Challenge,  publishing

Want Someone to Do It For Me…

I’ve Run Into This Lately A Few Times…

Some writers are dead set on going to traditional publishing because they want someone to do the work for them. They believe their job starts and stops with writing.

And back in 1990, that was the case. You wrote and the publisher published. Writers had no control at all and honestly in 1990 should not have asked for it or tried to get it.

But that was thirty years ago. Writers now control everything, but beginning writers still come into writing wanting someone to do all the work for them.

I’ve been trying to figure out why, since indie publishing is so clear and fairly easy and cheap these days. Of course, the market-master indie writers make it seem impossible to new writers, but there are other places to learn the truth about how easy and cheap indie publishing really is.

So here are the reasons I think new writers are dead set on traditional publishing route.

1… Lack of knowledge and no skill or desire to learn anything past the myth of BEING PUBLISHED. (Those last two words echo off like from heaven.)

2… Scared of doing something wrong and ruining a career, even though they have no career to ruin and it is impossible to ruin a publishing career anyway.

3… Lazy. Taking control and learning how to do things sounds like too much work, and why put in work when you can get someone else to do it for you?

4… No real desire. They don’t want it bad enough. Publishing a novel is like a checkmark on a bucket list. So no desire to put in the time to learn anything past the myth.

5… Extreme fear of failure. Putting a book out and not having it sell more than a few copies (which is normal for novels #1 through #20 or so). Ego won’t allow failure. They don’t know that failure is a constant in any art form, and writing and publishing is no exception.

So with all that, it is easier for the young writer to say, “I’m looking for an agent.”

And all the family and friends go, “Oh, wow, that’s impressive.”

And then after a couple of years the family and friends stop asking how “the book” is going and the writer stops saying anything and the entire little hobby exercise is forgotten, the book nothing more than a file on an old computer.

The reason? No one would step in and take care of the poor little soul. Oh, pity, pity the poor want-to-be published author. Don’t get to check that off the bucket list. Better just erase it and pretend it was never there.


And yup, in a mood because of twice this week I got that kind of thing, with all the disrespect that comes with it. Maybe I need to start attaching my bio under every blog post. Doubt it would do any good because these writers just don’t want to work and my bio shows that all I have done is learn and kept on writing.

Here is my short bio… I have done a lot more than what I list here. As I said, this is the short bio.

Dean Wesley Smith bio

Considered one of the most prolific writers working in modern fiction, New York Times and USA Today bestselling writer, Dean Wesley Smith published far over two hundred novels in forty years, and hundreds and hundreds of short stories and non-fiction books. He has over twenty-three million copies of his books in print.

At the moment he produces novels in four major series, including the time travel Thunder Mountain novels set in the old west, the galaxy-spanning Seeders Universe series, the cold case mystery series, Cold Poker Gang series, and the superhero series staring Poker Boy.

During his career, Dean also wrote a couple dozen Star Trek novels, the only two original Men in Black novels, Spider-Man and X-Men novels, plus novels set in gaming and television worlds. Writing with his wife Kristine Kathryn Rusch under the name Kathryn Wesley, they wrote the novel for the NBC miniseries The Tenth Kingdom and other books for Hallmark Hall of Fame movies.

He wrote novels under dozens of pen names in the worlds of comic books and movies, including novelizations of almost a dozen films, from X-Men to The Final Fantasy to Steel to Rundown.

Dean also worked as a fiction editor off and on, starting at Pulphouse Publishing, then at VB Tech Journal, then Pocket Books, and now at WMG Publishing where he and Kristine Kathryn Rusch serve as executive editors for the acclaimed Fiction River anthology series. He took over the editorship of the acclaimed Pulphouse Magazine in 2018.



  • Harvey

    At some point, a would-be writer who’s looking to actually learn anything has to stop, consider the experience of the source, and assume the source probably knows what he’s talking about. I’ve been a writer most of my life, but I was never a novelist because (I used to tell people) “I haven’t found a cast of characters I want to live with that long.”

    Then I found your blog, and the rest is history. Now I trust the characters to tell the story that they, not I, are living. That’s the whole secret: Get over yourself and realize it’s the characters’ story, not yours. I love the characters, I love the stories they tell, and I’ve put out nine novels per year on average for the last 6 years.

    Thanks for hanging in there, Dean, and telling the truth of how to make storytelling fun.

  • Mihnea Manduteanu

    For me, before I discovered your works and classes, the idea was simple. Validation. Self doubt and critical voice said my writing sucks and in my mind, if someone (agent, whatever) went for it, it meant validation. Simple as that. “Official” seal of approval. Glad I got over that. Now i am taking your Publishing 101 course and I will go indie.

