On Writing,  publishing

Artistic Freedom and Being a Victim

Getting Tired…

You would think that eventually fiction writers, as a group, would start getting tired of being victims. I mean really tired.

One of the wonderful things that this new world has given all writers is artistic freedom. We’ve talked here about some of the ramifications of how writers use that freedom over the last few weeks.

But another aspect of the freedom writers have is to make choices in the areas of how they will work, who they will work with, and so on. These choices are very much aspects of artistic freedom.

In the old days of traditional-publishing-only, I used to scoff at writers sitting in bars complaining because they couldn’t sell another book. Their editor had left or their first series had poor sales. Even in those days the writers had an artistic choice to change their names, find new editors, and sell another book because all sales records were tied to names. Just as it these days.

But I suggest to writers these indie days to not change names but to stay under one name because of the power of numbers of titles in discoverability.

So let me give you three major examples of how certain choices have changed since the traditional days.

— Traditional: Writer signed a contract or didn’t publish. Today writers aren’t stopped by contracts in indie. Writers can publish what you want.

— Traditional: Writer has zero control of cover or copyediting or book design. Today writers have complete control over all of those aspects.

— Traditional: Writers had no control at all over sales, promotion, and the way money was handled and when the writer got it. Today, the writer has complete control and knows exactly how much money is coming at any moment and when.

So why, with all this new control, do writers constantly put themselves into a place to be a victim?

Some examples of how writers just put themselves into a place to be a victim.

— Writers spend years trying to get a traditional publisher, sign bad contracts and whine about making no money and about a publisher doing exactly what was in the contract the writer signed.

— Writers hire agents and then complain that the agent isn’t communicating with them and money is slow or being stolen.

— Writers sign up with vanity publishers and pay vast amounts of money on scam promises. (Sadly, not far off from hiring an agent these days.)

— Writers put their books in an exclusive arrangement, either a distributor or something like KU and then whine when things don’t go exactly as they hoped.

— Writers think they can get rich on a few short novels and then when they have few or no sales (even though they followed all the advice from baby writers) they whine and quit.

— Writers sell a few things, think they know everything about writing and telling stories and stop learning craft and business and then whine when their career dries up like fine sand in a desert. (These writers never understand what exactly happened because their egos tell them they are good and they can’t accept that they might not be good enough to hold a long-term fan base.)

— Writers write to market (meaning go write something they don’t much like but that they think is hot to make a little money) and then whine when writing is no longer fun and their money slows down and stops.


Take control. Accept the control.

Writers have complete control and artistic choice these days.

And the information is out there to make intelligent decisions if you want. (Yes, you have to wade through some crap… stop whining and wade.)

No one is forcing you to be in KU or sign a bad traditional contract or think you can get rich in five or ten books or stop learning how to be a better storyteller. You have the choice to do all that and end up a victim complaining later.

Artistic choice means the choice to make good or bad decisions.


Yup, we do. I sure made a bunch of the ones I listed above back in the traditional days. I had an agent who stole from me, I signed horrid contracts, I wrote for money instead of love in a bunch of places.

But since the real choices suddenly gave writers freedom, the artistic freedom I’ve been talking about in these blogs, I have made none of those mistakes.

I got rid of my agent, haven’t even thought of going to a traditional publisher again for any reason, I write what I love, and I have been hungry to keep learning and practicing to be a better storyteller almost every day.

And I have a long-term approach. Now understand how hard that is considering I started just over three years ago and I am now 66 years of age. I still understand and embrace long-term growth and it’s been working fine.

So stop being a victim, even though you have made mistakes.

Interesting aspect of making a mistake… if you admit it, stop whining, fix the mistake, and move on, no one really notices.

You now have one major artistic choice I haven’t mentioned.

You can stop complaining about the mistakes you made, stop defending them, change course, and build into the future.

In other words, stop being a victim.

Make new mistakes, have fun with the writing, and embrace the control.

Take the responsibility of being in control.

A ton more fun that way.


  • Vera Soroka

    Very good post but I feel that writers will still follow the sheep and will have to learn the hard way. This coming year I will focus on my own stuff and getting stuff out. I’m tired of listening to the KU thing. I’m not interested in that.
    Control is what it is all about and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
    Oh and a off the beaten trail question. I can’t seem to get on to your patreon or Kris’s and even an other author I follow. The ipad and iPhone can’t connect to a secure server it tells me and the desk top (Microsoft) gives me a certificate error. Has anybody else had this problem or is just me?

