On my way home today a bus buddy made a comment to me. In conversation she clarified that a “real” author was someone published and on the bookshelves at our local bookstore. Now, to be clear, it was part of a conversation and not a deliberate jab at me. But, as many of you will understand I’m sure, it certainly irked me. I know plenty of you out there read because you adore being swept away to other lands. I also know plenty of you dream of being a writer. Here’s how you become a writer.
Here’s how you become a novelist.
You complete a novel.
Here’s how you become a published author.
You publish your work, be it via the indie route or the traditional route.
To be clear, at no point does having a publisher make you any more real than any other author. I am published. My books are available for stocking on shelves. The only reason they aren’t is because the bookstore doesn’t consider them financially viable. However, if I hit the top 100 on Amazon – entirely of my own accord – they will have my books on their shelves in a flash.
Traditional publishers are exactly the same. They don’t choose a book because they think the author has crafted the most exquisite work ever seen to mankind. They choose books because they fit with current trends and therefore stand a good chance of making them (the publisher) money. Plenty of amazing books are left to die in the slush-pile because they are not currently financially viable. There’s that word again “financially”. Publishers run a business. To be able to publish more books they HAVE to sell books. So even if they personally adore an incredibly wrought literary masterpiece, if they can’t see a market for it they won’t publish it.
I myself sent my first novel, The Arrival, to publishers while making the cardinal mistake of sending my first draft… please, don’t EVER make that mistake – and yet I got requests for samples from three publishers. However at the time I received those requests I’d just read a fascinating article on JA Konrath’s blog about why you should go indie. It resonated with me, so I decided to do the crazy scary thing of going indie. Now, I can’t imagine I’d ever consider traditional, unless I had a very tight contract to my specifications.
Being Indie means I own ALL my work. It also means I am responsible for every aspect of my work. It’s here where I understand the attractiveness of going the traditional way – someone else does the frustrating, time consuming stuff for you. Indie is definitely NOT for everyone. It requires a ridiculous amount of determination and tenacity. It also requires that you grow skin as thick as a rhino’s butt. This takes time, but it does happen (moisturize daily ;p).
In short, to any writers out there feeling like a fraud because you haven’t got a contract/finished a story/taken the leap to indie, don’t. Just keep working at your projects then take whatever step suits you best next. If becoming the next big thing on Wattpad is your goal then take that plunge, put your work up! If having your name alongside the Random House imprint is your goal then send those queries off! If tackling the world on your own is your idea of fun (special kind of crazy there.. ;p) then do it, PUBLISH your work online, by yourself.
The only “real” writer is the one who writes. An author is only an author because they write. Get writing!