Carrie Bailey is a science fiction writer who’s gotten her first book published. The nature of that publishing is a concern for some in our writing business. Carrie’s novels are self-published. She maps out the options for a writer of today: a traditional deal, a hybrid one, the small presses, or your own publishing. She calls down an image of her grandfather typesetting his book, letter by letter. It’s captivating, and the world would not have the writing of Virginia Woolfe if not for self-publishing.
Ipso facto, self-publishing is good for writers, right? Not so fast. There’s a column on Writer Unboxed by Dave King, editor for hire, warning the WU readers that self-publishing has its risks: a writer will believe their work is ready to publish when it is not. I assume that working with an editor for hire will help them better prepare their work. I sure hope so, because I am one of those editors. But I don’t blow smoke at my clients by telling them their only goal is to win that agent and that contract with a press. That confuses the creativity with the commerce of writing.
Bailey makes a better point. When considering the prospect of becoming an agented writer, seeking publishing deals, she becomes less motivated to write. Me too. The allegory I use these days is the film business. Lots of indie movies out there, crafted with love on a low budget. Many do not get more than a weekend at a local theatre, if any showings at all. Straight to Netflix. These are still movies, and some are worthy of your two hours. If everybody who made a film had to take a film degree (get and MFA!) or get picked up at Sundance (win an agent!) we wouldn’t have some movies to watch that we truly love.
Bailey says the dream she’s living is to write warm, comfortable, escapist sci-fi novels. That’s why we take our risks in writing — and then like in the movie biz, find collaborators (editors!) — to polish our books. Comfy escapism: what a treasure.