I’m hopelessly late to the party about the piece in HuffPo condemning self-publishing. I almost wonder if it was written just to go viral because Gough knew there would be many biting responses (and possibly also many who agree). Well, FWIW, here’s another one.

Let me start by acknowledging that I’m a hybrid author. I use that term to mean that I’m both self-published and published by, well, publishers. (I think some others use “hybrid” to mean other things, and the truth is the terminology in publishing has become muddied overall and can be problematic, but that’s another blog post entirely.) While I’m pleased that some publishers have seen fit to take on my work, I’ve done better with my self-published material. By “better” I mean I’ve sold more. That’s one of the only concrete metrics we have when it comes to writing since it’s so subjective. We fixate on numbers—sales, units printed/sold, how many reviews/stars—because those are tangible. We take them as an indication of “good” or “not good” via a kind of sliding scale. But in reality, “good” isn’t quantifiable. It’s entirely based on personal preference.

Now let’s just look at some of Gough’s claims:

To get a book published in the traditional way, and for people to actually respect it and want to read it — you have to go through the gatekeepers of agents, publishers, editors, national and international reviewers. These gatekeepers are assessing whether or not your work is any good. Readers expect books to have passed through all the gates, to be vetted by professionals. This system doesn’t always work out perfectly, but it’s the best system we have.

1. This assumes that readers only respect and want to read traditionally published books. That’s clearly not true since some self-published authors sell plenty of books and make plenty of money. (“Plenty” also being subjective.) Someone is buying self-published books.

2. This also assumes that agents, publishers, editors, and reviewers hold the corner on what is “good” or not. As we’ve already discussed, that’s a highly personal matter. Even agents, publishers, editors, and reviewers don’t agree on what’s good. And what about all the self-published books that get rave reviews? Or are we going to begin arguing about which reviewers “count”? Are we going to say that some readers have “no taste”? That’s not possible. Everyone has taste, just not the same taste. And no one’s taste is more valid than any other’s. This is one time when it really is a matter of opinion.*

3. Another assumption: readers expecting books to be vetted before they buy. Well, yes, if I’m buying a book published by [insert Big 5 Publisher here] I have that expectation. If I’m buying a self-published book I certainly hope it’s been edited and all that, but I admit my expectations are not as high. Maybe they should be, but . . . I’m just being honest here.

4. “It’s the best system we have.” Really? It’s a system that is primarily worried about making money, not about promoting “good” art. So, in truth, something half-assed that will sell still makes it through over something really well written that has a smaller audience. Does that mean the well-written book doesn’t deserve to be published? Because that’s the system that’s being touted here.

The article goes on to talk about how a good writer must put in thousands of hours, years of work in order to hone his or her craft. Okay, with this I agree. You should not immediately go self-publish that book after the first draft. You need to get feedback, possibly hire a freelance editor, etc. But in the context of this article, Gough just sounds bitter that she took the time to “do it right” and others are doing it faster and still seeing some success.

Or perhaps, as she mentions being an editor, she’s sour that some self-published authors don’t use editors or an editing service of some kind. I agree that can be a problem. (I also used to be an editor.) But to condemn all self-published work because some isn’t well edited is a terrible generalization.

In fact, the entire article is a generalization. It makes a sweeping assumption that all self-published work is crap that couldn’t hack it in the “real” publishing world. As if there is such thing as “real” and “fake” publishing.

The only similarity between published and self-published books is they each have words on pages inside a cover. The similarities end there. And every single self-published book I’ve tried to read has shown me exactly why the person had to resort to self-publishing. These people haven’t taken the decade, or in many cases even six months, to learn the very basics of writing, such as ‘show, don’t tell,’ or how to create a scene, or that clichés not only kill writing but bludgeon it with a sledgehammer. Sometimes they don’t even know grammar.

Sure, some of these writers haven’t learned the craft and should probably do a bit more work before pushing that “publish” button on Amazon. But to say every single self-published book tells me she either hasn’t tried to read very many or has chosen the worst ones, probably just to prove her point.

