Kick Down the Doors

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!

16 comments

  1. I’ve completely changed my mind about this over the last few years. I used to believe that independent publishing was for writers who couldn’t get a book deal.

    But today when I see authors today trying to get an agent or get traditionally published, I think “Why?”

    Of course, I went through all of that in the 1990s (when there weren’t as many options). Maybe most authors still need to go through that phase first.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great way of putting it. The need to go query —> agent —> publisher probably had its last stand in the 90s and early 00s when self-publishing was new and still had a stigma attached to it. It’s a different world now.

      Now, imagine signing your creation over to a media conglomerate who is essentially in the business of selling paper . . .

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dysfunctional literacy

        Agents alsobtakec10%of your salary for literally lunching with old schoolmates to pass around your manuscript. Only to be rejected.

        Here are some astonishing numbers for Spanishv publishing

        When an authour sells traditionally published book the breakdown is as follows
        45% goes to publisher 35% tobt he bookstore 15% to the distributor and only 10% to the authour. Further all the percentages are negotiable EXCEPT FOR THEAUTHOUR’S
        And another thing many bookstore are owned by the publishing companies.
        It also explains why the independent bookstores shrieked in horror at the lockdown. They lost 35% of book sales. Not to mention the cancellation of sant Jordi on 23 April which is publishing’s biggest day.

        So why should an authour settle for only 10% while publishing and the bookstores get the lion’s share? And the amount never changes

        xavier

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Another reason to go indie is to protect your IP, not necessarily for business reasons, but just for personal ones.

    I’ve been thinking about the setting and characters of my stories for about fifteen years. It’s a big part of who I am, and it’s been a consistent part of my thought life for that whole time. And while I’m definitely not ruling things out, I can’t imagine just writing works of any length in a different setting in the next few years.

    The idea of signing a contract that would limit what I could or couldn’t do with something so personal is frightening. I would have to be guaranteed an insane amount of money to give up something so important.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It’s an interesting (read: bureaucratic) system. A friend has spent the last 16 years trying to get published.

    In the early days he was ambitious, creative and got work done.

    But over the last decade he has been stuck in the trap of trying to find an agent to get his break.

    It seems quite bizarre from the outside as all his energy is being put into trying to get the holy grail, rather than the act of writing itself.

    Liked by 1 person

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