|The journey isn't easy, folks. |
Don't jump without all your
balloons in place.
What did I say?
What could I say?
They'd already jumped off the cliff. I wished them well, prayed they'd packed their parachute (or had all their balloons), and tried to explain that marketing is hard, hard work.
What I wanted to tell them was to climb back up the cliff, and then walk up and down the hill a few times. About a thousand times. I was squirming inside. It took me four years to get Finding Angel ready for publication. I had critiquers and then editors going through my manuscript with a mean red pen and an electron microscope. My publisher and I worked diligently on creating an original cover design, tweaking and perfecting, searching through thousands of fonts for the perfect one. It was a huge process.
I asked some writer friends what they thought of this phenomenon of self-publishing, especially among teens. The reaction was mixed. Many felt it would be a great learning experience. I disagree with that. It's kind of like learning to play the piano with a full audience in the room expecting a professional musician.
Christopher Paolini. The one who wrote and self-published Eragon. Yes, he was the first teen self-publishing sensation, and a specific appeal to homeschoolers, but he self-published years ago. Before ebooks, before CreateSpace. His parents backed him financially, helped him market--and they knew the business. ALSO, his book was picked up by a big press and professionally edited BEFORE it became a best-seller.
What I'm seeing these days is more the Amanda Hocking dream than the Paolini dream. Write a book because, oh, it'd be fun, or you just want it now. Then upload it to CreateSpace and/or Kindle because it's free. No editing required except what you feel is necessary. A cover is a stock photo and any-old-font ("oh, that one's cute..."). Then go tell the world!
Enter: Instant success. Millions of copies sold overnight! Woohoo!
No...sorry. More like tears and broken dreams. Begging and pleading for people to read your book. Friends and family raving about it because they are so proud of you....but the rabid readers out there may not be so kind--IF they even find your work.
Am I being negative? Yes. But don't get me wrong. There ARE prodigies. And I love to see teens write. I love to see new writers, period. Would I love to see a teen become an overnight success? You bet! But the fact is, the Amanda Hockings of the world are so well-known because those stories are rare. Big news like that is not made from the everyday. If everyone were getting rich off self-publishing like that, then THAT would be the headline, not a handful of individual names.
Also, Hocking's story isn't *that* different from Paolini's. Same goes for the others of her ilk--the ebook self-pub sensations--as most of them didn't really hit their peak of fame until after an agent took over their careers.
The fact is, most books become a success--whether self-published or traditionally published--through hard work and persistence. Luck does play a role, too. As does true talent. But they are like genes--some factors are dominant and some recessive. Luck seems to be dominant--it can compensate for lack of talent and hard work. The thing is, luck's not a common gene. Most of us have to figure out how to get there without it.
falling with style" scene in Toy Story. (Sorry, tried and failed to find one to embed.)
I hope more than anything these two teens are the exception to the rule. I hope this is a wonderful experience for them that leads to years and years of writing and success. I hope, yes. But I'm still going to cringe every time I see someone jump off that cliff just clutching a handful of balloons.