Self-publish or traditional: can’t we get along #playnice – Rochelle B. Weinstein

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By Rochelle B. Weinstein

Last night I had the pleasure of joining my husband and some of his colleagues for an after-dinner drink. We ran into some acquaintances of one of the guests, and the conversation turned to the business of publishing books. Before I even mentioned that I was a self-published author who successfully transitioned into the traditional fold, one of the women let it be known how she felt about self-published authors. Have a seat, writer friends. This ain’t pretty.♥

For starters, she said she would never buy a book by a self-published author. She threw around phrases like “poorly edited,” “worthless junk,” and, my favorite, “How dare these people think they can just write a book without first studying the craft and taking a writing class? Who do they think they are saturating the market with the crap that hasn’t been vetted by a professional?” I don’t know. Maybe they’re merely Irma Rombauer, James Redfield, or Andy Weir. Besides, the last time I checked, this is America. And in America we pride ourselves on the freedom to live out our dreams. Short of hurting someone else along the way, the joy is in the choices we make, the individual path that leads us to our dream.

But there’s more. She said she will never buy a book without first checking to see if it is published by a reputable house. I watched this woman’s face, thinking to myself, Okay, this is some sort of What Would You Do? episode, catching an innocent restaurant patron off-guard with tactless, insensitive speak. I was in shock. More so because of her inflated sense of self and narrow-minded generalizations reeked of an ignorance I haven’t seen … well, in my lifetime.

I am a writer. I write because I must. I write because the desire to put words onto paper oftentimes trumps breath. Written expression speaks to my soul. When I set out to write novels, I fell into it rather backwards. I wasn’t at the top of any class. My family make-up was tenuous at times. I didn’t have an inherent desire to become an author or have someone pushing me in that direction. I worked in various jobs from the day I turned fourteen, though writing was always a hobby.

My first book took form after leaving my last in-office position. It was a kick-ass job in the music industry with brag-worthy benefits. I wrote because I had a lifelong ache in my heart that begged to come out. The story healed me, and I’ve since learned, healed others. It was a lark. A way to stretch out the days when my newborn twins were napping and I needed to do something for me.

Then I wrote a second book. I didn’t have the opportunity to ditch my kids and run off to a writing seminar to hone my craft. I barely had time to take a shower most days. I did what I could with what I was armed with. And here’s the thing, Miss Restaurant Patron. I didn’t have a choice. Rejected by forty plus agents, I knew one thing, and it was this: I wanted to share my story with the world. I didn’t care how it happened. Just that it did. There was no ego involved when I collaborated with a reputable self-publishing house to make that dream come true. And with over 50,000 books sold, I’m damned pleased with the decision.

Why must we judge others so insensitively? I know many authors struggling to get their work in print. I won’t bore you with the state of the industry and how difficult it is for most first-time authors to get published. It’s a well-known fact. It’s hard. But here’s what I really think. YOU WROTE A BOOK! Congratulate yourself on an accomplishment not everyone can do. Do not get caught up in the rhetoric. Perhaps what separates the good writers from the “junk” is not the vehicle in which we deliver our words — self-published or traditional — but our ability to translate honest motivations into moving sentences.

Which brings me to the questions I ask my writing friends whenever they write to me for advice about their books: What is your goal? What is your end-game? It seems like an easy question, but it’s not. Authors must dig into their arsenal of truth and fairy tale and pluck out the raw, honest answer. Is it to become a bestselling author? Is it to leave a tangible piece of evidence in the world? Is it to tell a story yearning to surface? Clarity brings peace and with it comes will. You are more likely to achieve what you can realistically envision in your mind. Don’t pigeon-hole yourself into someone else’s ideal. Create your own adventure. There’s room for all of us in the sandbox so let’s play nice. And get back to writing good books.

The choice to publish is a personal one. Whether you self-publish or try the traditional route, or if you self-publish and transition to traditional, the beauty, and meaning, is in the process. There are good books. There are bad books. And they come from self-publishing houses and even the Big Five. Do not let narrow-minded, judgmental people squash your dreams. Do not try to keep in step with the narcissistic ideals of others. If you write passionately, your work will shine through, no matter the platform. The cream often rises to the top. Same can be said for people.

Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Rochelle B. Weinstein followed her love of the written word across the country. She moved north to attend the University of Maryland, earning a degree in journalism, and began her career in Los Angeles at the LA Weekly. After moving back to Miami, she enjoyed a stint in the entertainment industry, marrying her love of music with all things creative. When her twins arrived, she sat down one afternoon while they were napping and began to write. Her third novel Where We Fall is available now.

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