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Dec 27

Writers as Children

As an author-publisher, I find it interesting to read posts written by the editors of traditional publishing houses. Now that writers can take their work directly to readers without the middleman of publishers, traditional publishing finds itself in the awkward position of having to justify its usefulness to writers. But it does so in a very strange way.

By insisting that writers are children who need to be taken care of.

The typical theme of these posts is that writers must be nurtured. They need their hands held. They must be pepped up and talked down and helped and guided through difficulties. They need the help of professionals to make their work worthy of being read.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. First of all, if I need pepping up or talking down, I’ll go to my husband, my friends or my dad. Not to someone with whom I have a business relationship.

As far as professionalism goes, I’m pretty sure most serious writers consider themselves professionals. I do. I’ve been writing for most of my life, and now that I’m an author-publisher, writing is my second job. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy writing stories, but it’s a whole lot of work. There are the hours and hours and hours of thinking and writing, re-writing and editing. Finding just the right word, the right turn of phrase, a way to show a character’s thoughts or the things she sees. But somehow, none of this rises to the level of professionalism in the eyes of traditional publishers.

For close to 100 years, traditional publishing was in a dominant position, holding absolute power over writers. If a book was ever to see the light of day, the writer had to do exactly what the publisher demanded. But a relationship with that level of imbalance isn’t healthy, and rarely produces optimal results.

Despite the brain drain of writers moving into self-publishing, I’m not optimistic that balance will change any time soon. As long as there are thousands of new writers clamoring for “validation” with a “real” publisher, they’ll continue to be viewed as children by traditional publishing.

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