How I Feel Every Time…

To the best of my knowledge, I did 106 books for traditional publishers, ending in 2008. At that point, as I have said numbers of times, I was tired of publishing, tired of the worsening contracts and the horrid attitudes of editors.

I was disgusted by the system and the corruptness. And I got really tired of watching the system chew up not only friends, but new writers.

In other words, I was finished.

Indie publishing saved me.

I could control my own copyediting, my own covers, and retain ownership of my copyrights. Plus I didn’t have to feel like a beggar with a tin cup asking for handouts.

Since then I have made a lot of money writing what I wanted to write at the pace I wanted to write it. No stupid schedule or long-held belief by some corporation slowed me down. And I have had a blast learning how to be a better storyteller as well as all the fun of the business of indie publishing.

So understand, I have a perspective. 106 books in traditional publishing. That is part of my perspective.


Four or five times a week I get young writers talking to me in letters about how they are going to submit their books to this or that traditional publisher. I say nothing. I don’t help them. My conscious won’t allow me to do that.

I have friends I thought had better sense who have spent the last four or five years, while I have done over twenty-five books a year, wait on some agent to get a rewrite request back to them. I say nothing.

Young writers have bought into the myth of traditional publishing. Even though stunningly enough, all information would lead any thinking person far from those contracts. But these young writers still go, taking years and years to get that elusive novel sale.

I feel sad, but do little to try to fight that myth. Not my place to tear down another person’s dreams, no matter how ill-thought the dream might be.

Every day I read or look at publishing magazines such as Mystery Scene or Locus or Publisher’s Weekly. They are full of ads for books from traditional publishers still whipping the old and almost dead distribution system. Mostly the books are by names I have never heard of and who won’t be around in three years.

Those ads make me sad. Because I know the story behind the book even though I do not know the author.

Here is the story…

— Author spent years wanting to be a writer.

— Author rewrote that “special snowflake novel,” following all guidelines, to agent’s and editor’s requests, taking years of time.

— Author ignores all warnings because they want to be taken care of by an editor and their cherished agent. Author has no belief in their own work.

— Author signed an all-rights contract for the life of the copyright, selling everything to do with the book with no chance of getting it back. The author celebrated the signing as if it was a good thing.

— Author a year or more later is excited that the book is coming out. Does launch parties or other such foolishness, all for the ego of showing friends and family it was worth it.

— A year later, since the sales were flat as all are in this new world, author can’t sell another book. Agent will no longer answer author’s phone calls. Author gets bitter and goes and does something else with their life.

There are a few side-roads to this. The author might have signed a two-book deal. Add a year before the large crash. The author might actually get, for even less money, two more books. Rare. Add another year or two to the torture.

And even more rare, sadly, do I see these young writers emerging from that grind and turning to indie.

I am seeing a ton of long-term bestselling authors with anywhere from 25 to 75 traditional novels, turning indie. They were either dropped or are fed up with the treatment. They are flocking to indie.

But those new writers are lost. Their dreams of having a book “published” and getting the fairy dust of honor from a traditional publishing turned out to be fools gold. Having a dream slowly crushed like that is almost impossible to recover from.

So every day I hear a young writer’s dream of traditional publishing, or I see hundreds of ads in magazines of new writer’s books, and I just have this sense of immense sadness for the writers.

There is no longer a career path into publishing using the old tin cup method of begging to publishers. You might beat the odds and get in the door, but you will soon be gone.

Career writers now are indie writers. We have accepted the control. In fact, we cherish it and the thought of anyone taking care of us is appalling.

But that is a matter of perspective. If your dream is to be taken care of by traditional publishing and having an agent, nothing I will be able to say will change that.

But I will see your name, your book, and feel sorry for you.

But I will say nothing to you.

After all, it is your dream.

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