  • emmiD

    Impressive bio! I know but not all of that!

    Here’s something more the “do it for me” newbies want: someone to turn their ideas into a story ( developmental editor), someone to catch all the discrepancies and the page-level problems (content editor), and someone to find all the typos and grammos (copy editor). Now, no one set of eyes will catch all typos and grammos, but a proofreader is needed, not the other.

    “Do it for me” and “do it fast” are the banes of any new writer that I don’t think the newbies of the 1990s and earlier contended with.

    • dwsmith

      Back in the 1970s and 1980s, when I came in, the common knowledge was that everything took a long time. Anyone who thought otherwise was laughed at. Just the idea of a book going from finished to print in less than six months was light speed. Just from finished to print normal was 12-18 months. Oh, wait, for traditional publishers, that is still the case.

      • Stephanie

        This comment got me thinking….what’s the fastest you’ve gone from finished to print since you’ve gone indie?

        The few novels I’ve indie published took about two months all told, but I don’t know where to start counting as ‘finished’ and then count ‘to print’. Mostly because a. it was five years ago and I was learning everything as I went. All the publishing platforms, the formatting required for ebook and for print, and for print covers and… it was all new to me.

        Learning those things took up just as much time for me as writing did. (Novels were written in three to four weeks or so). The rest of the time was figuring out how the system(s) worked. And fixing my inevitable mistakes (like uploading the wrong file type etc etc).

        Took a break from writing/publishing to raise kids and deal with family emergencies. Getting back into it now, and it feels like a whole new set of learning is required to go back into the publishing side of things because the distributors keep changing the way they do things. Sigh.

        • dwsmith

          Traditional publishing average was over a year. However, I did do a couple last minute saves for publishers. The Frakes book for Tor took one month from the moment I sent it in until it hit the shelves. One Trek novel I wrote was about that speed as well.

          In indie, usually a month is normal pace. Two weeks or less a few times. If we are planning on some standard promotion, we stretch it out to five or six months, so we can do pre-orders and such.

  • Dawn

    Well, Dean, I appreciate you and your “scary math” that lit a fire under me. I love your blunt honesty which gives me a swift kick in the rear when I forget my path. I am grateful for all the mentoring you have given me over the years. Thank you.

    I certainly could relate to your blog above. I get similar questions from writers when I’m at shows and I see their fears, the exact ones you mentioned above. If I feel they are serious about wanting to write a book, I give them the same blunt honesty. If they take it, I send them to your website. Otherwise, I treat them like those that aren’t serious (Stormtrooper voice: Move along, move along). I can see that I’m going to have to have this blog post link printed out on cards which I can hand out to people (*grin*).

    I’ve learned that it all boils down to one thing: choice.

    We all make choices with our time and what we decide to do with our life energy. Unfortunately, we are not taught to make choices for ourselves. We are taught to seek the right answer and there’s a big red mark if we get it wrong. Because trad publishing has been “the way” for so long while self-publishing has been mocked because of vanity presses, many still see trad publishing as the right answer. Wannabe writers are too scared of learning how to do their own covers because that involves learning something about computers and design and fonts and etc. Let’s not even talk about layout! Okay, you and I know how easy it is with Vellum, but again… computers and software and installing things and, and… (*eye roll*) They do not see that it is a simple matter of choosing to learn these things and not being afraid to try something different.

    But too many are afraid to tinker, to spend some time learning something new, to fail forward. And to keep going.

    I am glad for this new age of publishing. I remember being a teenage and explaning to adults at writer’s conferences how to write a query letter (yes, me, at 15 explaining query letters to people who had access to the same books and magazines I did as to how to send submissions to publishers, as well as how to get guidelines, and what an SASE was). I am glad that I am no longer at the mercy of having to get a publisher. I am glad that I saw both sides of the fence and that I was removed from trying to publish during the 90’s (the universe just took me out of the game for a decade, no trying, no way). And I’m glad that when I was dropped back into this new world, I found you and Kris to illuminate my way.

    The difference is that I can totally relate to everything you are saying and I know it’s true. I’m not certain if I only had the ways of new indie authors (and there is a difference between indie authors and indie publishers), if I’d have that breadth of knowledge to grasp what you are teaching. I wonder how many of these disrespectful people need to attempt and make their mistakes to be lead back to the new world truth.

    Don’t stop, Dean. Don’t ever stop. There are many of us out there who are listening and who need to hear what you have to say. Thank you again.

    • dwsmith

      Thanks, Dawn, Appreciate it. Sometimes I just got to climb on a soap box. No expectations anyone is listening, just got to climb up there and talk for a minute, then climb down and go on with my day. (grin)

  • