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Tell Me I’m Pretty

21 March 2016

From author Gene Doucette:

Sometimes we just want someone to tell us we’re pretty.

That’s the conclusion I’ve drawn after many conversations with different authors over the years regarding whether or not to self-publish.  I’m talking about authors writing genre fiction, either with existing fan-bases (from fanfic or their indie books) or just starting from scratch.  These are the writers who should be doing this themselves.

. . . .

For a lot of new authors, self-publishing looks riskier.  Sure, it’s faster and potentially more lucrative, and yes, you have more creative control over the thing you end up publishing… but look at all the things on the other side of the aisle!

A real publisher will produce a well-edited, expertly designed book with a marketing team behind it.  That’s a much better plan.  And to get that kind of deal you’ve gotta get an agent to speak for you, one who can put the book into the right hands, negotiate a strong contract, and line up additional marketing opportunities.  Why pass up the chance for that kind of career for a pie-in-the-sky self-publishing scheme?

The reason why, is that essentially nothing in the last paragraph is true.  I’ll get into why I say that another time, because today what I really want to talk about is the authors who have all this laid out in front of them, generally agree with it, and then try to follow the traditional publishing route anyway.

How this happens is something that’s been bugging me for a while, but here’s what I think may be a factor: I think they want the right person to tell them they’re pretty.

. . . .

In traditional publishing, the people whose opinions matter are called agent, editor, or publisher, and it wasn’t so long ago that theirs was the only opinion that mattered, because if they didn’t think you were pretty, nobody else got an opportunity to weigh in.

That’s no longer true, because self-publishing doesn’t require the advance opinion of anyone in the traditional publishing industry.

This hasn’t stopped a lot of us from seeking that approval anyway, because somehow it means more if someone from a big publisher reads something of ours and declares it good.

Except I’m not so sure it should mean more.

Link to the rest at Gene Doucette

Here’s a link to Gene Doucette’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Self-Publishing, The Business of Writing

16 Comments to “Tell Me I’m Pretty”

  1. Gene, you’re so Purty!

    I love his posts.

  2. The sad part? If people NOW tell me I’m pretty, I won’t believe them. Where were they when I really needed it?

    I want them to tell me my WRITING is pretty. Beautiful. Etc.

    When a few people do, I copy the thing into my Reader Love file, where it can’t disappear (backed up on Dropbox and my external hard drive). I use these to bolster the brain when it gets glum.

    I have gotten it (in small numbers – I’m a rank beginner) from READERS, those lovely creatures.

    I don’t know what I would do if someone ‘important’ called my writing pretty. Probably look VERY carefully at what’s in it for them. TPV has made me look under the hood and kick the tires. And check to see if the odometer has been wound backward.

    • Alicia,

      I want them to tell me my WRITING is pretty.

      That is the reason writers go to a writers’ group. We hold out our manuscript and say, “Look at my beautiful baby.”

      And the group says, “No, your baby is ugly, and you dress it funny.”


      • Chop that one up. Put the nose over here. Ears on opposite sides. Eyes further apart. It needs teeth. Big teeth. Get rid of those teeth. Those arms? Kill those darlings. What? Not enough arms? But…but… 🙂

  3. This is the problem with lack of confidence. You finish writing a book and think – is this good? Great? Crap? And so desperately want someone of authority to turn around and tell you the answer. It takes some time before you realize there is no “authority” beyond the reader.

    If you have produced a good product, all you can do is send it out into the world and see who likes it.

    • …with the understanding that no matter how good it might be, some people won’t like it anyway…

  4. Agents, editors, and publishers are just people too. Do you know what the qualification is for being an editor at HarperCollins UK? You have to be willing to accept terrible wages. My trad author friend’s last editor got sick of the low salary, so she went back to being an entertainer on a cruise ship!

  5. The Big 5 are the new Vanity Publishing, trading lousy contracts for ‘validation’.

  6. When the economics don’t support a position, then something is missing from the analysis. For many people, recognition by an agent, editor, reviewer, or publisher has great value.

    This may be the reason so many authors disregard the advice of independent authors to dump the publishers. It’s not because they are ignorant, or don’t understand what we understand. It’s because they are playing the game for a different prize. They have different standards, and don’t care what our standards are.

  7. Reality Observer

    If I had a theme song, it wouldn’t be “I Wanna Be Loved By You.”

    It would be “Material Girl” (despite my possession of a “Y” chromosome).

    Numbers are very pretty – the more of them there are, the more beautiful they get.

    (No, I am not putting in links, even though I have them. I am not taking the blame for people banging their heads on the walls to get either one of those songs back out.)

  8. “A real publisher will produce a well-edited, expertly designed book with a marketing team behind it.”

    Let me tell you a story about a “real” publisher. I had a nonfiction book published by one of the oldest and largest “real” publishers in the world. A book about a complex subject. They had an editor work on the manuscript about three months, many discussions, corrections, rewrites, etc. At the end of the editing process I provided them with a long list of experts in the field to have the edited manuscript sent out for review. I began to get letters back from the reviewers complaining about the book, typos, clumsy passages, macerated text, etc. With some investigation I discovered this hallowed “real” publisher had sent out for review the UNEDITED original manuscript.

    Now as far as the “marketing team” of this big venerated “real” publisher, we had arguments about whether the book should be pitched to policy makers or to a niche general audience. The marketing team insisted on the niche general audience, and so the book was pitched to such an audience–and bombed because it was over the heads of such an audience.

    The problem with “real” publishers, and I’ve been published by a half dozen of them, is that most of the people in “real” publishing are unreal English majors who should be bookstore clerks and not editors and publishers and bookmarketers–and maybe most of them would not be good at bookstore clerking either–a vocation that does require smarts.

    That’s my take on “real” publishers–all of it IMHO.

    • 1: thanks for sharing that horror story.

      2: I can see why you jumped on that paragraph. However, the first sentence of the next paragraph in the article is “The reason why, is that essentially nothing in the last paragraph is true.”

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