More than a week ago, I read an article that struck me.
“Why Didn’t I Self-Publish?” was a letter addressed to Salon advice columnist Cary Tennis, and his response. In short, the letter was written by a woman with a successful career outside of being a writer. She has a husband, child, and a passion for story telling. After writing two novels, she sought an opportunity to publish them, but upon finding a platform through her local library, she couldn’t go through with it: her opportunity came and went. She was left feeling disappointed and confused. Why didn’t she pursue it?
Tennis’ response, in short, was that she had a lack of motivation to be self-published. Yes, she wanted to be a writer; her novels (not to mention newsletter and short stories) are proof of that. What she wanted was the recognition from her peers, including her husband, that she was creative, artistic, and more than just “practical, organized, somebody who gets things done”. Tennis suggested that instead of self-publishing, she should find a reputable publisher. Furthermore, he advised her not to let the likelihood of “never making it on Oprah” hinder her. He ended his article encouraging her to “dream big. That way, you will have something to strive for”, inviting her to take action.
I read the article on my browser, closed the tab, and moved on to other publishing insights and editorials. And yet it stayed with me, this sadness about a woman who was too afraid to self publish- for fear of her work being dismissed, or worse, herself ridiculed. It was only after reading an article by Hugh Howey on the IndieReader, entitled The Best Days of My Life that I understood why: his happiest days were spent writing, not being a best-selling author.
There is nothing wrong with her desire to feel validation for what she is passionate about. For those who have read the full article, we could be quick to point fingers at her friends and husband for the lack thereof. Unfortunately, the truth is that you can find dozens of editorials from the so-called “successes” of the publishing industry, echoing their sentiments:
“Self-Publishing isn’t good enough…you’re not a real writer”.
When authors with any level of experience face that stigma, it’s hard to feel motivated. It’s hard to feel confident in not only your work, but in yourself. The name of a big-five publishing company should not be a requirement for the support and encouragement of writers.
We need to remember why we choose to write. Something inside each of us, at one point in our lives said “yes. Write. This is what you need to be doing, right now.” There is nothing wrong with making a profit, but that isn’t the main purpose. There is nothing wrong with meeting Oprah, but that isn’t why we write either. We write because we’re compelled to. We need to share our stories because we love them. Self-publishing is a perfectly viable way of doing so.
Remember this about yourself when you write. Remember this when others imply that a publishing house defines the value of a writer. The woman from the advice column might not have had the support of friends and family, but as fellow writers, she should have it from us.