After an insightful and engaging workshop that lasted all week, I found myself contemplating whether I have a story worth sharing. There are far more intriguing and gut wrenching stories than my own, and no shortage of them being from my own demographic as well. So I was forced to consider why mine is any different.
To understand why I found reason to question this, you need to be aware of my aversion to writing for the sake of getting attention, or sharing stories to get sympathy. I think deliberate sensationalism is tantamount to selling your soul, and publishing a book so that you can get the accolade of being a published author is only tainting the profession more than self-publishing already has. This probably sounds hypocritical from someone that just self-published their own book. (By the way, it’s called The Egosystem and you can find more info about it from the link on my homepage).
Cheekiness aside, accessibility to platforms like self-publishing is great for people that have a sense of pride in their work. People who don’t live their lives believing that everything they do is inspired, and everything they say is inspiring. It’s for people who have a healthy level of doubt and care enough to question the quality and value of what they’re putting out there. I’m not suggesting that they must have a perfected product before hitting publish! Not at all. But when I contrast that against the so-called writers that brag about the 42 or 50 books that they self-published just last year alone, I must question the quality and the seriousness with which they’re pursuing their craft.
Self-publishing is a blessing for writers that don’t have the funds, resources, or connections to get a publisher to take on their project. It’s also great for someone that has something of value to share but doesn’t have the network of support or means to get professional services before releasing their publication. However, if you have the ability to self-publish, then you also have the ability to do research and fact-checking. You have the resources and skill to produce more than just a dreadful cover that looks like a 10-year old’s doodle in PowerPoint, and you definitely have the ability and tools to understand the basics of plagiarism.
The problem with people that don’t take these basics seriously is that apart from destroying their credibility as writers, they fill up the online stores with such a huge load of absolute crap that the good stuff gets buried so deep that it is next to impossible to find. That means that any writer that takes their craft seriously will have to spend that much more on marketing and promos, and put in that much more effort just to find an audience. Contrary to common belief, word of mouth is not as viral or available as many world like to believe it is.
Every indie author dreams of publishing their book and then getting friends, relatives, and acquaintances to buy it, read it and tell everyone that they know how amazing the book was, and in that way sell enough copies to get the attention of a major publishing house so that they stand a chance of hitting the big time. If that ever does happen, there is more fluke involved than there is a well thought out plan to make it happen. Like many other indie authors, I also got a rude awakening when I realised how expensive social media advertising is, and how unsustainable paid advertisements are for getting and keeping your audience’s attention for long enough for them to make a buying decision. Unless you have a small fortune (preferably a large one) to invest in promoting your book, there is a good chance that it will remain a well kept secret, all thanks to the flippant writers that think that being able to publish without restraint is a license to dump garbage on the Internet.
Beyond the above challenges, the key challenge facing a new writer is finding the confidence to share their story because with the millions of books out there already, chances are good that a similar or better story has already been told. What I’ve realised this week is that it’s not just the story that matters. It’s so much more including the authenticity in your narration, your unique expression, and of course a little bit of luck and a thick skin that all come together to give you a fighting chance of producing a book that more than just a few people will be willing to pay to read.
If you have enough self respect to care about putting your name against a piece of work intended for the enjoyment or benefit of others, and you believe in the value of the story that you want to share, then share it, but be authentic in your expression and don’t try to be someone else. And most importantly, show due respect to your intended readers by producing a quality piece of work and not something that resulted from a wet dream of fame and fortune because you hope to stumble upon the correct numbers for the lottery after publishing.
(This probably sounds arrogant and condescending to many, but I don’t care because liberalism holds no promise for those wishing to master their craft, and offers no direction for those seeking a new path).