Without writers, publishing as an industry would not exist. Well, duh, you may well say; how obvious; how trite; how could any sane person not know that? And I would agree. But I begin to suspect that this truth we declare self-evident is in fact the greatest of mysteries to the rest of the monstrous machine.
One of the great traditions of traditional publishing is treating the people who write the product they sell like galley slaves, a necessary inconvenience that whines too much and smells kind of funny. Myself, I’ve spent immense slabs of my professional life waiting around on some agent or editor to give me an answer on something even when they called me first. Hurry up and wait and don’t ask for anything has always been the order of the day, and writers have had the choice to either take it on the chin or head on back to grad school.
The brave new world of independent and self-publishing is supposed to give us another choice. Small presses can be more responsive, more enthusiastic, more nimble in their protocols, and for the most part, from what I’ve seen, they are. As for self-pubbing, who could care more about getting your book out in the world and collecting golden lucre for it than you do yourself?
But over the past couple of months, I’ve seen more and more evidence that writers are still getting slapped around by the very people who live off their art. A major independent press founded on the premise that women’s fiction could be erotic without being skeevy recently paid a huge advance for and spent big wads of cash promoting the memoir of an amateur porno princess who can’t even spell just because she’s a “reality star.” And when some of the authors on their roster, many of whom have made them a great deal of money and very few of whom have ever received any advance at all dared to protest, they were basically told to suck it up, buttercup. And by the way, where’s your registration fee check for the conference?
Speaking of conferences . . . just this week, I saw a posting from a delicate flower who makes most of her book-related money from other writers who pay her to promote their work. In this very public address, she employed the f-bomb with wild abandon to bully and castigate the writers WHO ARE PAYING HER for a conference for daring to book rooms outside the conference hotel. Putting together a conference is a lot of work and very expensive, no question. Organizers are certainly within their rights to encourage guests to help with costs by booking rooms on site whenever possible. And from what I understand, the conference in question is “kind of a big deal” in the genre it promotes. But NOBODY has the right to use that kind of abusive language toward the writers who, for lack of a better word, are their customers. No product is that good. I love chocolate, but if the lady from Godiva calls me an effin bitch on a public forum, be it me individually or in toto with all chocolate lovers everywhere, I’m going to make do with Hershey’s kisses from then on. And I would strongly advise all other chocolate lovers—or conference attendees—to do the same.
Which brings me to my point. Things are tough all over; making a living as a writer is harder right now than it’s been in more than a century, I suspect. With traditional houses going corporate crazy and Amazon wanting to give it all away for free, anybody who says they can help can seem like a haven in the wilderness, your only hope for any kind of success, even if they’re treating you like crap. But I’m here to tell you, it ain’t so. You will have to be patient. You will have to compromise. You will have to get outside your comfort zone to promote your work. But nobody, and I mean nobody, has the right to treat you like their bitch. No publisher. No agent. No editor. No promoter. Because what you do is magic.
And I promise you, I absolutely swear, there are people in every one of those fields who, if you’re talented and willing to work for it, are ready to help you, not out of the kindness of their hearts but because they believe in good writing and they believe in you. I’ve sold my last two books to Purple Sword Publications, Strange as Angels which is out now, and Alpha Romeo which is coming soon, and everybody there has been smart and professional and kind. And Seventh Star Press has just announced a new imprint called Seventh Starlight that is going to publish truly amazing speculative romance. I know this because under my real name, Jessica Glanville, I’ll be their editor-in-chief. I’ve talked to a lot of writers who have written for them; I’ve seen the great books they publish, and I’ve seen the way they operate, how they acquire work, how they package it, how they promote it. I never thought I’d ever work in the publishing side of the process; I love just writing too much. But I’m proud to be part of their team.
In short, my kittens, there are good people out there in the dark, scary jungle of the marketplace. Respect yourself enough to hold out until you find them.