A few years after I started writing, encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive feedback, I submitted my work for publication. A quick Google search will demonstrate that my attempts have yielded, to date, one publishing deal. I took the publishers’ lack of interest as my writing being unworthy of being published. Of course, that is not the case: as hard as it is to produce a quality manuscript, it is even harder to get it published.
While frustrating, I can’t get upset at publishing companies for following sound business rules, by only purchasing books they feel will sell enough to generate profit. Fortunately, the indie scene provides authors with great content a place where they can share their work. Two of my personal favourites are writers Sieni A.M. and Ripley Patton.
As of last month, I myself went indie (shameless plug: you can find my first self-published book, Chills: A Short Story Collection, on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Nobles, and iBooks.) It took me a couple of years to take the jump, as I was struggling with one big question: what is the line between knowing you have talent and sharing your art, and just being arrogant and self-delusional?
Intention is of course important. If an author, however talented he or she might be, just wants to make money, it translates into the book they write quite clearly. But unfortunately, good intentions never automatically translate into good books.
This is where effort comes in. Good intentions coupled with sincere, earnest effort increase the probability that a book will be good. But of course, that’s not enough. Trust me. I have spent a lot time writing pieces that, a few years later, I couldn’t delete fast enough.
Feedback is something else that increases chances that a book will be good. Professional editors and proofreaders, coupled with family and friends who can help refine a storyline, can greatly buff a book into a beautiful shine.
I hesitate using sales as an indicator of the quality of a book, as many terrible books have sold millions of copies. Furthermore, our sense of success as determined by sales is defined by things such as the New York Times best sellers list. This implies that quality writing is akin to millions of copies sold, which is a benchmark one could hope to achieve only after a few years of intense work as an indie author. Reviews do give a better indication of the success of a book when they are descriptive enough, but these sort of reviews are unfortunately rare. One of my current, personal favourites is fan reaction in the form of comments, emails, tweets, and reblogs.
So why did I finally end up taking the indie jump, despite not finding a clear answer to my question? Because writing a book is not an end in itself. Writing is about learning, from the moment an idea is sparked to the conversations the finished product generate. And however bad a book might be, despite the intention, the effort, the positive feedback, the sales, and the reviews, it can always generate great learning.
Image credit: Chad Mauger