On Writing,  publishing

The New World of Publishing: Insulting Your Writer Friends

This week my wife, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, talked in her blog about a topic that has been bothering me for some time. And a problem I saw coming years ago. And one that makes me sad that the problem has finally arrived.

That problem, put simply, is writers angry at other writers. The reason?  A writer’s choice on how to publish a book. 

— Some indie writer on some blog or comment starts going on about how all traditional books these days are bad and I want to raise my hand and say, “Uh, excuse me, over one hundred traditionally published novels here, and not all of them are bad.”

— And then at the same time, on some other blog or comment, some traditionally published writer starts going on about how all indie books are bad and I want to raise my hand and say, “Uh, I’ve put up over 250 indie books and not all of them are bad.”

I am simply making choices for my own fiction, and people are insulting me.

Truth, folks. Sometimes I go indie, sometimes I go traditional, and I love the ability to pick and choose. And I advise writers on both sides. And I teach choice.

But it seems other writers don’t want me to have that choice, and clearly don’t want that choice for themselves.

I am finding this stunning, but not surprising, actually.

What I find really stunning is that writers now have options, and it seems that MOST WRITERS HATE HAVING OPTIONS. It makes them angry.

My poor little brain just hurts at the idea that any writer thinks that having publishing options is a bad thing.

I suppose those writers would be happy with just one big publishing company with only one imprint and only one magazine so they wouldn’t have to strain themselves on deciding which publisher to send a book or story to. Or happy if all traditional publishers failed and only their little publishing company was the only one left.

I don’t honestly know. But it sure seems that a vast number of writers HATE OPTIONS with their publishing choices.

And even more stunning is this hating-of-choices in not limited to beginning writers who haven’t yet found a clue under a nearby bush. No, this hatred and insults also comes spouting out of the mouths of some of the top bestsellers who have been beaten by a thousand clues over the years.

The hatred on this topic comes from everywhere.

Go read my last post explaining how it is possible for writers who work really hard and take a long-term approach to their writing might make a living with short fiction. And notice that to make a living, I used BOTH TRADITIONAL AND INDIE publishing?

That made one poor blogger so angry, he said I was running a “scam.”  All I could do was laugh, since I guess my suggesting a writer must work hard over a lot of years to make a living is a scam. (Kris heard about it and laughed and wanted to know what I was doing with all the money from the scam. Yeah, I was wondering the same thing.)

So even a post suggesting balance gets people really, really angry.

Indie writers flat declare they will never traditionally publishing and traditionally published writers find all kinds of ways of insulting writers who indie publish as if their method is the superior method. Why??????

Let me ask that again…  Why???????????

And why insult the people on the other side of your choice???  Remember, no matter which side of this topic you decide to insult, you are insulting me and my wife at the same time, since we comfortably do both.

So for kicks and jollies, (all mine since this post and the one by my wife will make no difference) I want to lay out a few ways the choices have helped writers. All real examples, I’m afraid.

Example One: A friend of mine is doing a wonderful series of books traditionally published. My friend also can see the value of indie publishing other work and had planned to write some extra material to indie publish, not only to make more money and have more fun writing, but to support the traditionally published books which were coming out one per year.

As a smart writer who likes the traditional editor my friend works with, my friend told the editor about the plan for indie publishing a finished book. The editor, also being smart, asked to see the new book and decided to pick up speed on my friend’s publishing schedule and buy the new series. My friend doubled the published books-per-year and more than doubled the money.

The option of indie publishing for my friend helped push my friend’s traditional books in ways not thought of.

Without the indie publishing option and my friend’s willingness to use it, the old traditional schedule would have continued and my friend would not now be writing a second series.

Example Two: A good friend of mine got a contract from a traditional publisher. Two-book deal pretty much buying rights forever and giving low royalties and such. My friend, being smart, got a lawyer and they worked on the contract, but in the end, the traditional publisher would not budge.

Before choices, my friend would have been stuck either taking the deal or putting the books in a drawer or trying to find another publisher with better contract terms. But my friend also knows indie publishing and had done some short fiction and knew what was possible, so the series came out indie published and has made my friend twice what he would have made from the poor deal with the traditional publisher. In just one year.

My friend had a choice and my friend’s writing career did not die right there as it would have five years ago faced with the same decision, but without the indie option in his corner.

Example Three: Amanda Hocking. I have seen this pattern over and over in just the last year or so. A newer writers starts off indie publishing for one reason or another, has good sales, gets approached by a traditional publisher and decides to do both. I don’t know Amanda Hocking, but from following her, it appears she is still being sane and sound on both sides of this fence. She sold books for a reported total of four million to St. Martin’s Press and she’s still indie publishing other work.

Now that’s smart.

Example Four: And then there is my wife, Kristine Kathryn Rusch. And other writers like her, including Laura Resnick who touched on this very example in a comment on my last post. I have talked to many writers with this issue. But let me use Kris as an example here and why choice suddenly is very important for her and her readers.

Over the years my wife has published a lot of novels, many, many of them in series. And she is still publishing traditionally.

But writers like my wife and Laura and many others care about their readers and their fans. And traditional publishing often has to drop an ongoing series for one reason or another. Up until the last few years, writers like my wife were constantly answering mail from their fans who asked about the next book in a series. Her response was always difficult because she had no choice (because the series could not be published by another publisher.)

In this new world Kris has a choice to finish some series for the fans. So last December the 8th book in the Retrieval Artist series (Anniversary Day) came out of WMG Publishing. And the next book in the series (Blowback) will be late this fall.

Kris also has plans to do the last three books of the Fey Series to finish the Third Place of Power, and she has plans now to write a new Smokey Dalton book in her acclaimed Kris Nelscott mystery series.

My wife, and writers like her, now have choices. Kris still writes for traditional publishers, but she also can give her fans the next books in long-lost series.


When you hear yourself making some firm and angry statement about another writer who is doing something (either traditional or indie) you don’t either understand or like, take a deep breath. And ask yourself the following questions:

— Do I really understand that writer’s situation and life and writing methods?

— Would I do the same thing in his position?

— Why does his choice make me so angry?

—- And why am I so afraid of other writers having choices?

And that’s really where this all comes down.

Another writer’s choice does not impact you in any way. Stay out of their business, make your own choices, encourage and learn from other writers.

If you don’t want to add a choice of publication into your world, that’s fine. Don’t. It’s your career. Your choice.

But please stop insulting other writers. You may not like another writer’s choice, but honor them for their choice and try to understand why they are making that choice.

And learn from them.

As a writer who published my first short story in 1975 and my first novel in 1988, this new world of 2012 is fantastic and wonderful and I love the choices I now have.

And I love the learning and the excitement.

It would make an old guy like me just giddy if I wasn’t being insulted from both sides all the time.

And, oh yeah, have I said lately how much I love this new world and all the choices it offers me as a writer?


Copyright © 2012 Dean Wesley Smith

Cover art copyright Philcold/Dreamstime

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I could have written a short story in the same amount of time it took to write this, so I hope I haven’t insulted anyone.

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