Agent…Versus…Author….FIGHT! (Or Not)

To read the publishing/author/indie bookseller blogs, one would think a war was raging within the usually collegial publishing field. The vehement emotion reminds me of a Barcelona pub when RealMadrid is up 4 goals to 2.

On the one side, traditional publishing continues to claim the crown.

On the other, independent/self-published authors seem to be building a gallows.

But in recent days, a third side has emerged from the shadows – the one I’ve been on for quite some time, and which finally seems to be getting the airtime it so desperately deserves.

Let’s call it the voice of reason.

Traditional publishing is not dying, though its metamorphosis is not complete (and no one’s exactly sure what colors the new butterfly will reveal). Independent publishing has a place in the industry too. Agents, editors, and publishing attorneys (like yours truly) will continue to function and exist. Some will prosper, others will not – just as they have since the first of their kind first crawled, dripping with ink, from the publishing ooze. Some authors will find great success, and others dismal failure, along both paths. In either case, results will depend on a combination of talent, determination and luck.

There is no golden ticket.

There also doesn’t need to be a war. As I said at last month’s Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Conference, the only “mistake” is an author choosing a path without proper education and without considering the realistic goals of his (or her) writing career. Do you want to reach a very specific audience that might not number 10,000+? Self-publishing or Independent publishing (Note: I don’t consider them the same) may be the better choice. Do you intend (not dream…they’re also different) to make the New York Times Bestseller list? If you haven’t already got a platform, Self-or-Indie might not get you there. In between are as many goals and career paths as there are authors and tales to tell. There is no longer one “proper” route for everyone. There are, however, easier paths and more difficult ones – though even those vary with author, story and intentions.

At the end of the day, the responsibility for the decision and the choice falls upon the author alone.

But here’s an important hint: some bridges burn very quickly, and even those who choose one path at the outset might find themselves missing those routes in the future. We chose this industry for love of the story, for the way it binds us together and takes us away from the lives we live outside of the written word. We chose books, and whether they appear in printed form or on the screen, it is those tales we work for.

This is a call for the scions of publishing to lay down their arms. Both sides can exist, and co-exist, without animosity. Let’s turn the conversation to information – to helping writers get the information they need to make honest, realistic and appropriate choices about their writing and careers.

Because in that scenario, everyone can win.