Sun 16 Nov 2014
by Sarah Crysl Akhtar
There are plenty of springy-looking platforms to leap off of. Anyone willing to invest a little money and a lot of time can start marketing their own work.
Should you bite that apple?
What’s so great about brick and mortar publishers, anyway?
Web-based publishers have cut overhead to the bone and many of them are marvelous. They’ve created a reader’s paradise. Even the cheapest paperbacks are largely unaffordable to people on limited budgets. But an e-book can be less expensive than a cup of coffee from the corner deli.
And web-based writers’ groups help fledgling authors build supportive audiences and markets for their work. You can be in the midst of a thriving artistic community no matter where you live.
But one of the fruits of a healthy community is a sort of self-censorship. It’s not dishonesty, but rather the desire not to wound. If we all said everything we thought, with absolute truth, all the time, life would become unbearable.
And writers’ circles or critique groups tend to form around people of similar levels of achievement. Everyone’s growing together. And everyone hopes for success, for themselves and their colleagues. There’s a powerful fellowship of encouragement.
This Eden needs a serpent.
I have never joyfully welcomed the email saying “there’s a slight problem with your story.” Seriously. Would I have sent it in if I thought it wasn’t ready?
It took me well over a year to skip the mental hyper-ventilating and get straight to revising, whenever a rewrite request arrived. I can still feel my head lowering mutinously as I read any criticism of my work.
But most of the editors I’ve worked with have helped me strengthen my own voice. Sometimes I don’t accede to every single suggestion, but I have never declined to revise a story, when requested.
That was a mistake in only one instance, but I knew at the time I was going for publication rather than the purity of my artistic vision, so to speak. So I take full responsibility for that.
Your mastery of craft is constantly growing. I’m pretty confident in my own gifts, now, but even so, it startles me to see how a beginning story from a couple of months ago, say, will seem awfully lacking today. I’ll need to rework those first few paragraphs before I can go any further.
When you self-publish, you have few brakes on that giddy road towards becoming a fine author. There’s an enticing tidbit that people like to munch on—the lists of successful authors showing how many times clueless agents and publishers turned them down, before they signed their first book contract.
Yes, it is true that genius is not always recognized in a timely way by the minions born to serve it. It’s true that very fine writers are rejected every day, and that self-publishing can be a midwife to works that truly deserve to see the light of day.
It can also make a name for you that you might wish you could escape, later. Maybe you’ve got great potential now but you’re not quite there yet. Maybe in a year or two or five, undaunted by rejection, you’ll have found that remarkable voice you always knew was inside.
Or maybe you published before you should have, and you had a brief exciting moment of seeing your stuff offered on Amazon, with wonderful reviews by everyone you know, and you never got any better than you were at that moment.
Don’t just believe the people who like you, and care about you, and want you to succeed. Think about why some of those people who’d love to have discovered the next new great talent are saying you’re not ready yet.
Sarah Crysl Akhtar‘s shtetl forebears gifted her with the genes that impel her to make much from little. So of course she writes flash fiction, cultivates orchards on her windowsill and bakes fabulous shortbread. Her son gives her what’s immeasurable–the best of all possible worlds. Less miraculous fruit of her labors has appeared on Every Day Fiction, Flash Fiction Online, 365tomorrows and Perihelion SF Magazine.