I still see a lot of talk among writers about wanting to get an agent, making pitches, and all that sort of thing. I even saw one independent author advise another that self-publishing will “poison” their work so that no agent will ever touch it unless it sells a whole ton of copies.
To which popular and talented independent author Jon Del Arroz commented: if you sell a whole ton of copies, why do you need an agent?
Jon is right, of course. There is also the fact that being represented by an agent and getting published by one of the remaining big publishing houses is no guarantee of success or monetary compensation. And guess what: If you’re traditionally published, you’ll still be mostly responsible for your own marketing! On top of that, instead of Amazon or whomever taking a small cut, you’ll have agents and publishers taking bigger ones, until you recoup your advance. And there is no guarantee of this–your book might not make you any money outside of your advance.
Is this really worth the agony of sitting on a manuscript and pitching it for years to no avail to a dwindling tradpub institution?
I don’t think so.
In addition to this economic argument, though, there’s a more important philosophical one: Why, as an artist, would you want to play by the rules set up by gatekeepers determined to allow only a narrow band of accepted, approved, and authorized art into the public’s consciousness? You don’t need to anymore.
The Internet allows artists to bypass the gatekeepers. This is a good thing, and should be embraced. Isn’t art about pushing boundaries and progressing via deviating from the norm? Aren’t artists supposed to push back against anything which stifles and constrains them?
There is little more stifling and constraining than an editorial intern with a slush-pile five feet high who has to pass everything by a sensitivity reader to make sure there is no problematic content in a manuscript under consideration for publication that a fraction of a percent of the mentally, emotionally, and spiritually unstable population will take great offense to.
Screw that. We’re supposed to tell the uncomfortable truths. So this is one: Self-publishing won’t poison your manuscript. Playing the game set up by people who don’t want you to express your vision will. Even worse: it will poison you.
So don’t play along. Kick down the doors instead.
I kicked down the doors and have been better for it, getting more sales and reviews than lots of traditionally published artists. Sure, I have to hustle more, but you’d have to anyway if you’re tradpubbed, because the publishing companies generally don’t care. Buy my books here!