"A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit." ~Richard Bach
"When asked, 'How do you write?' I invariably answer, 'One word at a time.'" ~Stephen King
"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself." ~Leo Tolstoy
"I wish I could write as mysterious as a cat." ~Edgar Allan Poe
"You have to know how to accept rejection, and reject acceptance." ~Ray Bradbury
"I think I'll put some mountains here. Otherwise, what will the characters have to fall off of?" ~Laurie Anderson
"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep." ~Scott Adams
"To be all that we are, and to become all that we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life." ~RL Stevenson
"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." ~Groucho Marx
"The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say." ~Anais Nin
"Not all of me is dust. Inside my song, safe from the worm, my spirit will survive." ~Aleksandr Pushkin
"The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources." ~Albert Einstein
Jun
07

Politics & Writing

By Loren L. Coleman

I like politics. Okay…I love politics. Mostly, I think, because I enjoy a good argument…or a bad argument…so long as I get to participate. I don’t think I slept much for the first 48 hours of the Gore v. Bush fiasco. Kris Rusch and I were emailing and calling each other until late in the night, complaining and arguing and really living in the experience. Same with the Obama v. McCain election night. Fun stuff.

In fact, some of my friends still can’t believe I didn’t go into politics. You know, professionally. But I like to at least try to win EVERY argument I’m in, and in politics that just isn’t possible. In this day, you have to toe the party line and defend what might be a poor–or even stupid–position as part of the “bigger picture.” Which is why I’ve often voted on the left as well as on the right. I owe my allegiance to the argument, not to a preferred, party answer.

Yeah, I’d make a poor career politician. But I’d likely flame out in an interesting manner.

Still, in all my watching and commenting and studying, I have never quite wrapped my brain around the emergence of the two-party hatred until just recently. And it was the current self-publishing debate that started to really firm it up for me.

There’s been a lot of discussion about self-publishing, and how this will cause a civil war between two writer camps. Don’t kid yourself. It’s not likely to remain very civil. I have good friends who have embraced self-publishing and some of the other “new experience” arguments, like forgoing agents and challenging New York status quo. And they are doing quite well. I have other friends with a definite bias toward being a “New York published writer.” I personally see nothing wrong with taking advantage of either system/side of the aisle. The more important thing is to be informed so that you, as an author and small business owner can make a well-informed decision. It just seemed to make sense to me, that most people would want more information.

Apparently not.

I’ve seen a growing number of professional feuds starting up. Entrenched writers lashing out as if the self-publishing trend somehow threatens them or personally offends them. Indie writers proselytizing as if they are the mountain coming to Muhammed. And lots of invective on both sides as neither wants to admit to the weaknesses of their own argument, or recognize the strengths of their opponents.

Seriously, this is feeling very One State Two State, Red State Blue State.

This might have reached that moment of mental critical mass for me yesterday, with the news of a writing website that banned some writers who were merely trying to pass along information as they saw it from the Indie Publishing side. And they didn’t just ban them, they did it with the full fervor of protestors swinging placards at someone trying to cross their line.

Has it devolved into a Meet The Press topic yet? No. I don’t think so. But then, professional politics has had centuries to devolve into the adversarial mud-slinging contest it is today. And because of the two-party system, each side does have an entrenched position, the pursuit of which is constantly under threat from the other side. Self-publishing upsets the status quo, sure. But I don’t see your book deal affecting my ability and business plan to put a collection of my short fiction on the Kindle, or the other guy’s 99 cent catalog extravaganza stopping me from signing a well-paying contract with New York. I want information. I would think that we all should.

Information doesn’t kill careers. Only not writing does that.

Anyway, it’s been bothering me, but also challenging me in that same strange, warped place in my brain that makes me like watching political debates, campaigns, and commentaries. Enough to get me back to my website to write my first major blog post, anyway. And at this time maybe I’m not adding much to the discourse, but to the commentary. That’s okay, though.

It’s going to be a great argument.

Comments

  1. Very good post, Loren.

    I too have experienced this even though I make it clear publishing indie and in NY is perfectly fine and appropriate. I’m not exactly sure what the issue is expect it may be due to an old pecking order that existed long before the indie of today. My perception is it goes like this:

    NY
    small press print (though some, not all, now include e-pub)
    small press e-pub only
    indie pub (there are a few hold overs from the warehouse model but not many)
    vanity press

    In each level of this pecking order there are perceived levels of quality. And there’re anomalies such as Amanda Hocking or that one vanity book that was picked up by NY.