    • dwsmith


      Seems to be working fine. Got a hunch that if it is three different Patreon accounts, it’s your server that’s blocking them for some reason. Ahh, the fun of websites and stuff. I sure have learned that again over the last few days. (grin)

      • Vera Soroka

        Yes I have and I still get no where. I’m getting this silly certificate error and I have done everything to get rid of it and it won’t work. Not sure if it’s a windows 10 issue or internet explorer but in any case I have down what they tell me to do and nothing. I’m getting fed up. Will let it rest for a bit and try later.

        • Vera Soroka

          Update-I got it going. I unplugged the internet connection and then reconnected it and it worked! Patreon works again. Some days you just want to kick it in the shins.

  • Carradee

    This “take control” thing is one reason I do some things, as a writer, that a lot of folks don’t, whether because they work for me or because they suit me or even because I’m just curious.

    Case in point: I’m converting a short story of mine into a 10-choice gamebook and visual novel. Both are forms of interactive fiction, but the end experience differs, as does the production process. It’s fun to know, and I’ll be applying it to other things (and probably making more).

    It’s also a market that doesn’t seem to have much crossover in who’s doing it, so I wonder what would happen if someone regularly released the various formats.

    (Vera, Patreon’s working fine for me.)

    • dwsmith

      Cool idea, Carradee. That’s very much a great part of artistic choices. Just like doing my own magazine is an artistic choice that on the surface sounds head-shaking. Fun to try new stuff because we can.

    • dwsmith

      No surprise at all. Think about it. Say back when Tiger Woods was dominating golf. If asked why he won a tournament, he would talk about luck or a bounce that went right or something like that. Not once did he say, “I’m a better player than all the rest of these guys because I am the first one here hitting balls before dawn and I am the last one to leave because I practice all the time seven days a week and I know more about golf than most of these others combined.”

      All true, but he would never say that.

      Major writers would never say they are better storytellers than most writers. Just not something you do. In any art or sport. But if they are constantly selling that many books book after book, they are better storytellers than the rest of us. Just a fact. But not something they would say or mostly even think.

  • Gaelen

    Another great, wise blog post, Dean. You always keep it real. Hey, I just came across a Christmas movie that you and all the people who listen to your writing advice would really get a kick out of. It’s called “If You Believe”. It’s kind of old and hard to find (though it is pirated on youtube, ahem, in crappy quality).

    The thing you always talk about with the inner child and the “back brain” — that’s exactly what it’s about. A hard-driving NYC trad pub editor (ha!) has lost her joy in her job until her childhood self appears to her at Christmastime (a la Scrooge) and puts her back in touch with her joy and her creativity and zest for life.

    People will also find the writer myths on display in this movie most amusing. Like when the editor goes to her newly discovered author’s HOUSE for 3 weeks (lmao) to personally help him edit his book. But that’s just a plot device to bring in a romance. People in the know will laugh quite a bit at that.

    The kid, played by “Save the Cheerleader” Hayden Pannettieri as a very little girl, maybe first grade! steals the show, skipping around, getting into trouble, and being mischievous and adorable. Anybody who listens to what you have to say about unleashing the kid will get something out of this movie. I sure did!

    But I am wondering why my NY editors never came to my house and went over my manuscript with me page by page! LOLOL.

    Anyway, you guys might want to check it out. I found it on a Roku channel called Feeln. And I’m not ashamed to admit it! *g* It’s like heartwarming Christmassy type sweet movies all the time. I’m sick of all the dark, gritty stuff everywhere else. Happy holidays, Dean, Kris, cats, and all!


  • Sheila

    You can stop complaining about the mistakes you made, stop defending them, change course, and build into the future.

    Yep. That’s my plan for 2017. I’ve made mistakes, had stuff happen that messed up the writing, but after a little pity party, it’s full speed ahead.

    I love the control I have of my writing. I don’t think I could listen to anyone telling me I can’t do this, can’t do that, this won’t sell, that’s the genre you need to be writing in.

    I’ve tried that, the erotica thing especially, and it’s not me.

    I tried the plotting thing, and it’s not me.

    Writing to market is not me.

    I’m too old to keep wasting time doing things that are not me. I need to get back to that kid that learned to write so she could write, because it was more fun than keeping the stories in her head. Because that was fun and I loved writing.

    I hope everyone is having a great December and is looking forward to an awesome new year!