Recently, I had a rather startling experience. One of the writer's groups I belong to wanted people who had been published to sign up as “Published Authors.” I checked out the criteria and discovered, to my surprise, that the only criteria for becoming a”Published Author” was having an advance from a publisher. This seemed a rather narrow criterion, so I asked the person in charge if I was reading it correctly. I was assured that I was, and further, this meant anyone published by a small publisher, ebook publisher, self-published, or unlucky enough to have a NY publisher who didn't give advances, wasn't a “Published, or Real, Author.”
This experience led me to ask the question: What makes you identify yourself as a real writer? There are many criteria. Do you have to have a NY publisher? I know several people who don't feel like “real writers” unless they have a “Big Publisher.” At the present time, many big publishers are in deep financial trouble. They're consolidating, dropping publishing lines, mid-list authors, editors and generally trying to downsize. I applaud these moves from an economic perspective, but is this a criteria we should tie our understanding of ourselves to?
If you're published by a small publisher, are you a “Real Writer?” Many small publishers have excellent lists. Sometimes they publish, and have in the past published, outstanding novels that didn't fit the mainstream publishers. Classics have come from small publisher imprints. Are some of our best writers not "Read Writers," because they took a chance on what they wanted to write rather than on what a publisher thought would sell?
Ebooks are taking the world by storm. While sales of hardback and paperback books are declining, the sale of ebooks last quarter was up by 134 percent. Admittedly, they had a smaller base to work from, but to me, it's a sign of the times. The champions of ebooks aren't the NY publishers, they're book sellers: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Google. What happened to the publishers? Some of them are trying to jump on the bandwagon, but they're running fast to catch up. Aren't you a “Real Writer,” if your publisher specializes in ebooks?
People who self-publish, are they somehow a lesser breed of writers? In the past, many books that have subsequently become best sellers were published by the authors. I suppose these writers weren't “Real Writers” either. We have all sorts of pejorative terms for self-published writers, but is that only because we're afraid that they have more guts than we do? Believing in yourself is critical. If you truly believe you have something to say, why not self-publish. In today's internet age, we have Lulu and Create Space who publish books not only for their own websites, but have them listed on the big sellers like Barnes and Noble and Amazon. There are other options like iUniverse and First Books. If writers use these mechanisms to get their message out, aren't they “Real Writers?”
Personally, I believe that anyone who has the guts to get his or her ideas in front of other people is a “Real Writer.” I admire people who believe in themselves enough to self-publish, use ebook publishers, small publishers, or any other mechanism to get their ideas out. I may not want to read their books, but then, I don't read all the books that come out of NY either.
So the question is “What makes you feel like a “Real Writer?” I talked mostly about book publishing, but that's not necessarily what makes a "Real Writer." Don't be shy, tell us about your criteria. If you post on your blog. I promise to come and read what you have to say, if you let me know where you are.