She then quotes Brad Thor as saying, “If you’re a good writer and have a great book you should be able to get a publishing contract.” Well, that’s nice, but it’s not realistic. As mentioned previously, publishers are looking for something that sells, which isn’t always something “good.” And as the big publishers merge and shrink and smaller publishers fold under financial stress, there are fewer shots at a publishing contract even for “good writers and great books.”

I understand the general frustration of seeing poorly written work for sale online. But let’s look at this in terms of movies. Is an independently produced film—one funded by the writer and/or director using actors trying to make names for themselves—any less of a film than one produced by a major studio? Sometimes they’re bad, yeah. The quality can be lacking. But sometimes they’re wonderful and unique and couldn’t get a break with the majors because the majors all want blockbuster superhero films. And sometimes the majors make really terrible films, too. So it is with books. There are great little self-published books and dreadful ones. There are splashy traditionally published books with big names on them and atrocious ones where you wonder what they were thinking when they made it. And you can argue that you’ve seen more bad indie movies than bad studio films, and maybe that’s true. But you can’t honestly say there are no good indie movies ever. Nor can you say that of self-published books.

*Excepting grammar. Spelling and grammar are not a matter of taste or opinion.

The winter break is over and my kids went back to school today. I’d say things are getting back to normal, but they aren’t, really—just before the holidays, my youngest broke his leg. So he has a full-leg cast and is in a wheelchair, has to be carried up and down the stairs and to and from the bathroom (well, he can use his wheelchair in the downstairs bathroom). I’m definitely getting my weightlifting in.

Still, I’ve managed to make progress with my work over the break, partly because we were more housebound than planned. We couldn’t do all the outings we’d originally thought to do, what with one of us in a wheelchair, and then the rain set in and kept us mostly indoors as well. This allowed me to finish rewrites on Brynnde and send ARCs to my brave volunteers. If you’d like to be an advance reader for my books, be sure to sign up for my newsletter there on the sidebar; I offer ARCs when I have new releases.

Now it’s back to The Great Divide (aka Changers 2). Time to get back into the swing . . . I hope you’ve had a productive start to your year as well!

InsecureWritersSupportGroup It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Read and support writers by clicking here, and if you’re a writer you can also join!

Last year I had two books and one short story published. This year I plan to publish at least one book, and I hope to finish a couple other manuscripts. I’m feeling hopeful about that.

Last year I attended two conferences. This year I’m not sure if I’ll be able to attend any (unless invited as a guest). I feel a little sad about that.

How are you feeling going into the new year?

Question of the Month: What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?

All of them?

I think too much advice hobbles the writer, stems the natural flow. Or, rather, I think too many rules at the wrong time do. Rules are important. Rules of grammar, and then also how to handle character and plot and pacing and description. But if a writer goes in worried about all the rules, he or she can become paralyzed, afraid to do anything because it might be “wrong.” And there’s no wrong way to write. At least not at first.

So here is MY rule: Write. Don’t look at advice or how-to or anything else until you’ve written it. THEN go back and figure out what needs to be fixed. I go into more detail about this and the writing/submission process in this guest post. I hope you’ll give it a read.

If you haven’t read Manifesting Destiny yet, well, I won’t tell you again that you should. But . . . you should.

The story is of a teen girl named Cee who discovers she has a dragon inside her. The dragon is named Livian, and he’s snarky and he sometimes convinces Cee to do or say things she wouldn’t otherwise do.

I like to think we all have a dragon. We all have . . . Let’s call it “attitude.” And the struggle in life is knowing how and when to use it.

Cee’s problem is deciding whether to keep her dragon. She’s not sure she can control him or tame him or learn to work with him. He’s kind of scary, and Cee worries he might actually start to control her instead.

That’s adolescence for you. All those scary feelings rise to the surface and sometimes it’s like they’ll overwhelm you if you can’t learn to tamp them down.

But here’s the thing. Cee’s friends want her to get rid of Livian. They frame it as concern for Cee, but it’s probably just as much that they’re uncomfortable with the way Cee is behaving, with this new side of her personality.

And that’s what happens, too, sometimes. People want you to conform. They want you to behave in ways that keep them comfortable, even if it means not being true to yourself. And sometimes they’re right. Like, your dragon shouldn’t eat anyone. That’s fair. But just because he says something you don’t like?

