by: Joelle Charbonneau
So – here at DSD we have talked about reviews and how they are just one person’s opinion. We talk about agents, editors and rejection. There has been more than one conversation about self-publishing e-books and how the industry is changing. We are a full service shop when it comes to writing chat. We don’t pull our punches. We say what we think. Sometimes it gets us in trouble. Sometimes not. Today – well, I’m probably headed for trouble. But I’m a red head. I can’t help myself.
Last week I finished another novel. This was not a contracted novel. It wasn’t even close to the same genre I am publishing in now. I had an idea for this book and I decided to try my hand at writing it even though I doubted whether or not I could master the world building and the voice necessary for the task. Had this been three years ago, I would never have attempted writing this story. Heck, even a year ago I would have probably filed it in the “interesting idea that some day I might want to think about” file. I wouldn’t have had the confidence in myself as a writer to take a leap of faith and give it a go.
Being published is a lot like being a professional performer. Some days you find validation from the powers that be and some days you are kicked to the curb. I can’t tell you how I felt after landing my first professional theatrical job. Someone wanted to pay me to sing and dance on the stage! All the rejections I received up until that moment faded away because someone said yes. Did I know I was a good performer before then? Sure. I had a resume of high school and college shows to prove it. I had confidence in my abilities. But landing my first professional show made me feel validated. Being able to call myself a professional paid actress/singer and list that credit on my resume strengthened my confidence no matter how many rejections (and there were too many to count) I received.
Rightly or wrongly, landing my first professional publishing contract gave me that same kind of validation. I believed in my writing before that contract. Hell, if I didn’t I wouldn’t have sent it out to agents or editors in the first place. But as much as I believed in myself, learning that someone else in the industry (who was willing to pay me) thought my writing had merit was a huge boost. A boost that strengthened my confidence enough for me to put aside my doubts about my ability to write in this new genre. I’m glad it did.
But I got to thinking. In our discussions about e-self-publishing (or indie or whatever we want to call it) we’ve talked about pricing and quality and about the brave new world that has opened up in front of authors. But so many of the e-self-published authors I know, some who have racked up hundreds and often thousands of sales, don’t seem to shake the nagging sense of self-doubt at never receiving a traditional publishing contract. They never walked into the theater and had the director give them the validation that they were good enough. A lot of truly talented singers and actors I know never got that moment of validation. They performed in a few smalls show, eventually took a better day job and drifted away from the industry always wondering what might have been. In this brave new world of publishing, I wonder if we’ll see many of the independently e-published authors do the same.
I’m not saying e-self-pubbing is bad. Far from it. I think it gives lots of opportunities for books that don’t fit into traditional genres and story collections that deserve to be read. But I wonder about the authors who (like me – because I freely admit I am neurotic) need validation beyond reader reviews and Amazon numbers. Will they keep writing? Or will they like so many of the performers I know change course and always look back wondering what might have been?