where the writers are
Bestselling author J.A. Konrath's foggy portrait of the "confident" writer
books.jpg

A Real Publisher puts you on any number of bookstore shelves once they publish you, because--since they're apparently not doing much marketing for their authors, anymore--that is their primary power.

But getting on a shelf yourself? How can you not feel an incredible sense of accomplishment? (Is it disgusting that I took a picture of my independently released book on a bookstore shelf? Say what you will. I did it, anyway.)

That was in Nashville's Davis-Kidd Booksellers. Since they wrote me the letter saying they wanted Homefront for their store (after I submitted it for review, that is...they made sure to read it, first, which makes their invitation that much more significant), I’d been back twice: once to look at it on the shelf, and once to do a reading.

This third visit, I just wanted Ian (my husband) to look, to see what I saw: that all of those books surrounding Homefront were distributed by major publishers, and I--sans agent (for that book), sans Real Publisher--was still able to include mine among them. (I make no comparisons here when I say I'm just a shelf away from Mark Twain! Why, it's like walking around in his neighborhood! And, while we're on the subject, if you're ever in Connecticut, I highly recommend visiting the Mark Twain House.

 In March of this year, The Publetariat creator April Hamilton drew attention to a February blog post by bestselling detective/crime author J.A. Konrath, whose blog site is titled "A Newbie's Guide to Publishing." Hamilton points to this passage:

"Are you confident or delusional?

Chances are high the delusional people will believe they're confident, since self-awareness is in short supply in the writing community.  Here are some questions to ask yourself.

Have you been published by an impartial third party? Confident writers eventually get traditionally published. Period."

 And to this:

"Would you rather be paid or be praised?

Confident writers know the best form of praise is a royalty check."

 Both of these assertions, as well as the following by Konrath, are worth responding to:

Confident writers work within the system, even though the system is flawed.
Delusional writers work outside of the system, even though they long to work within the system.

One by one, yes?

"Are you confident or delusional?

Chances are high the delusional people will believe they're confident, since self-awareness is in short supply in the writing community.  Here are some questions to ask yourself.

Have you been published by an impartial third party? Confident writers eventually get traditionally published. Period."

I'm always bothered by Published Authors--okay, any kind of writer--claiming to be an authority on what a "writer" is, confident or otherwise. "A real writer is [insert trait.]" "A confident writer [insert behavior]." But, that aside, while it may be true that self-awareness is lacking in the writing community as much it is in any other community, I'm having a hard time figuring out what confidence has to do with being traditionally published. Could he mean "competent" instead of "confident"? If he does, it's probably true that competent writers eventually get traditionally published, but he should have ended with the "." and left off the "Period," because while he may believe...

Confident writers work within the system, even though the system is flawed.
Delusional writers work outside of the system, even though they long to work within the system.

...a number of competent (and confident!) writers aren't working within the system, as much as they long to work within it. They aren't traditionally published. And the assertion that those not published by a traditional publisher are neither confident nor competent writers is unfounded. A number of independently published (and later either traditionally published or critically-praised) authors are proving Konrath (and his ilk) wrong, and--as self-publishing continues to gain clout in the world of readers and reviewers--quite frequently. 

Case in point: Backword Books, a collective of authors with independently released novels that are just some of many breaking through the Traditional Publishing barrier, and whose reader and critical reviews illustrate that, yes, it's true: good books released by competent (and confident) writers aren't necessarily discovered by Traditional Publishers. But they are discovered by the audience that matters: readers. 

"Would you rather be paid or be praised?

Confident writers know the best form of praise is a royalty check."

This one is easy, because there are many kinds of writers, and not all of them have the same goals. Some want money. Some just enjoy writing. Some are interested in the art of it. Those who do it for money will, of course, consider payment to be the best form of praise.  But those more concerned with improving a skill, using words to communicate something--a thought, an emotion, a scene, and image--in just the right way would rather know they're doing what they set out to do. I've received royalty checks from Homefront sales, and the money was, of course, nothing compared to what I'd get if I were picked up by, say, Little, Brown, but no check big or small would beat this:

"I have read Homefront three times since it was released. I keep going back to this story because it makes me feel understood. And given the present state of things, it is a comfort to be understood, and to know there is an opportunity for others to understand what they may never experience."- Beth Kernaghan, Artist and Army wife, Fort Rucker, AL

Or this:

"I cant seem to put it down... i was crying within the first 5 pages... "

A few hours after receiving a paycheck, I forget about it. But those reactions? I'm not likely to ever forget them. I want the readers to love the writing.

Period.

Which is why I've started giving Homefront away for free. I used to be very anti-free because I'd put so much work into the book that I couldn't imagine giving it away. "I earned the fourteen cents per copy I'll make!" I insisted. If people paid for it, I was "legitimate," I thought.

I don't think that anymore. Sure, I need money. Yeah, I'd like to make a living writing. But more than that, I want people to READ the writing. And they are. If the data compiled on the Scribd site where Homefront can be read as a PDF is accurate, Homefront has received 570 "reads" and 69 downloads in the 19 hours since it posted.

Don't get me wrong. I still want to be picked up by a publisher, whether for Homefront or for the next book I'm writing. I would be a horrible, bad, lying liar if I said, "No way! I don't want my book in bookstores across the country. Yuck." Of course I want to be in bookstores. I love bookstores. I love hold-them-in-your-hands books and I would love to know people saw Homefront (or, soon, The Year of Dan Palace) on a shelf and wanted it so much they picked it up, carried it to the register, brought it home, curled up on a couch, and opened the cover. I would love to have the clout of a publisher's logo to make it possible to be reviewed in the New York Times. Hell, yeah.

But, in the meantime, I have the confidence (yes, J.A. Konrath, the confidence) of knowing readers and reviewers are enjoying the book I released on my own, that a bookstore didn't need a publisher to thrust it at them but actually read it and decided they wanted it based on its own merits, and that more and  more independent authors are joining forces and creating collectives like Backword Books to bring readers and writers together in the way only Traditional Publishers once could.