Wednesday, October 30, 2013

When a Writer Assumes the Role of Gatekeeper for Other Writers

Yes, I'm late posting today, but I wanted to think long and hard about what I wanted to say.

I thought while I bought a Batman outfit at Build-a-Bear for the teddy bear DH gave me for our fifth wedding anniversary. I thought while I decided on my birthday chocolate at Godiva's. I thought while I checked at Yankee Candle to see if they had any Witch's Brew left. (They didn't, but I'm definitely getting Cherries in Snow for Christmas!) I thought while I ate my birthday breakfast of a classic Cinnabon and Starbuck's black ice tea.

I didn't think when I saw a brand-new Ghoulia doll at Toys R' Us. I just squealed in delight, which made the clerk's day. We chatted about the New Hallowthanksmas retail season while it stormed like crazy outside.

But once the rain died and I could safely make it to the car without getting electrocuted or Ghoulia getting soaked, I started thinking again. So what caused all this thinking?

Libby Fischer Hellman is pissed off about EVERYONE self-publishing. Her sales are down! No one can find her books among the tsunami of swill! And everyone else needs to just stop publishing!

After reading her blog one more time before I started to write this post, all I can say is Genius Kid never threw a tantrum like this even in his Terrible Twos.

What's even sadder is that I've never heard of Libby Fischer Hellmann before her post was excerpted over at The Passive Voice (and her post caused a firestorm of comments over there). Is this how she wants to introduce herself to potential readers?

Because that's what other writers are. They are readers, too.

I wouldn't dream of stating on my blog that no other writer can publish because no one's buying my books. That simply DOES NOT MAKE SENSE!

Do I think writers should learn their craft before they publish? Hell, yeah. I don't know an indie writer who doesn't believe that. But once a writer is past the initial craft stage, the game changes.

If no one's buying my books, that means I'm not doing a good enough job entertaining my readers. That's no else's fault but my own. It means I need to step up my game, not "everyone needs to be gentle with poor widdle Suzan."

The whole point of indie publishing my books is that they're niche. I know they are niche. The Big 5 don't see how they can make any money on such a small market segment, but I do see how I can. And I have. And I wrote things that tickled me, and obviously tickled a few other people or they wouldn't have bought them. Or read them. Or asked when's the next one coming out.

I don't believe we writers are in competition with each other because readers are varied in their tastes and voracious. We're definitely not in competition with people too lazy to learn their craft or who plagiarize other writers, which, to me, is the real swill.

It's going to take me 120-150 hours of butt-in-chair time to write Zombie Goddess, plus another 40 or so hours of editing time. (That's me personally; that's not counting the editor and beta reader's time.) The average reader will whip through it in 4-5 hours.

What's the reader going to say if I tell her she can't read anybody else's work while I write the next novel? She's going to say, "Fuck you!" and rightly so.

Also, readers are very good about finding what they like. I've been choosing my own books since I was six. I'm pretty damn sure other readers can choose their own material as well.

So I'm going to keep writing and publishing whether Ms.Hellmann likes it or not. And if my zombie tabloid reporter is outselling her female PI, then maybe she needs to step up her game instead of whining.


  1. Seriously. I'm a little behind on my feed reading, so I just got to that a bit ago at PG's. I scattered a few comments, eyerolled at the one guy who posted like twenty times and is just Not Getting It, but basically I agree with you that Ms. Hellman is pitching a big ol' whiny fit because she's not getting what she wants and it's gotta be everyone else's fault, and that's the long and short of it. I've never heard of her either until now, and I'm not particularly minded to try her books after this. There are a bazillion writers out there, and even if I decide not to give any money to the ones who behave like asshats in public, there are still more awesome books in the world than I can read in my lifetime, with more published every day. So thanks, Ms. Hellman, for helping me trim things down.


  2. Yeah, a certain gentleman thinks if he keeps posting, he'll change everybody else's minds. Because you know J.A. Konrath and Marie Force are selling absolutely no books.

    Angie (and everyone else), if you have time today, check out Kris Rusch's break down of the madness in New York. It's a very succinct break down of why Ms. Hellmann and all the other trad published writers are going through another round of the crazies.

    I probably shouldn't differentiate since we're both trad publish now, should I? LOL

  3. Heh. Well, yeah, but I doubt our trad publishers/editors are caught in all that mess quite as much as Random Penguin and Hatchette are.... :)

    But yes, it definitely shines a new light on that particular brand of irrational hysteria.


  4. Angie, I gotta agree with Bob Mayer and DWS. We're only at the tip of the changes that will roll through the writing/publishing community over the next few years.

    As the late, great Bette Davis said, Buckle up! It's going to be a bumpy ride."