Friday, March 27, 2009

The Way Things Are, or, Earning the Right to Be Heard

This is going to be a long post, longer than some, but I hope all three of you will bear with me. It'll be worth it, I hope.

Recently I visited a writer's blog. No names...I'd heard from this writer on a different blog some time ago. I read a current post or two, which seemed to contain writing advice. Some of it seemed, well, a bit hinky, some not well phrased, some rather authoritative about the small press world.

Hmm, thought I, better go & check who publishes this writer.

Turns out: no publisher as yet. She is totally self-published.

When I was a kid, we talked a lot about our Christian witness. About how it wasn't enough to stand on a street corner and yell about Jesus. We might want to grab someone by the lapel, shake them, and screech, "You need to hear about this wonderful Lord I serve!"

We agreed that wasn't the way. No--instead, we had to earn the right. We needed to bear witness AFTER we had established our good faith, with/to folks we knew. There should be some mutual trust. Mind you--handing out tracts on streetcorners is great in its place. But a deeper witness should result in a life-change for our hearer, and before this happens, we should earn the right to speak.

This author, IMO, has not yet earned that right. Before you tell me about The Way Things Are, particularly in a marketplace I've learned so much about in recent years, particularly in a small press world where I have sold books and you have not...

You get the drift. I won't be visiting her blog again. Your mileage, of course, may vary, but to me she has not earned me as an auditor.



Janny said...

I should not be, but I am constantly amazed at the credibility given to various people online...especially in light of their singular lack of qualifications. Given the state of online education nowadays, I should not be--but I am, still--surprised when some young writer asks me, in all seriousness, "So, how much did it cost you to get your book published?" I've actually had to explain to people that NORMALLY, they pay YOU for the book...since they're buying rights to publish and distribute it. This one gal was dumbfounded: "You mean they publish your book AND they give YOU money for it?"

Why do people think this way? When we were baby writers, it was a given that you wanted a publishing contract because you got PAID for such things. EVERYBODY KNEW THIS, and you sidestepped that principle at your own peril or for very good reasons. Period. You didn't consider it legit publishing when you paid for it yourself, and you certainly didn't consider yourself an author of any note to be teaching anyone about the business.

Then, enter not only the Internet, but the Age of the Affirmation, when "making an effort" became enough to get you a gold star. When "participation" became a way to earn a ribbon. And when, no matter how obscure or amateur the "publishing" process--and how bad the eventual product--the moment you put that "book" into the trunk of your car, you were an Author, and People Had Just Jolly Well Better Treat You Like One...

...even though you knew NO more about the publishing industry then than you did the day BEFORE those boxes of books went in the garage. That didn't matter. You were Published, and to people who didn't know any better, you had suddenly become an Authority.

Consequently, now we have dozens of Authorities out there holding forth about the way publishing is...and they don't have a clue. They become publishing's equivalent of the member of the congregation to whom Pastor has been aiming his sermon for a solid 18 minutes, who then shakes Father's hand after the service and says, "Great sermon, Father! And boy, do I know some (other) people who could USE it!"


I just need to keep teaching, I guess. :-)

Karin said...

That's why I don't give out writing advice yet. I'm still learning.

Now, if you want to know how to make a Taco Burger, I'm your gal :)

Deb said...

Karin, I for one would like your Taco Burger recipe!

I have the utmost respect for those who know their burgers.

Jessica said...

LOL I'm always giving out advice and I'm not pubbed. But I hope that I'm still humble and willing to learn, and that I don't dispense it as law but rather as things I think I've learned. :-)