Rachelle Gardner's post from today, and caught myself nodding in total agreement. While she doesn't like the fact that writers have to own a platform before being taken seriously, she advises that they should not shoot the publishers requiring it.
And we should all quit whining.
I cringe when I receive an email from a reader that begins on a negative note about horrible publishers who take advantage of writers. Ten to fifteen years ago, chances are that writer did not have a computer in his home. Chances are most writers who started publishing in that same time period would not have considered writing within an introduction to the Internet. That marvelous mechanism that runs on miracle machines we take for granted. Just let the power go out and see what happens to your disposition!
But the very electronic tools that enabled thousands more writers to take dreams and make them a thousand times more possible, are the very tools that have required publishers to demand platforms. When slushpiles are several feet higher today versus fifteen years ago, editors have to cull the stack down somehow. After all, many writers can . . . write.
So let's say a publisher can only publish 100 books a year. The slushpile over that time contains maybe 8,000 queries and manuscripts. Let's say 500 are worth considering. How do they take that 500 down to 100 when the writing is good?
1. The Story. They ask for more of the manuscript to see if the writer can write a beginning, middle and ending.
2. The Experience. They ask for a biography to look for education, experience and awards.
3. The Platform. They ask for how far and easily the writer can sell the ten thousand copies that will come rolling off the printing press, assuming a contract is signed.
4. The Hunger. They measure how eager and able that writer is about self-promotion.
Authors claim independence. You can't profess to not need a publisher to publish then say you need him to promote and market. All the tools that have enabled publishers to publish more and writers to write more, are there for authors to self-promote. Because it's something you don't like to do, doesn't give you the right to bash a publisher for not accepting your first novel and sending you on a six-figure book tour.
A publisher needs to know you're alive and kicking and anxious for this book to cover the world. His job is to print the book while yours is to write it. Somehow the two of you have to meet in the middle and promote it.
Publishers provide a lot more than paper and a name for your story. They provide professionalism, connections, and polish. But they also seek to fill the world with quality material. They can't afford to publish more books than they do, and they also want to stick to publishing memorable stories, not just make money.
We are in this together. Face it, we all love a good story, and that's what this is all about. Each of us is doing his part to make our dreams a part of everyone elses memories.
Per Rachelle Gardner:
"It's about great stories and important thoughts. It's about legacy. It's about a dream. People in publishing still see this dream as worth it. They're willing to swim against the tide because publishing isn't just a business, it's a life, it's a calling, it's a passion. To all writers who believe in the dream, who have the passion, who feel called to the legacy — I'm right there with you, and so is everyone else who has staked their livelihood on this crazy, unpredictable, totally unrealistic business called publishing."