I hope she likes worms, because she’s opened a whole can of them. During a recent interview ( http://www.huffingt onpost.co. uk/2012/04/ 04/jodi-picoult- lone-wolf- interview_ n_1403190. html) she was asked:
“Q: What do you say to people who want to emulate your success and want to be writers themselves?
A: My current advice is to not self-publish. It’s still too hard for people to separate the wheat from the chaff, and what you miss out on is the marketability that is afforded to you by a brick and mortar publisher. There’s a lot of crap out there, and one day we may find a way to segregate well written self published fiction from that stuff which anyone can throw on Amazon, but I just don’t think we’re there yet. Let me put it to you this way. The anomalies of self published fiction, the Amanda Hockings of this world – what did they do with their next book? Do they self publish it? No – they make sure they get a publisher.”
My my. I wonder if that makes me chaff? I’ve been chuffed before, but never chaffed. Oddly enough in an interview *I* just did for Book Lovin Babes (http://bookluvinbabes.wordpress.com/) one of the questions was concerning backlash from publishers, and if I had gotten any. My answer there was no, not from publishers, but surprisingly enough (and I quoted Ms Picoult’s answer there too) most of the flak has come from authors. Actually, all of the flak has come from authors.
I was partly guilty myself, two years ago, of thinking that self publishing was just another form of vanity press. After all, we dinosaurs who have been in print for over 25 years were conditioned to believe that to be acknowledged as a good writer, one had to be in print. Publishing Houses live by that mantra, that’s how they survive. Some readers refuse to look at Kindles or iPads or Nooks for the same reason, they believe an author is not an author unless one can pick up a book, crack the spine, and flip the pages.
Well. I’m here as living proof that things and people and attitudes can most definitely change. I was prompted to test the ebook market with my first three out of print backlist books and I haven’t looked back since. My most recent book has gone straight to digital, bypassing print altogether and I’m happy as a little pig in….a pen. I’ve encouraged other authors to test the waters as well… Virginia Henley, Jill Metcalf still wear my bootprint on their butts.
In my case, I was able to write and publish a book (The Following Sea) that was rejected by a traditional publishing house. I was told pirate books were no longer in fashion, that readers did not want books in that genre anymore. Virginia had a plantation book (Master of Paradise) that she had been told the same thing. Jill Metcalf writes sweet, sexy homespuns but she’s been away from writing longer my own eight year hiatus and Berkley dropped her line of books.
I have no doubt Ms Picoult was directing her comments to brand new never been published authors… and she specifically mentions Amanda Hocking going from self publishing to print publishing, suggesting she did so to become validated as an author. To that I send a huge wet raspberry. Amanda was a blazing success on her own with no help from traditional publishers and certainly did not need to go into print to feel validated. It was her choice to sign with a traditional house. It was my choice to self publish The Following Sea. It is the reader’s choice to pick up a print book or to download an ebook, and the reader’s freedom to choose whether she wants to try an Indie author or an established author.
Ms Picoult implies…well, actually she states quite plainly that “there is a lot of crap out there” and while it’s true there may be some brand new authors who haven’t done all their homework as far as editing and revising and hiring professionals to copyedit and do covers etc…they’ll find out quickly enough that they DO have to do all their homework or they simply won’t sell. There is also a whole great whack of damn good authors who, in a perfect world, would have no trouble getting published by a traditional publishing house. But as in every other aspect of life these days, there have been drastic cutbacks and some of the Big Six have gone from publishing 300 books a month to 30. Some have dropped their programs altogether for buying and nurturing new authors. Some have their slots filled and have no room for the quirky, interesting, new writings from untried authors. Some have spent so much luring in the Big Name authors like Ms Picoult with bazillion dollar advances, that they simply have nothing left in the budget for new authors. It’s a pretty grim Catch 22 situation: they need the Big Names to guarantee sales, to keep their printing presses running, but it costs so much to snag those Big Names, they have to cut back on midlist and new talent.
But where are those stranded authors supposed to go? Does Ms Picoult imply they should simply shelve their manuscripts and wait for the industry to change back to the old system? Won’t happen. Won’t ever happen. The change has happened already and if the electronic marketplace seems to be flooded with us chaffy people, its because we’re all breathing a huge sigh of relief that those manuscripts can come off the shelves.
It’s not up to the authors or the publishing houses to decide what the readers want anymore. It’s up to the readers to choose what they want to read and there’s a whole new world of ebooks and authors out there waiting to be discovered.
Some of my early books made the rounds of every publishing house I could think of back when I was first starting out, but back then there was no other alternative to print publishing. You either got accepted or you stuffed another rejection letter into the folder.
Authors have a choice now. They can send out that manuscript and risk getting rejected for reasons that might have nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of their writing… or they can publish the book themselves and try to carve out a little niche for themselves. Not every self pubbed author is an Amanda Hocking, nor will they see that kind of success, but frankly, I’m shocked at the arrogance of someone who would cavalierly make a blanket statement telling people to not even try. Especially since not every print author is a Jodi Picoult and won’t see her level of success either.