Monday, April 18, 2011

This Isn't Moral High Ground

My kids are huge fans of fruit. Just about any kind, any time. But given all the choices of the farmer's market, my son would always pick watermelon first. My youngest would pick strawberries. My oldest girl would choose kiwi. I go for the peaches - those great, fresh, sweet ones that only show up for about a month during the year.

None of those choices are wrong; they're just different.

I've been thinking about the whole publishing industry a lot lately. It seems I can't click on a blog without reading someone's particular take on whether or not ebooks are destroying publishing as we know it, whether or not traditional is better than self-publishing, or whether or not entrepeneurial authors who sell their ebooks at 99 cents a copy and become millionaires are of lesser value, as if there is a moral or ethical shortcut that's been taken. Seriously, are we shaming them for not having an agent?

I get really angry when I read authors slamming other authors for being successful, but not doing it the "right" way, as if there is only one valid way to publish. Heck, if someone can write a book, put it on Amazon themselves and market it and make a million bucks, that's not a short cut - that's a lot of hard work.  Ebooks - especially those written by unknown authors - don't just sell themselves.

My own book was published by a traditional publisher, but without an agent. Was that a risk? Absolutely. Is that the right route for everyone? Absolutely not. But it was right for me. I know, because it was my book, my queries, my interactions with agents, my interaction with the publisher, my prayers, my list of pros and cons and long discussions with people I love and trust. It might not be the best route for you. It might not even be the best route for my next book. But it was right for this one.

I wanted to write a long rant, because I am completely in the camp that says there is no one way to get your book published. There might be a right way for you, but that doesn't mean it's the only right way for everyone else. Like fruit at a farmer's market, it's a good thing that there are choices.

I understand that agents and editors want to land on the side that traditional publishing might not be the only way but is the BEST way to get published. And so I was pleasantly surprised to read this blog post by agent Jenny Bent. I had the privilege of hearing Jenny speak at the AWP conference here in D.C. this winter, but it is this post that won me, especially the last paragraph. If you have time to read it, you should. But if you don't, this is what I loved so much:

Here's the whole point of it: to say, hooray for you writers out there who believe in yourselves enough to get your work out there by whatever means necessary. Hooray for your successes, hooray for your bravery, and hooray for the fact that every book you sell means you may be touching that reader's life in a powerful way. For isn't that why we're all in it?

Why write a rant of my own, when I couldn't have said it more beautifully than this? 


  1. I agree with you Heidi. You have to do what's right for you. For me I want that support system of going the traditional publishing route. I know quite a few successful writers without agents. Having an agent would be wonderful, but I don't know if it's a must for me....

  2. Great post!! Oh, and I love strawberries and cantaloupe mixed together! SUMMER COME SOON!!

  3. Well said. I agree with you totally. There is no right way or wrong way to do things, only the best way that works for you.

    Love Jenny's last paragraph.

  4. Remind me to chat with you whenever, if ever I get to the point of publishing a novel! Wise advise. I also love the quote you included by Jenny Bent!

  5. Awesome post, Heidi.
    I'm totally with you. Everyone has to go it their own way. I spent a lot of time thinking about where to send things out. Whether I'm querying for the more traditional publishing route, or working with my small publisher for my other books.
    I can tell you right now that I'm having a much better experience with my small publisher than a good friend with a well-known agent.
    So, yeah. We all have to do what works for us. If you can self-publish a book and get it out there to make thousands or millions - go you.
    I just want to be able to hold my printed book in my hand. That's it, that's all.