Forgive me if I sound a little exasperated.
Hugh Howey wrote a thing at Salon and it’s a very interesting article and you should go read it. It is, in my probably-not-that-humble opinion, a fascinating mix of artistic wisdom and business fantasy where anecdotal evidence once more becomes artisanal data and we are told that because you can meet 100 very successful self-published authors that is now officially the way to go and oh, by the way, it’s totally the future of all publishing ever.
I distrust fortune-tellers, to be honest.
Mostly because it’s made-up horseshit.
Further, you can’t just canvass a handful of successful people and immediately declare that their success draws the map to the One Shining Path Up Authornuts Mountain. If I talk to 20 traditionally-published bestselling thriller authors, they’re going to say, “Write a thriller, get published by the Big Five.” If I talk to 100 self-published successes, they’re going to say, “Self-publish everything.” If I talk to 100 self-published failures, they’re going to say, “Fuck that noise, I lost my shirt.” If I talk to 100 dentists, they’re going to say, “You should be a dentist, dumb-ass, NOW LET ME EAT YOUR TEETH,” then he’ll eat my teeth because my dentist is actually some kind of teeth-eating monster, but whatever, that’s a story for another time.
Here’s the thing: Howey’s by all reports a very nice guy. And obviously smart as hell. And more than a little lucky. His article is well-written and buried in there is a strong cry to bolster craft and for you, the writer, to write first and foremost for the love of writing.
To which I say: fuck. yeah.
But, he also says stuff like:
But what is becoming more apparent with every passing day is that you have a better chance of paying a bill or two through self-publishing than you do through any other means of publication.
Italics his, not mine.
I self-publish. I do pretty well at it with a number of books (and for those asking, I will have another writing book out within the next three-four months, alongside a book of recipes and essays and Search Term Bingo called Revelations of the Bacon Angel).
I traditionally-publish. I do pretty well at that, too, I think, and actually over the last two years have well-eclipsed anything I made self-publishing.
Just the same, I don’t think one is better than the other.
So, here’s my response, which you already know because I’ve said it a hundred times before but fuck it, I’m nothing if not a fan of reiterating my own bleating and barfing:
Hey, self-publishing is cool!
Traditional publishing is cool, too!
Both have strengths. And also weaknesses.
Not everybody is fit to be their own publisher.
Not everyone is fit to deal with a traditional publisher.
Something-something Kickstarter! And Amazon! And literary agents! And small presses! And big presses! And this genre and that genre! And Wattpad and Book Country and Goodreads and Bookish and Twitter and iBooks and Smashwords and Simon & Schuster and Barnes & Noble and blargh and flargh and zippity-motherfucking-doo-dah!
The reason we don’t put all our eggs in one basket is because broken goddamn eggs!
No one way exists!
Try lots of shit!
Leverage one thing against another thing!
Don’t join cults!
Self-publishing isn’t The Future, it’s One Possible Future!
Educate and inspire instead of segregating and pointing fingers!
Beware easy answers!
This isn’t a war! Nobody has to win!
Write your ass off!