Feb 13, 2012

Two Kinds of People

Okay, I confess. I really have a soft spot in my heart for puns and simple jokes. There's just something elegant and quaint about them, like dressing a frog up in a tux and having him sing "Hello my baby, hello my darling..."

God, I love that cartoon.


The ones that I've been recently trying to explain to my 11 year old daughter are the "how many (insert social context here) does it take to screw in a lightbulb?" Which also has led into the "there are X kinds of people..." jokes.

Such as, "there are three kinds of people; those who understand math, and those who don't." Or, "there are 10 kinds of people; those who understand binary and those who don't", or (my favorite) "there are two kinds of people, those who procrastinate and..."

One of the conversations I see going on a lot lately is about people who self-publish. I know, I talk about this a lot, and I really do try to talk about other things - I promise - but this is kind of a red-letter topic, so here we are.

The biggest challenge with self-publishing, I think, is that first word: Self. In the trad-pub world (term used to describe the current corporate industry of publishing, not intended to imply that this is the way things have always been done), authors get paid a nifty chunk of money ("nifty chunk" being used here loosely, of course) to do little more than write, make suggested corrections, lather rinse repeat. It's a nice chance to focus on one's work, I suppose.

On the other side of things, we have this renewed breed of authors who are once again doing it all themselves, just like it was back in the day. Write, oversee edits, design covers, manage the marketing aspects, start to finish, top to bottom managing of their authorial franchise.

I think this is the part that really kind of terrifies most authors. There's something kind of comforting and reassuring about having a lot of the day to day details cared for, with a small sacrifice of control, to have a publishing house run the show, shake the hands, make the deals, put your books on the shelves, and so forth. And perhaps some day I might look into that as an option as well, I can't really rule anything out.

But even if you're an author who's been picked up by a publisher, one still needs to be aware of how the whole process works. I see a lot of writers who lose the one-to-one contact with their reader base (obviously not easy to do when one sells thousands of copies of their books every month), but many of these are picking up that slack by attending conventions, using "the twitter" and "the facebook", and drawing that gap closer to closed.

If you're a writer and you haven't gone to conventions; haven't sat down at a table and talked with complete strangers about your books; haven't submitted the occasional manuscript for review or query... well, please do this. Don't delay. Put your work out there and get a couple critical responses, get a bad review, get rejected. Don't fear that.

You need to learn how to accept that not everyone is going to love your work. It's subjective. It's the nature of art, sometimes there are people who aren't going to like it as much as you do. And the process of coming to terms with that very thing is....well, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it's absolutely ESSENTIAL to being able to do what you do for very long at all.

Otherwise - and I'm probably going to get hate email for saying this - if you don't want to get rejected, the only way to really avoid it is to never put your work - or yourself - out there at all. Just stay home, do your thing and don't let anyone know you do it. Because the moment you try and take one step on the lowest rung of the ladder that leads towards your success, there are going to be a thousand people trying to pull you back. Maybe they don't like or get it; maybe your stuff needs more work. Sometimes, they'll try and knock you down for no other reason than that you're trying to get up.

In the end, it doesn't matter. Taking the first step is the first step. Taking 101 attempts to discover the light bulb still results in a light bulb, not just 100 ways to not invent a light bulb.

Really, there's just one kind of successful person: the one who isn't so afraid to fail that they never try in the first place.

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