Tuesday, June 19, 2007


I saw an interesting discussion on one of the forums I frequent. It concerned whether or not any author is entitled to be published.

The general consensus seemed to be that no one is entitled to be published. It's a long, hard road to publication and there are only a handful of deciding factors that can't exactly be quantified:

1. Well-written - Okay, this is pretty basic. You need to know the rules of grammar and punctuation, tense, and not to end a sentence with a preposition. It's also something that a person can be taught. Basic grasp of the English language.

2. Able to tell a story - A little trickier. I think if a writer already possesses this capability and it needs only to be honed, it's not insurmountable. But if not... well the hill just became a little steeper.

3. Marketability - This one's the doozy. It doesn't matter how well-written something is, if there isn't a market, it most likely won't be published by a major house. Of course, markets are always changing. Paranormals are hot now, but the buzz is that they are cooling off. Supposedly historicals are starting to cycle back on the upward swing, but the future's still a little cloudy on that. I don't know about anyone else, but I'm terrible at guessing what might be hot. I write what I love to read. I dabble in other projects, but my heart still belongs to the historical genre.

It seems to me that the ones who feel a sense of entitlement are those who take advantage of the vanity press. There is nothing wrong with most vanity presses. They are well-aware of their niche in publishing. For some writers, it's the only way their manuscript will ever become a book.

Now, a few truths about vanity publishing. It is not deemed a legitimate writing credit. Not by publishers. Not by agents. There's nothing wrong with it, if you're doing a family history or a gift for someone. Yes, there are stories about self-published books that go on to become gi-normous bestsellers (Eragon, for instance.) But those are few and far between. I don't have exact facts, but I'd say close to 99% of all self-published books fall far short of bestsellerdom. If you choose the right self-publisher, that's fine.

Which brings me to the old topic of PublishAmerica.

And thus the sense of entitlement.

I peek at the message boards from time to time, and the pervading attitude is definitely one of entitlement. I wrote the book, now it should be published. That is a big message over there.

But it ain't so.

Yes, writing a book is an achievement. A lot of wannabe writers never get to that point. They love the idea of being a writer a lot more than the reality of it.

But, a lot of writers do finish, obviously, and the next logical step is to pursue publication.

And this is definitely where that dreaded E word comes into play.

It took me a few years to get my first book published. I joined my local RWA Chapter, learned a lot of things I didn't know about publishing, tried and failed, tried and failed. With each rejection, I tried to take something away that was positive. I entered contests and paid attention to the detailed critiques I received in return.

Sure, I thought It should be published. But I was the only one, apparently. Okay - again, nothing wrong with that. A writer should want their work published, if that's one of their goals.

However, whether or not it is publishable is an entirely different animal.

That's where PA comes in. It's a vanity press that tries to pass itself off as a regular publisher. And it feeds off that sense of entitlement. It's already been proven they don't vet their manuscripts - there are at least four sting manuscripts that I know of that have all been contracted by PA.

I will openly admit, I have never read a PA book. As with any slush pile, I'm sure there are a few gems in there that, had their authors been willing to work a little harder, would have made it onto a true publisher's list. But, for whatever reason, said author either did not know PA is a vanity, or they just didn't care. Their book was going to be published, damn it, and they deserved it to be.

Not necessarily.

Publishing isn't a reward for writing a book. It's one step in a writing career. It's the reward for working to hone a craft, for producing marketable product, for producing something that someone unrelated to you wants to buy.

There are very few authors who can rightfully feel that sense of entitlement and they've paid their dues years and years ago. For the rest of us, it's a constant, uphill battle to be better than what's already on the shelves, and better than your last book. It isn't easy. But it is so worthwhile when you achieve that goal.

I'm waiting on a requested full. Would I like it to be published? Absolutely. Do I think it should be simply because I wrote it? Sort of. Of course I think it should be, but that doesn't mean that it will be.

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