What the Vote Tells Writers About Ourselves
Much has been said of Donald Trump’s recent election as president of the U.S.
I think it can be used to illustrate the self-publishing environment, with some worldview implications that are very interesting.
The ebook market of the last decade or so has been deluged in material, especially from small-scale authors. It’s no longer necessary to get an agent or sign a publishing contract; all that’s needed to get your words in front of people is a few basic tech resources and a document of text.
Authors (typically) like this, and I think one of the reasons is they can do what they want.
People want to do what they want
Now writers can tell the story they want to tell, without having a marketing editor tell them it won’t sell. If they want to ignore their editor’s advice, they can – even if that’s not a good idea. If they want to design their own cover, they can – even if many on the internet tell them (at length) that that won’t work well.
Freedom = letting people do things
In the recent presidential campaign, Donald Trump’s primary appeal (apart from the flagrant promises of Republican idealism, which I don’t believe anyway) was that he was doing it his way. He not only dissed the Democratic party establishment, he dissed the Republican establishment, and everyone in between. He was going to win, and on his terms, dangit, not by doing what the professionals and “experts” said he needed to.
Does this always have good results? Just ask anybody on the internet about that…
But as long as you aren’t stepping on my toes, all I can do is tell you what looks like the best choice, and let you do what you want.
If you’re determined to sign a Big Three contract for your new paranormal vampire-werewolf love triangle mystery? Just don’t make me read it. If you pay $1000+ for just the right editor for your memoir about being an aquarium curator? You go! (I’m not footing the bill.)
That’s the idea of freedom. That’s what the Declaration of Independence says:
All citizens have the right to pursue happiness. Not the right to be happy.
This isn’t about telling you who I voted for — this is about us taking a good, hard look at ourselves. No matter who you voted for, it was probably because you wanted to (even if the desire stemmed from an overwhelming fear of the opposite candidate).
We want to do things our way. We also want others to do things our way. These two extremes will not live happily ever after!
Do I wish the market weren’t flooded with independent offerings all clamoring for attention? Of course! I want my hard-wrought books to flourish, doggone it! But…
Freedom for all = freedom for all
Apparently the gate-keepers of traditional publishing are not best pleased with the competition offered by self-publishing outlets. But people want to do things their way, and don’t enjoy being told how to act, or think, or speak.
I don’t want to wait for some traditional publishing company to grind its wheels before I see my book in print. It’s my book – that’s my call. You can tell me how you’d do it differently, and I can read your post – or not– but you can’t force me to do it your way, and I won’t ask you to mess with my method of publication, either.
I hate DRM with the passion of a thousand suns, but I’m not advocating its outlaw. I would much rather persuade my fellow authors – and editors, readers, etc. – how much it hurts our digital marketplace, and encourage a change of heart.
The American way
The American people want what they want, and they want to do what they want to do. We like writing whatever we want, and publishing it whenever we want, and marketing it however we want. If we earn furious reviews and sell zilch copies – well, that’s the American dream again: we each have the freedom to fail.
(This doesn’t just apply to Americans, naturally. Everyone else is fond of doing things their own way, too; it was just on flagrant display this past election.)
We can talk about the advertising strategies that sell books, we can talk about the plotting techniques that are compelling, we can coach in the English language as an objective marker. But give people room to fail.
Poll-place intimidation and voter-fraud are both worthy to be villains in a novel. Being a jerk on social media might not earn you Villain status, but it will make you a Detractor, and one of the characters everyone loves to hate (and beats on in their reviews).
Let’s keep it classy, people! You know it’s what we all want 😉
Kimia Wood grew up under an aspiring writer, so weaving words and spinning plots is in her blood. She currently lives with her family somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by baking, knitting, writing…and other excuses for not gardening.
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