Thursday, May 26, 2011

Why I don't need Publishers to Approve my Work

Yesterday, I made a post as to why I need publishers to validate my work. In response to that, I got a whole lot of comments. Firstly, thanks to Michelle, Mood and Chancellor for your comments. It really got me thinking and changed my opinion somewhat. Here is my conclusion.

At first, I had thought that publishers are, as Mood said, arbiters of quality. That they can judge the worth of something better than I can. Therefore, they would tell me when my work has become quality (by publishing my book).

Mood tried to tell me that it was wrong, but I didn’t quite grasp it. Then Michelle made a comment (that got eaten) saying something that switched on a lightbulb. I don’t know if it’s the right one, but here it is:

Do you honestly think a Big 6 publisher would publish some of the experimental classics now if they had never been written and published before? Hell no. That doesn't mean they aren't some of the most amazing things ever written - it means they are basing things on what sells NOW, or what they think will sell now.

Publishers (especially successful ones) will publish what they believe sells. But, as Mood tried to point out, they don’t know what will. They can look into the past and see what sold, but they can’t tell us what will sell. They follow the tried and trusted recipe rather than taking a risk. Therefore, by trying to get validated by publishers (who look at what worked, rather than at what could work) I would be writing backwards instead of forwards. I would be trying to replicate what other authors did instead of doing what could work in the future.

So, with this revelation, I started to wonder, where does my validation come from? If it didn’t come from publishers, would it then come from readers? In a sense, yes. But then I thought, readers are just as biased as publishers. There will be people who will not like what I write and I can’t use them to judge the worth of my work.

The only option that is left (and suggested by everyone else) is myself. Now, the thing here is that I still have the problem that I can’t tell whether I’m good or not. I don’t trust myself to validate my own work, but I’m the only person who can do it (since the other options are already ruled out). That leaves only the option that I need to find a way to trust myself to make judgements about my own work. The general fact is that I don’t. As a person, I’m very fact orientated. Subjectivity seems like a bad way to judge things (it leaves a giant margin of error), but maybe it’s a necessity. Some things can’t be judged objectively (or at least, shouldn’t be).

I have no idea how I’ll manage to do this, but at least it’s a start. I’ll try to wrap my head around subjectively validating my own work and get back to you.

Thanks for all the comments yesterday, and I would appreciate some for my conclusion as well. Just to see that I didn’t miss the boat again.


  1. Cool. I wish there was a definitive answer to your questions, but as you are starting to see, you have to find your own truth. (Although, if you do happen to stumble across the key to being a great writer, please tweet me @mooderino)

    A big part of it is working out what kind of stories you want to write and what kind of things you want to say in them. It doesn't matter if no one else seems interested, if you're passionate about it they will become interested.

    Moody Writing

  2. Thanks for your thoughts. I suppose each person will have a different approach. And I agree, interest is somehow contagious (for the initial look at least).

  3. I'm SO so so happy to read what you wrote in this post. You're right ... and it's terrifying isn't it? But, do you know what this means?

    You're a brave writer. In brave writing there are no assurances.

    And that's really the best kind of author to be. I write a lot about this at The Asylum. You should swing by and check it out.

    You're smart ... smarter than you give yourself credit for. Get to know yourself well enough, and eventually you'll no longer need outside input. I was where you are at one point. Now, I only edit to editorial request. It's a damn good feeling. But, there are still moments where I think everything I commit to paper is awful (see the post 'Passport Please'). I think every author feels that way from time to time. It's natural.

    Glad Michelle, Mood and I could sway your opinion. I usually try to stay out of people's business and beliefs, but I believe so strongly in self-assurance as an author, that I couldn't help but to comment on this.

    Excellent conclusions. Well done.

  4. Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad I got the gist of it this time. And thanks again for the comment on the other post (though it got eaten).

    I hope I reach the point of self-assurance soon. I'll definitely have a look at The Asylum.