I recently read a blog by a well-known self-published author who had hit it big. The author told his story about the many years it took him to get where he is, the difficulties, the trials, and the eventual fame and fortune he now enjoys those rare moments he’s not worrying about losing it. (Boo-fucking-hoo. Obscurity ain’t no pleasure cruise either.) The writer then went on to warn other writers about following in his footsteps: it’s not for the faint of heart--epublishing is fine if you’re willing to put in the hours and have low expectations, but don’t think you can write a quickie and post it on the net and make millions like he did. It’s more work than it looks like and you might be better off going the traditional route, so he said.
That’s like John Glenn going to elementary schools and telling kids they’d be better off being plumbers because being an astronaut is “really hard.” It’s like driving up to the bus stop in a Ferrari and complaining about oil changes and insurance premiums!
I’m insulted by the parental advisory, but what I really take issue with is the undervaluing of the eBook revolution.
I don’t think anyone smart enough to write a book thinks there’s anything easy about publishing, traditional or otherwise. Growing up in LA, everyone has a screenplay. The grocer, the guy who delivers you a pizza, all my neighbors, many of whom weren’t even “writers.” If you’re born in LA, seconds after birth the doctor spanks your ass and then asks you who your agent is. Though some of the folks just off the bus think fame and fortune await at every corner, people who live and work in LA know better than to expect to make it rich. Most just want to make a living. Less than one percent will. Not because their work isn’t any good, but there’s only one place for them to go and the roster is full. It’s nearly impossible to get in. Screenwriters WISH they had a way to make their movies as easily as authors can publish a book.
Writing is a calling. If there were replicators to make us food, we’d do it for free. For now we toil away like monks and live off of bread and water with the hope that one day we’ll make some cash so we don’t have to work a day job. Do we want stacks of coins? Of course we do. But personally, when I put my book up on the web, I just wanted to get my work out there. I was tired of the slow and painful traditional system of vetting authors. It’s fraught with silliness. Case in point: Paris Hilton sold more books than Jonathan Franzen. Case in point 2: Who won last year’s Nobel Prize for Literature? What about the year before that? Don’t know? But you do know that Snooky recently published an autobiography, don’t you? You know this because the industry made sure you knew, because they are in the business of making money, not necessarily in finding and fostering talented writers who have something to say. The eBook revolution offers an opportunity for writers to get their work out there. It’s a time in literary history that will be the equivalent of the first manned missions to the moon. Not all of us can be John Glenn, but at least we know moon walks are possible, and maybe some day walking on the moon will be commonplace for anyone wanting to go there.
Before the internet, a writer who couldn’t find a publisher had to pay vast amounts of money to have his book bound and printed. It was economic and career suicide. Now, for next to nothing, a writer can publish a work by himself and make it available to the whole world, even though the work may not have mass appeal. It’s now possible. That’s all that matters. Whether or not we get rich is up to the money gods. There are plenty of things that could be better with regards to epublishing, but the most important thing is that now, for the first time in history, it’s not just about the money. Epublsihing is an awesome opportunity and I say go for it. Take the leap.