Monday, January 7, 2013

Better than you

I like to read blog posts about the philosophy of writing, why we're all so crazy to be doing what we're doing. I glean a lot of insight from traditionally published, independent, and self-published authors. I usually find the blog posts themselves don't particularly fire me up, even when I disagree with them. The comment wars that tend to rage beneath the posts, however, sometimes do. Mainly because it boils down to two camps throwing serif-ed insults at each other: Traditional publishing is stupid! Self-Publishing is stupider!
After awhile I feel like I'm beginning to see the Matrix. We're all really super human gravity defying martial artists, the mediums we practice are fake and pliable. It's the other people swearing other ways work is what's keeping us from success, keeping the Matrix in place.
Or let me put it this way: We're all full of crap.
Because, whatever we do, it has to be because it's better than how someone else does it. And knowing we're doing it the right way isn't enough.
If someone posts something about how it worked for them differently, it MUST be because they never gave your way enough of a chance. They don't believe.
I'm not a Christian. I'm a Buddhist. I've thought about this before. But plenty of people see me as a wannabe hipster with weird hats and even though my religion is based in compassion and Karma, I'm still probably mean to the cashiers at McDonalds. Because all hipster Buddhists with beret hats that you've seen at McDonalds are. So what if I read over a thousand pages of Pali Canon translation. That Mala bracelet isn't a cross, I'm obviously wrong. And of course I've seen plenty of "free thinkers" that turn into a sputtering pile of defensive self-righteousness at the mention of Jesus. We've all seen this.
Sadly, the more I read author blogs, the same principle is surfacing again and again. Writers that read a perfectly well thought out and informative blog post, but find SOMETHING in it they disagree with and go nuts in the comments.
Now, I supposed I understand if someone is completely and unfairly bashing the way you do things, you would probably feel upset. But even when an author puts a disclaimer at the beginning of the post saying "this is the way it works for me and I'm sharing, you do not have to do this" comments still get crazy. It makes me wonder if writers are reading these blogs to gain insight, or just looking for affirmation that their way is right and to argue when someone does something different. I still have faith that there are plenty of writers learning from these blog posts, but they just keep quiet and don't try to skewer other authors on literary sticks when they disagree.
When I first started writing, there was still a stigma attached to self-publishing, and ereaders had not taken off yet, so I was very much swayed toward traditional and print publishing. But I changed my mind and found independent publishing worked very well for me. Unfortunately, I'm seeing a lot of Self-Pubbers trying to trash the traditional route, trying to attach a stigma to authors that are having a good go at traditional publishing. Trying to steal the elitism from "an editor approved my work and I was paid an advance, I'm better than you," to "I had to direct the formatting and cover design and plan all my own marketing, I do way more than just write, I'm better than you."
Well, if that makes you feel better about yourself, go for it. But why tell either a self-published or traditionally published author, who is happy, successful according to their definition, and has a readership, that they are wrong and stupid? I certainly can't imagine walking up to a successful traditionally published author and saying, "Hello, have you heard of Smashwords? Allow me to enlighten you."
I obviously live in the Matrix, since I have a writing blog and opinions on such things are keeping me from jumping up and flying around like superman delivering my bestsellers to the puny drones below. If only everyone listened to me and shaped the writing game to my standards, but noooo we all have to do things differently than me to keep the Matrix in place, to keep everyone asleep, and make stupid authors more successful than me.
Here's the deal, or at least, my opinion: There's no formula for success. Success is defined by the author and each book, author, target audience tastes, and means of transmission are going to have so many factors, there will never be a perfect way to publish a book. There's no perfect combination for a great cover, no super-elite tips or tricks for a synopsis that will get everyone to read the book. There's no scale to rate perfectly-flawed characters. There's no way to determine exactly how abstract or how relatable a plot should be. So don't argue like there is.
There are good ideas out there. I have gotten excellent marketing tips from traditionally published authors. I've found wonderful ideas that work in crafting my non-fiction books from fantasy e-book authors. I've looked at hundreds of covers and observed things I liked and things I didn't like and applied it to what I was doing. There are great ideas out there.
The only way you can learn and advance is to look at how others have done things, put things together, arrived at their conclusions, then arrive at your own.

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