Monday, June 16, 2008

What do you want to write?

There is a place for everyone in writing. Writing is that one unique art form that I believe everyone can do. In the area of fine arts, we often have to be trained to do a lot of the activities (pottery, painting and what not) but even then, we have to have something in us to really make it all come together. Some people just aren't wired for it. With writing though, I believe everyone is wired.

With that said though, it is crucial that you know exactly where you fit in the grand scheme of things. Your writing has a place out there and it is up to you to find that. You might not be a writer that is going to be published, but that is fine. Just find your one true place.

I believe strongly in all of the avenues available for writers out there and I want each writer to find that place that makes him or her happy.

Think of these levels:

HOBBIEST - You like to dink around with the writing. You have journals, you go back and look at your stories, but really, the rest of the things in your life take the front seat. These people may be part of writing groups, but it is really a social function. By the way, you can be part of a MAJOR writing groups such as RWA, go to the national conferences and just hang out. Pitching and selling is not a requirement.

SORT OF SELF-PUBLISHED - This is still in the hobbiest level. You take the time to get that story of yours published, or the collection of poetry printed off, but you take advantage of those copy centers in your neighborhood. Often, you send these to your friends and family. I have one friend that does this for her Christmas cards.

SELF-PUBLISHED - This group takes advantage of the vanity presses and small private presses. In most cases, this group is still in the hobbiest level but want to produce something a bit more professional. Some of these people will often try to sell the books on their own, but frequently, this doesn't last.

E-PUBLISHING - This group is now in the professional level. You have to be if you want to make money. The publishers at this level can often take more chances on a piece of writing due to the lower cost of producing it. Once it is on the server, it costs fairly little to produce and print. If it doesn't sell, it simply goes away.

SMALL and INDEPENDENT PRESS - This group in many ways is a cross between the self-published and the e-published. Working with the smaller independent presses means more work on the part of the writer to get the work out there. Many of the smaller presses can take some chances on books, but with a twist. They don't pick up a lot of writers. It is interesting but many of the small presses listed in resource and reference books were established only to sell the books of the owner.

LARGE PRESS - These are the big guns. You have to produce as a writer. You also have to market just as much as with the e-publishing and small presses. The difference though, is that you also get the additional press from the publisher.

Now, where you fit depends a lot on your attitude as a writer. It also depends on your level of writing. I know this sounds like I'm contradicting myself from the earlier comment about artists but wait. Each level of what I just described has some limitations in terms of your writing ability. Not everyone can fit at every level.

I bring this up because too often, I see writers give up because they aren't happy. The lack of happiness comes from trying to fit in at a level they simply don't belong. I applaud writers that tell me they joined RWA or their local writing group because they like to write and they like the social element of things. They learn from the conferences but that is as far as they want to go. These people have figured it out.

So, decide where you can be happy. Sure, we would all love to retire and simply sit around and write, but that is the wild fantasy! Where can you be happy being a writer, not someone who is simply rich?


  1. Hi Scott, I love your blog and read all the time! I need to comment on Independent/Small Press.

    Small or Independent Press is not quite as close to E-Publishing and Self-Publishing as it might have once been. I recently signed a deal with Sourcebooks, who is considered an independent publisher. There are many advantages to being with an independent. Because I am not drowned out by other authors on their list with multi-million dollar marketing budgets, my publishers have the ability to focus much more on unique ways to get my book out there. For a debut author, being published by a *reputable* independent press is an enormous asset to my career. Because of an indie publisher's lack of extensive millions they are very selective of who they choose to take, and thus it is even more important that each author is a success. For a new author signing a deal with a major press, you are really the new fish in a pond of Stephen King's and JK Rowling's.

    Although the editors at large houses do enormous work to promote their debut authors, it still comes down to numbers, and the new author will always have a struggle to get noticed.

    The term 'Small/Independent Press' no longer really means they are small. After years of being listed in Publishers Weekly's top indie presses, Sourcebooks was removed from the list, because their sales were too large to be regarded 'small', despite still carrying the title. Bloomsbury, of Harry Potter fame, also began as an independent house (and may still be - I'm not exactly certain). The Erec Rex books, put out by Firelight Press, amongst only maybe 4 other books, have enjoyed enormous success at major bookstores, were honored by Borders, and recently sold rights to 12+ foreign languages, despite the publisher being independent.

    Although I see exactly where authors would enjoy the higher advance payments and the name that comes along with a major house, I feel that a reputable independent can devote much more time and energy to their new authors, and this attention amounts to loads of potential for the success of their debut.

    Thanks for writing the post!


  2. I fully agree with you on this. I don't want to come across and say that there is anything negative against the independent presses. I simply want to say that they do run things a bit differently.

    Source is a FANTASTIC place to work. One of my writers is there now as one of their debut authors in the Casablanca line. The editors and publisher are great to work with.

    Congrats on the sale!