    I know a number of writers who feel if they aren’t pubbed by NY they aren’t writers. And worse if they don’t have an agent they aren’t a writer. Silliness.

    It’s really an interesting time to be a writer, but there are new myths morphing from the old ones so you really have to study and listen to those ahead of you in this business and continue to learn and guard against falling into any of these old myths.

    Sorry, I can’t make any wise observations about American politics being Canadian.

  2. First off, thanks for the link to my article. It’s worth following the link from mine to Robin’s write up about this, too, if you’re interested. But basically, Loren’s version is a good “nutshell” description.

    As for why? I can understand it.

    We’re talking about people who, collectively, have enormous emotional, professional, and psychological investment in what they are doing. From the newbie who’s read and absorbed the “Writer’s Digest” model of writing (write book, get agent, agent sells book, writer gets paid and becomes an Author) to the old hands who’ve invested perhaps decades into this model – there’s a huge sense of personal identity tied up in the method and model of becoming a professional writer which until recently, most folks had to follow.

    And suddenly, folks are walking in saying no, that’s all changed. Now anyone can publish, and if they publish a good book, they can become a pro writer. Without an agent. Without angst over scores of rejection letters. Without even bothering to have the book vetted by anyone except the readers. This is a completely alien mindset to the way things were. So the responses tend to be extremely emotional, highly charged with fear and anger.

    There was always some anger on the indie side as well, from writers who were burned by publishers or agents before turning to self publishing. But that anger was limited, and now it’s being further fueled. Fueled by folks like the Absolute Write people you mentioned. Fueled by professional organizations like the Romance Writers of America, Science fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, Novelists Inc., Author’s Guild, and more who deliberately exclude self publishers from the ranks of “professional writer” members. Fueled by every small snide comment made by someone vested in traditional/legacy publishing.

    I’m not angry. I’m more than a little sad, really. There shouldn’t be a need for the fear. I don’t think there’s need for the snide or demeaning comments, either. On either side. For the indie publishers out there, remember: living well is the best revenge (George Herbert). Try to stay clear of the fighting, if you can, or at least try not to speak out in anger. But stay true to your own goals; don’t let someone else’s put-downs shake your faith in yourself.

  3. Silver Bowen says:

    Ooohhh…

    “new experience”.

    The New Experience.

    I’m a sucker for slogans, movements, labels and so on. The power of putting a name to an ill-defined thing is intoxicating. I really, really like this term as a catch-all for the post-digital-transition, monopoly-free period we are in (or entering, depending on how forward looking you are feeling).

    Especially because post-digital-transition is such a mouthful. The New Experience, the other side of this particular singularity. Sounds so… legitimate, huh? Almost organized, unified, even.

    http://silverbowen.blogspot.com
    twitter @silverbowen

  4. Carradee says:

    I agree, about seeing nastiness to come. I even wrote a blog post saying as much May 26th, before that incident you mention happened. (Though the final trigger for the post was something I’d seen on that same forum.)

    I’ve seen some nasty arguments even among folks on the same “side”. Like, they have the selfsame position, just a slightly nuanced opinion on it—and it still devolves into vitriol. Don’t we have enough things to be angry and argumentative about without picking fights? *sighs*

    Debates are fine. I like debates. But outright angry arguments? Not so much. Just my 2 cents.

  5. Loren L. Coleman says:

    Thanks for the comments, Russ, Carradee, Silver, and Kevin.

    I liked the “New Experience” moniker as well. Mostly because that what it feels like to me. I’ve published quite a few books, and have been knocking around in the industry for 18 years or so. All the pieces still fit where they are supposed to go, but there are definitely some shinier edges on a couple. At least for me. It’s what brought me back after a few years’ hiatus.

    Kevin, I’m with you on the sad part. THough maybe not as deeply. Some people are starting to fall into the too-stupid-to-keep-their-careers category for me. Those are the ones that make me shake my head. If you are established and doing well and can continue to do well with TradPub, more power to you! But when someone is flailing and sliding backward, or not swimming on their own, and instead of grabbing hold of SelfPub to stay afloat they start lobbing rocks at it–big heavy rocks, as if they are lightening their own pockets–I question their methods and have little sympathy.

    I think I’ll just continue to put out information that may help a few of them. And smile as I argue my position to make New Experience publishing a part of every writer’s potential business.