Writing Advice Examined: On Traditional and Self-Publishing

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But her glossy portrayal of indie publishing made me think of other misguided advice I’ve heard from the traditionally and indie published alike. As a hybrid author (three of my books are self-published, and four are traditionally published) who sees value in both camps, I think it’s worth examining those bits of advice often tossed about:

‘Put your work up on a blog or WattPad. The important thing is to get stuff out there.’

At a glance, this might seem sensible. We can probably all name an author or two who got book deals because they found a bajillion fans on WattPad or their personal website. Who doesn’t want Matt Damon to star in a movie adaptation of their book?

But success stories like The Martian are pretty rare. Most of the time what happens is you put your writing out there, your friends comment, and that’s about it. It’s not a bad thing to do, and it can be a great way to hone your craft and learn how to write for an audience. But it’s not a realistic strategy for getting published, if that’s what you’re after.

And in response to that whole idea of ‘just get stuff out there,’ the goal is really to get the RIGHT stuff out there. Stuff that’s so good people want to read it. Having a lot of junk out there doesn’t do you any good, and is potentially harmful.

“Self-publishing is the way to go because there are no gatekeepers.”

When people say this, the gatekeepers they’re referring to are book buyers, the people who curate the shelves for book stores. But there are still gatekeepers even if you go indie—they’re called readers.

Remember that self-published author I mentioned earlier? The one who didn’t like the negative vibe of traditional publishing? What grated on me about her comment is the way it made self-publishing sound like a shortcut. Like this is the way to not get rejected, which is something none of us enjoy, And while it may be true that Kindle Direct Publishing doesn’t care about if your book is polished enough or if you used Comic Sans on your book cover, readers do.

Just because you put the story out there doesn’t mean anyone is going to read it. And just because they read it, doesn’t mean they’re going to like it or buy another book from you.”

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