In Manifesting Destiny, Cee comes into her own and begins to bond with Livian. Should she get rid of him just to please everyone else? Should she try to be someone she’s not or learn to be more of who she really is—only better?

My goal with Manifesting Destiny was to create an empowering story about how it’s okay to be you. Sometimes it’s not easy and others won’t understand, but your true friends will accept you and help you, not demand that you change.

You contribute to this world by being who you are, not by trying to be the same as anyone else.

Purchase Manifesting Destiny on Amazon. Also available at other major online retailers, or ask your local bookstore.

Here we are on the brink of yet another new year. Get the hell out, 2016! It’s been a tough year for a lot of reasons, but I prefer to look on the bright side of things. I accomplished a lot as a writer in 2016. I had two books published by two different small publishers, and I attended my first conference as a guest author/panelist (not my first conference ever, but my first as a participant in the overall program). I also got to enjoy the Writer’s Digest Conference. I was a guest on two podcasts as well, and I met a lot of great new author friends and found a new critique group.

But now I want to look ahead to 2017. What are my writing goals now?

  1. Publish Brynnde
  2. Finish and submit Changers: The Great Divide
  3. Finish Hamlette
  4. Write another Sherlock Holmes story

That may not seem like a lot, but I’m not a fast writer. So this is plenty enough to fill my plate for now. If by some miracle I manage to accomplish all this, I’ll re-evaluate what to do next. But for now this is enough to start.

And I’m really excited that I got a Momentum Planner to help me keep track of my goals this year, too! It will help me break things down into steps so I stay on track.

Do you have goals for the coming year? Career, personal, or both? Tell me about them in the comments! And Happy New Year!

I wanted to look at the highlights from the past year in regards to my writing. Some months are omitted because nothing in particular happened then.

January: The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller published
March: invitation to be a guest author at InD’Scribe
April: Changers: Manifesting Destiny accepted by Evernight Teen
June: short story “Aptera” published on Aurora Wolf
August: Manifesting Destiny published; Writer’s Digest conference
September: Manifesting Destiny comes out in print
October: InD’Scribe
December: I finish the draft of Brynnde

I know many found this to be a difficult year (and I had my share of struggles), but looking at the positive can help. What were your highlights this year, writing or otherwise?

I’ve written before about my particular connection to this novel, which is about rabbits in search of a new warren. I read it in sixth grade. I was attending a private school at the time, one so small that the fifth and sixth grades were together in one room, and even still there were only 11 of us.

This was the kind of school where girls wore skirts (though there was no set uniform, just many rules), and each morning we had to kneel to be sure our skirts touched the floor. We had to memorize long passages from the biblical book of Proverbs. We took a character-building class that featured a lot of Zig Ziglar. Physical education for the girls consisted of ballet. Lots and lots of ballet. And cheerleading. I won academic awards in Science and History as well as one for “Thoroughness,” whatever that was supposed to mean. That I did my homework completely? Seriously, no idea.

My classmates liked that I could draw (Garfield and a dog based on the same general idea as Garfield) and asked me to show them how.

And they wondered about this big book I was reading. So one day, as we were sitting outside, I told them the story of Watership Down. They were intrigued and began to call me Hazel-Rah. Then they began adopting rabbit names for themselves, too, until every recess was a game of running up and down the playground hill pretending to be rabbits. The boys were Efrafa and raided our warren and we chased them away, again and again.

The teachers and administration were disturbed. There was nothing really wrong with the game, or the book, but that it had created such furor, and that it was so out of the ordinary . . . bothered them.

The next year I was moved to the public school system. An unmitigated disaster. But later some of those students who’d been in sixth grade with me joined me again in high school. (The private school had suffered some schism in its congregation and been unable to sustain itself.) They remembered me as Hazel-Rah, and I remembered them by their rabbit names, and it felt like a small victory. I had outlasted the place that had condemned me for my broad imagination and my desire to spread it to the masses.

2016 has been a crap year on a number of fronts, but its harshness is most quantified by the long list of famous people who have passed away over these 12 months. Just today we lost Carrie Fisher, but we also lost Richard Adams, author of Watership Down. The Black Rabbit of Inlé has come to fetch him home. May he enjoy green fields and primroses everlasting.