioned, cold, hard cash. From the beginning of literary time, writers could publish their own works if they had the money to do it. Printers don't care one iota about the quality of the work they print. They care about the quality of the typesetting. They care about the quality of the binding. They don't care if the author of the pages they're printing has talent, and they don't care if that person hired an editor. If you had the cash, you could print your book and join the ranks of Charles Dickens, who published A Christmas Carol on his own because his publisher thought it sucked. (Hey, I said they were gatekeepers - I never said they were always right.)
Enter the new age of publication. The digital age. The age of information, when we all have the power of the publishers at our fingertips. We have Amazon, Smashwords, Draft to Digital, Lightning Source et al, not to mention our own blogs and websites, through which to publish what we want, when we want, in whatever condition we want.
That means the end game is up to you. Ultimately, the quality and content of your work is a reflection of you. Even if you go the old traditional route, the work is a direct mirror image of your creativity. Especially if you go the new self-publishing route, you must take responsibility for the end result.
In a marketplace inundated with poor quality writing, unimaginative and lackluster plot mechanisms, insufficient grade-school grammar, and more blind narcissism than any writer's group in the history of history, ask yourself what your end game is before you hit that publish button.
Do you want to succeed? Do you want to make the world sigh with joy, think deep thoughts, fight dragons in their sleep? Do you just want to be read? If it's the latter, and you're not concerned with making sure your book is as professional as possible, consider posting on your blog or to a freebie site like Wattpad. Enjoy your fan mail and keep on churning out great stories. If you're looking to go pro, to make a mark on the literary world in whatever small (or enormous) way you can, then by all means, publish on every paying venue you can find and publish often.
But publish well. Take the time, put in the effort, and make the investment necessary to ensure you're not doing the rest of the literary community a disservice. Make the self-publishing world a place where we are all serving at the pleasure of creativity, and at the pleasure of professional value. Your sales may very well thank you for it.
The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and may not reflect the opinions or beliefs of the Creative Services Trading Group, its affiliates, members, or administration. If you are a member of the CSTG and would like to contribute an article to this blog, please contact us here.
Serving AT THE PLEASURE OF CREATIVITY
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