A lot has changed in publishing in the last six years.
Six years ago, when I was busy working away on my novel (the same novel I’m still working on to this day, no thanks to a six-year writing hiatus), I dreamed of someday being a published author.
This dream had a distinguishing look and feel and smell, as the most vivid dreams often do:
It looked like a hardcover book on a bookstore shelf.
It felt like thick, fibrous paper with ragged-cut edges.
It had that new-book smell; it sounded like my mother bragging to all her friends that her daughter’s book new book was destined to be a bestseller.
It tasted of sweet success.
The steps I had to follow to realize this dream constantly knocked around in my head like the chorus of a song: query, agent, revision, submission, contract, revision, revision, revision, release.
This, of course, was assuming I’d actually made it past steps one and four. It was an assumption I was all too happy to make, for if I didn’t, the dream would be dead before it even fully began. This was the only path to publication.
Then, everything changed….
A new road opened up.
“I’ve wanted more than anything to have your respect…. And I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!” (from actress Sally Field’s 1985 Academy Award acceptance speech).
This issue of validation keeps coming up within the traditional vs. self-publishing debate.
For some time now, I’ve been reading various blog posts and articles discussing the merits of one form of publishing compared to the other, particularly as related to the aspirations of unpublished writers.
This debate is nothing new – indeed, it’s been going for so long now as to be almost institutionalized, complete with its own special vocabulary: “gatekeepers”, “credibility”, “the gauntlet”, “vetting process”, “the old guard”, “the new order”, “the publishing revolution”, “the Big 6, 5, 4, etc.”
However, over the past two weeks, a new vocabulary word has appeared on the scene, predominantly in disparaging reference to writers seeking a deal with a traditional publisher:
Or better put: the desire for acceptance by and praise from the agents and editors of traditional publishing as opposed to the potentially greater monetary rewards of self-publishing.
I don’t get Twitter.
Or in Twitter parlance: #IDon’tGetIt.
It is, at face value, actually quite simple: an online venue in which one expresses him-/herself in 140 characters, follows the expressions of others, and categorizes his/her own expressions with hashtags for ease of allowing others to follow him/her.
Indeed, Twitter’s liberal use of symbology – #, @, RT, MT, and links beginning with bit.ly or ow.ly or foreshortened forms of other familiar websites (e.g. amzn, goo.gl, wp) – gives it less the air of a web service and more that of a futuristic language.
And who doesn’t think it’s cool to be bi-/tri-/multilingual?
I get all that.
I also get that Twitter’s a great way to keep up with news, which is the primary reason I joined up in the first place.
What I don’t understand is how some people manage to actually get said news.
Because there is just so much of it.
“What’s your novel about?”
Four simple words that never fail to strike terror in my heart.
Part of this is because such a simple query is seeking an equally concise reply – the dreaded “elevator pitch”, which is an art form of brevity on par with the haiku and the perfectly witty Tweet. Plus, I’m almost never as glib a speaker as I wish when put on the spot like that.
As well, I dislike stating definitively that my WIP is the story of XYZ, when the end result may well come to be significantly different.
Stories are like life: more possibilities and purpose emerge the further along you go. And just like life, it’s rather invalid to summarize the meaning of it all before it has approached its ultimate end.
Finally, I fear opening myself up to premature criticism of my plot through my inability to properly explain it while still in progress. Or conversely, premature interest, and subsequent probing questions.
As a result of all this, when Australian historical fiction author Debbie Robson asked me to participate in the blog meme known as The Next Big Thing, I said, “Sure.”
Because why be consistent with one’s own personality traits?
Admittedly, I did offer the caveat that my answers would be vague, superstitious, and paranoiac since I am indeed all of the above. Furthermore, having since put my blog on its 600-word diet gives me even more of an excuse to be equivocal. Thus, without further ado: