Once upon a time, also known as January 2017, a curly-haired author started reading a traditionally published young adult fantasy novel that was absolutely delicious.
Told from one dominant perspective and two lesser ones, this story painted a plot and setting that were rich and detailed and 100% believable.
As for the characters themselves? Oh, the characters!
They were magnificently done. She bought into them from start to finish, tensing up over their troubles, cheering them on when they were on the right roads, and hoping ever so much that they’d get a happy ending.
Sadly, that wish wasn’t meant to be. Not for this curly-haired author, anyway. And whether the characters got a good ending or not is debatable considering how lackluster the second book in the series turned out, and how trite and point-blank boring the third was.
As for the fourth, our disappointed author-turned-reader now claims she wouldn’t touch it without some serious cash incentive involved – which, incidentally, is exactly what she thinks went wrong with the series after Book 1.
You see, when a serious writer first starts out, she tries to hone her craft as much as possible. She works hard to improve the story she’s working on, asking for outside advice, making necessary edits and taking whatever amount of time she needs in order to produce something worth publishing.
That’s not to say she ever produces a perfect copy. Perfection, as I know I stress ad nauseam here at Innovative Editing, isn’t obtainable in the writing world. So it’s a waste of time to strive for. But a strengthened copy? Now, that’s definitely achievable.
And that’s what she is on the constant search to create so that, when she finds her big break, she’s known as a serious writer instead of a mediocre one.
But then she does make it. She gets that positive response from a literary agent that leads to another positive response and another one until, finally, she gets to see her very own book with a beautiful front cover sitting on a Barnes & Noble shelf and getting killer reviews.
She’s done it! She’s a traditionally published author!
Moreover, she’s being hailed as the next big thing in young adult literature: a master storyteller and an artist extraordinaire. Her publishing company can’t be more thrilled and immediately urges her to write Book 2.
The pressure is officially on.
No longer does she have the luxury of writing at a reasonable pace or getting outside feedback before she puts her story out to the world. Her publisher has her on a deadline, and she has to follow it. It’s in the contract, after all.
Because it’s something of a rush-job, the second book isn’t all that it can be. It loses something of that professional feel to it. But the first book did so well that nobody seems to care; readers just want to keep following those stellar characters she established in Book 1, even if they are a little more lackluster in Book 2.
And so her publishing company pushes her to put out Book 3. Stat. Which is okay. To some degree. After all, she always intended her overarching plot to take place over a larger series.
It’s just that she thought she’d have a little more time to work out all the details.
Since she doesn’t have that luxury, she starts throwing in random characters and perspectives and angles just to take up space. It no longer matters what she wants or what her readers want, only what the publisher demands to have.
That’s how Book 3 ends up being incredibly lame. And Book 4, apparently – even though it’s young adult lit – turns into a sex-fest. All because she got traditionally published. Because it became about what the traditional publisher wanted (i.e., money) instead of what the writer could achieve.
I’m not trying to bash being traditionally published or making money. Personally, I’m a capitalist who wholly believes that workers are worth their wages. And let’s face it: Authors work a lot of hours in order to produce a book worth reading. Publishers too.
But money should never be the primary focus of a business effort. It should be balanced with customer service and personal dignity… two things that are lost when money-centric traditional publishers get involved.
As a result, for all of the headaches and stigmas (some of them well-deserved, mind you) that come with self-publishing, I – and that curly-haired author, of course – are fine going it alone.
I might not have the sales that way, but at least I still have my dignity.