by Allan Leverone @Allan Leverone
When I was very generously invited by Jodie Renner to share a post at The Kill Zone, my intention was to talk about career options for Indie writers. I was going to highlight my new novel, THE OMEGA CONNECTION, which had just been released by Kindle Press after being selected through the Kindle Scout program, and use it as an example of authors giving new opportunities a chance.
Well, the initial releases by Kindle Press have been delayed a couple of months, presumably because Amazon recognized the intense scrutiny those first Kindle Press releases will face, and they want to be certain each book is as polished and reader-ready as it can be.
I’m one hundred percent in favor of this.
However, that decision did leave a gigantic hole in my Kill Zone plans. So, instead of talking about options available to those who have already dedicated themselves to a writing career, I’ve decided to direct my post toward aspiring authors, and the whole “things are wonderful/things suck” debate that seems to be raging among Indies at the moment.
There’s never been a better time to be a writer.
It must be true, because more people than ever own e-readers.
It must be true, because reading as a pastime has been making a comeback over the past few years.
It must be true, because now, anyone with a story to tell and the self-discipline to pound it out on a keyboard can get that story out to the public, no agent or publisher necessary.
There’s never been a worse time to be a writer.
It must be true, because e-book sales have flattened out over the last year or so.
It must be true, because the glut of available material has made it increasingly difficult for new writers—traditionally published or Indie—to get their work noticed.
It must be true, because anyone with a story to tell and the self-discipline to pound it out on a keyboard can get that story out to the public, no ability or talent necessary.
So, which is it?
Is this the best of times or is this the worst of times? There are plenty of people on each side of the debate more than willing to hit you over the head with fact and opinion until you commit to their camp.
Here’s my take: it depends.
If you’re looking to throw some half-assed crap together, poorly written, unedited and formatted badly, stick a homemade cover on top of the whole mess and then wait for the cash to come rolling in, well, it might just be the worst of times for you.
There might have been a period when that was possible, way back in the prehistoric early days of the e-book/self-publishing phenomenon. But that train left the station a while ago, and hopefully it ran over you while it was pulling out. Readers are savvy, not stupid. They know what to look for and they’re not falling for amateurish junk cluttering up their e-reader.
Have all the charlatans disappeared? Of course not, and they never will. They spring up like poisonous mushrooms in every fast-growing industry, hucksters who think they’ve found a way to make a quick buck by circumventing hard work and offering an inferior product to a gullible public. These are the people who give Indie writers a bad name.
On the other hand, if you have some talent and a strong work ethic, if you approach writing as a craft as well as a job, if you’re willing to listen and learn and respond in a positive way to constructive criticism, this just might be the best of times.
I place myself firmly in the second camp. Am I making millions of dollars with my fiction? Hell, no. I’m nobody’s idea of an overnight success. But I am making money.
More importantly, I’m doing what I love and building an audience. With nine novels to my name and two more coming by April, I’m paying my dues, laying down a career foundation.
There’s nothing quick or easy about it.
But it’s extremely gratifying, and everything I was working toward when I was sending out dozens and dozens of agent queries over the course of several years. To no avail. Everything I was working toward when I attended Thrillerfest back in 2008 just so I could put myself through the torture chamber/learning opportunity that is Agentfest. Also to no avail.
For the record, I was never able to snag an agent, either through the query process or through the Agentfest meat market, or any other way.
But something happened along the way. I stopped actively seeking an agent years ago and now, as far as I’m concerned, the shoe is on the other foot. Any potential agent wishing to represent me would have to convince me of the value he or she could add to my career, not the other way around.
If you look at writing as some kind of get-rich-quick scheme, one where you can rake in lots of cash quickly, you’re probably considering the wrong profession, especially now. Not that it doesn’t happen, but it’s such a rare occurrence you can be virtually certain it isn’t going to happen for you.
You’ve got a better chance of getting struck by lightning. Twice.
On the other hand, if you start to feel a little…twitchy…when you go more than a day or two without writing, if you have the ability to tell stories and phrase things in interesting ways, if you are confident in that ability without being unrealistic in your expectations, if you recognize the value of hard work and you’re willing to take a chance on yourself while understanding there are no guarantees in this world, then by my estimation, there’s never been a better time to be a writer.
So as far as that debate over whether things are good or bad for writers is concerned, I suppose the real answer is: who cares? Worrying about it isn’t going to advance your career. Get writing.
Allan Leverone is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of nine novels, including MR. MIDNIGHT, named by Suspense Magazine as one of the “Best Books of 2013.” Allan lives in Londonderry, NH with his wife of more than thirty years, three grown children and one beautiful granddaughter. Connect at AllanLeverone.com, on Facebook or Allan Leverone (@AllanLeverone) | Twitter.