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We Validate
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I just read a blog post about a writer who is answering the question, Why do you want to be published by a traditional publisher? Right off the bat, the writer said, "Validation." She would feel validated because a bunch of supposedly widely read people chose her book to publish. I guess there's no validation in people who actually do read books and are willing to put their hard earned cash on the line to read her book.

It might be true that in days gone by that publishers staffed their houses with people who were widely read and knew something about books and how to value books, but those days are long gone, the widely read editors and staff replaced by MBA from Harvard, Yale, and NYU. It's all about numbers and not so much about good books, as anyone who has read the current crop of best selling authors will tell you. Larded in among the authors who actually know how to write are dpeople who rely on gimmicks to entice the reader and authors who have sold their souls for fame and riches and let their characters languish, writing cookie cutter books where the names and places and jobs have changed, but the characters have not. I want validation of a different sort.

I want the validation that comes with having written a good book, or books, and people plunking down their hard earned cash to buy my book. That is validation. There is no real validation in a business that is all about numbers and branding and less about the quality of the work, at least in my estimation.

My first solo novel was chosen by a publisher and published. My second novel was self-published and I'm prouder of it because people actually want to read and buy and recommend it to other people who buy and read. Yes, I would take a look at the contract if a traditional publisher wanted to pick up my self-published titles, and I might even considering signing it, but I already have my validation. Going with a traditional publisher has to come with a lot more oomph than validation. It would have to come with a great marketing and design package and a lot more money than I can make on my own. I am no longer dazzled by 5- and 6-figure advances because I know what that really means.

Big advances are big loans that have to pay off to continue to get big advances, and they are paid in installments. The money doesn't go to the author right off the bat. The author gets a quarter of the money for signing, a uarter for finished book ready to edit, a quarter on publication, and the rest at some unnamed date, or the advance goes in thirds. Royalties aren't paid until the advance is paid off.

No one tells you that best sellers often are based on inflated numbers. The best seller list numbers come from number of books contracted for sale and not the actual sale of books. Often the books that go out the warehouse door end up in landfills and on remainder tables or come bac to the warehouse dirty and shelf worn because they didn't sell. Yes, consumers can be lemmings, but not always. When an author self publishes and sells tens of thousands or even millions of books, those numbers were actually bought and the books delivered and read.

There is a lot about publishing that still has some value if you believe well read individuals with a track record for excellence have chosen your book, but it's smoke and mirrors. I'm mercenary come to that. I prefer my validation in dollars and cents -- and in people talking about my books and the characters and asking me when the next book is coming out.

Publishing traditionally or self-publishing is about learning the game. Mistakes will be made, but I've learned that being on the upswing is far better validation than being on the down swing.

Comments
8 Comment count
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Good points, except . . .

I admire your zeal, but not all authors seek to become production and marketing whizzes upon a book's completion. They might prefer to spend their time writing their next book. Your plan calls for writers to be writers/wholesale/retail execs. 

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No it doesn't. Much can be

No it doesn't. Much can be hired out, as I do. It's all about how much an author wants to spend and where s/he wants to spend it.

Validation comes with people buying and reading the book. Authors still have to spend time promoting their books. Look at George R. R. Martin who spends most of his time on the road, so much time that the fourth book in his Fire and Ice series took 8 years to write, and it still needs editing and pruning.

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On the point of validation...

I agree that validation comes with readership of one's work, and whether or not any given book is self or traditionally published becomes moot when that readership is present.  A story well told and promotional efforts aside, I do tend to also agree with the sentiment of the late Paul Newman...one is always bound by the tryanny of luck.

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In Sweet Bird of Youth, it

In Sweet Bird of Youth, it wasn't until he was beaten to a bloody pulp that Newman was able to give up the life of a gigolo cum hopeful actor, when his luck and looks ran out. No more tyranny. Very good point.

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Books selling is enough validation for me

I have thought for so many years that being published the traditional way was a way to get that validation, but recently I woke up. You are right. Books selling, whether traditionally published or self-published, is the only true validation. I haven't submitted anything to publishers in years because it just seems like luck, but I'm now exploring self-publishing my books. If only my mom and a handful of relatives buy my books, well, I can have no regrets on my death bed (which I hope is decades away)! Of course I hope others buy my books and enjoy them, but at least I'm not allowing someone else like a number-cruncher determine my publishing career.

Thanks for this!

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I'm glad my message reached

I'm glad my message reached you. Keep an eye out for another column on this subject. It might surprise you, and, no, I'm not giving up on self-publishing. So much has changed, and that is part of it.

 

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The New Way Was the Old Way

I have held out for a very long time because of the love of books and my years spent in the neighborhood library, my safe house.

I realize now that you are so right about those who are doing the judging, the so-called reading of our work. The mid-list writers, really good ones, can not get their due. And yes, it is a lot of work to market your own book, but it is the same as telling your story over and over again, as they used to do in town squares, around the camp fires, through tablets, gazettes, and any way they could to be heard...what we all want in the end, and before the end!  Thank you.

 

 

 

 

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Storyteller

It would be easier telling stories around the campfire and in the town square than what is currently needed to have a successful career. Thank whatever god/desses are paying attention that the midlist writers and the independents keep on no matter what barriers are thrown in the way. We are the troubadors and singers of songs and memories of history and fantasy.