Last month you decided to tell young writers, “Don’t self-publish. That’s as good as admitting you’re too lazy to do the hard work.”
Interviewer Leslea Tash called you out on this, and asked, “[W]hat hard work are indie success stories too lazy to complete?”
Your answer doesn’t cut it. “Obviously, I’m not talking about the rare few writers who manage to break out. The indie success stories aren’t the rule. They’re the exception. The self-published books I’ve read are often amateurish.”
Ms, Grafton. Sue. Listen up. Plenty of writers get agents and book deals. Very few of them will make a huge living out of it, if any living at all. I know, or am connected to, several authors with traditional deals. Kevin J. Cunningham hasn’t had many sales, despite having a wonderful debut novel. T.J. Loveless has written several amazing books that show incredible talent with the written word, and has had a large international following, yet is still struggling. K.L. Bone knows what she’s doing well enough to be a guest speaker as places as elite as Cambridge University. Jenny Trout, writing as Abigail Barnett, has been on the New York Times bestseller list, yet she’s had her share of financial struggles.
On the other hand, having a traditional deal doesn’t mean a product that isn’t amateurish.
We lie there, panting together, waiting for our breathing to slow. He gently strokes my hair … Boy … I Survived. That wasn’t so bad. I’m more stoic than I thought. My inner goddess is prostrate … well, at least she’s quiet.
Literary gold E. L. James wrote there. How much more amateurish can you get when dealing with “Inner Goddess” and “Subconscious” doing back flips and reading and peering over glasses, Lizzy McGuire style? At least Lizzy was appropriately marketed to kids.
And pick up any Twilight book and open to a random page. Point your finger down. Read.
So what was that about how indies are the amateurs and a deal means quality?
Now let’s move on to the “lazy” part. Oh, see, you tried a bit of backpedaling, saying becoming an author is about “taking the rejection, learning the lessons, and mastering the craft over a period of time.” Did you know Stephenie Meyer (author of Twilight, in case your head is further in sand than I thought) sent out six queries, and went from having her wet dream about a teenaged boy to having a deal signed and delivered in just six months? She skipped over all the rejection and lessons, and even after getting her deal, didn’t bother honing anything. Even her fans called her out on that one.
Let’s go back to EL James, shall we? Fifty Shades started out as fan fiction posted in fanfiction.net. Ana and Christian were even called Bella and Edward. Kate was Rosalie. She admits this herself on the FAQs of her website. See the last question. Sure, she claims she edited the fan fic heavily prior to big publication, but when run through a processor, Fifty Shades, and its original form called Master of the Universe, are 89% identical. Every so slightly rephrasing things and renaming characters accounts for the 11% change.
Have you heard of Anna Todd? No? Well, she wrote a fan fiction herself, based on Fifty Shades (these bad fan fics just flow…), tossing in the band members of One Direction. It’s called After, and she posted it, in its entirety, on Wattpad. You can read it all here. Go on. I’ll wait for you to try reading it. Guess how she got her deal. Publishers trolled the site looking for things with a lot of reads. She didn’t even have to query. Her entire process was write a fan fic without bothering to edit, and step two, sign the deal. She didn’t have to query. She didn’t have to learn, or work on the craft. Neither of those last three authors did.
So tell me again how the path to getting a traditional deal is the one that teaches you how to be a writer. Tell me again how indie writers are lazy and amateurish when you clearly have no idea the work that goes into publishing a book. You don’t know because you don’t do the work yourself. You have other people do the layout, the covers, everything. Hmm. I have a mind to call you the lazy one.
Now I don’t claim to be the best author in the world. I don’t think I could ever hold a candle to the likes of J. K. Rowling, an author so brilliant that even when she published another book under a pen name, she again became a best-seller. But do you know what I do? I write. A lot. I research new ways to craft scenes, and push myself outside my comfort zone. I didn’t shy away from a battle in Sacred Blood (have it for free), and to push myself further out of what I’m comfortable with, I’ve been writing a spite fic through a male point of view using the parameters another author I don’t care for (mentioned above) that includes sex scenes (I’ve obviously never had a male orgasm, but must describe one anyway) and trying to make sense of things that don’t make sense in canon. I read books by authors better than me with advice on how to hone skills, and I experiment with different methods.
I research like crazy. Every single location outside of private residences are real in my books. If they attend an event the public could go to, it was a real event that happened. I’ve had friends scout locations for me to make sure the freaking topography is right. I consult experts in various fields to make sure that my information is accurate.
In addition, I do the layouts. I’ve had to learn to do that. I don’t have the money to outsource the work. I do the covers myself. Are they perfect? To me, yes, though other people might not care for them. I don’t care for your cliched covers, Sue, but that’s personal preference, and at least I do the work on mine. Other indie authors who don’t have to still do the work of finding help while your agent or your publisher does that work for you.
Oh, and I queried like crazy. So I’ve been in the trenches. I had some interest, but the agents wanted me to give Sacred Blood the Fifty Shades treatment by having Juliette go back to her abuse and “reform him with her love.” (Newsflash: Ana didn’t reform Christian. She merely learned how to be content doing what he wanted so he wouldn’t hurt her. Look up something called Stockholm Syndrome. Google it yourself since I’m apparently lazy.)
Indie authors. Lazy!!
Any promotion for us indies is going to be because of our own sweat and blood and tears. Blood? Guess what! The blood on the arrow on the cover of Sacred Blood is my own. I couldn’t find fake blood that looked how I wanted, and so I used my own blood. I literally bled for my book.
If you still think Indie authors are lazy, I issue you this challenge: Pick a pen name. But don’t tell anyone! This is part of the fun! Don’t associate “Sue Grafton” or your face with this pen name. Write another book. Don’t endorse it under your known name. Pretend your pen name is a separate identity. Now query that book. See the responses you get, and consider if going indie will help you stay true to your writing. Once you decide to give indie a try, learn the process of finding people to edit, beta read, edit some more. Don’t use your riches. Pretend you have a typical household income and a typical household to run. You won’t have tons of money to spare, so you’d better learn to do it yourself. See the process through. Get your book out there. Promote it.
Oh, and for fun, work on another book while you’re doing the above. Maybe consider getting a day job too, since most of us indies have those, and do all our writing work on top of our work loads and taking care of our families.
Next time you want to call us indies a bunch of lazy amateurs, ask yourself why you won’t leave the comfort of your posh, traditionally-published-author life to rise to the challenge of putting on our shoes to walk the proverbial mile.