Carving Your Path

Today, please welcome guest blogger, Katriena Knights!  Katriena is the author of several paranormal and contemporary romances, including Where There’s a Will, from Samhain Publishing, which reached number 22 on the overall Kindle bestseller list. She is a full-time writer and editor. Visit her website at katrienaknights.com or her blog at katrienaknights.blogspot.com

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If you keep track of the publishing industry via blogs and industry articles, you know that today is a great time to be a writer. There is so much opportunity for writers right now—traditional publishing, self publishing, small publishers, big publishers, short stories, flash fiction—it’s a great big, crazy world out there where we, as authors, can carve out our own careers exactly the way we want to.

You know this until you start reading the industry articles and blogs that say today is a terrible time to be a writer. Writers are abandoning the traditional path, taking sides, belittling others who make different choices. What will happen to “literature” if the traditional publishing paradigm is broken? It’s a literary apocalypse, and we’re all going to be crushed to death under the steel boot of Amazon.

I tend to subscribe to the former mindset. However, in this age of nearly infinite opportunity and options, it’s more important than ever for writers to know as much as possible about all these options, and be prepared to carve a path that doesn’t look like anyone else’s.

 This is the biggest problem I have with a lot of those industry blogs, articles, and “experts.” Each one has its own agenda. Which is fine—we all have agendas. But there seems to me to be far too many people stating that their way is the best way, or even the only way. Such-and-such writer made a million dollars self-publishing, therefore everyone should self-publish and anybody who doesn’t agree is willfully blind at best and stupid at worst. Then so-and-so writer sings the praises of traditional publishing and states that if you haven’t been vetted by the “gatekeepers”—agents and Big Six editors—you’re not a real writer.

And this is why we can’t have nice things. Because as soon as something new enters the picture—self-publishing, or Big Six publishers trying new distribution models, or Amazon throwing out a new sales model that changes the rules—we all take sides. We line up on each side of the line. One group is vehemently in favor of the Big New Thing, while the other group insists the Big New Thing will lead to nothing short of an apocalyptic implosion of the entire publishing industry, if not the world and possibly the solar system.

The writers I truly respect are the ones who are able to look at all the Big New Things and figure out which ones work best for them. The “hybrid author”—someone who takes advantage of several different publishing avenues, including self-pub and traditional publishing—is starting to look like the author who will have the highest levels of success in the future. This is an author who can look at a new opportunity, evaluate it, see how it works in her personal business model and how it can help her reach her personal goals, and then embraces or abandons it as she sees fit. She doesn’t then tell everyone she knows that it’s a horrible idea and no one should ever go that route. She takes the attitude that it works for her, but might not for someone else. It works for Joe and Jane down the road, but isn’t really our hypothetical author’s cup of tea at the moment.

This doesn’t mean I don’t pay attention to new ideas that are not a Big New Thing but more like a Sucking Hole of Suck. Publishers throw out horrible contracts, or come up with new business models that alienate the reader or the author or both. The more balanced view evaluates these dangers in an objective manner and points out the problems. In fact, some authors have been able to influence publishers to change these Sucking Holes of Suck into Slightly Less Sucking Holes of Suck by writing about them and bringing them to the attention of the writing community at large. I think it’s important to know what’s going on in this sense, and to be able to look at well-thought-out evaluations of different new opportunities, rather than relying on the knee-jerk reactions of people who have already made up their minds about one route or the other.

My advice is to make up your own mind. Read what you can about anything new that comes by. Read what you can about the old, established ways, too. Keep in touch with the industry. Decide what opportunities fit your goals or help further your brand, if you like to think that way. Don’t become so entrenched in one viewpoint that you can’t look objectively at the others. In the long run, picking bits and pieces from all the available opportunities will probably give you the best foundation for a long-term, successful career. But you have to find the combination that works for you, which will take some trial and error. Your path through this vast forest won’t look like mine. It won’t look like Joe and Jane’s down the street. It will look like yours. It might cross mine or Joe’s or Jane’s from time to time, but in the end it won’t be identical. And that’s okay. And don’t let anybody ever tell you differently.

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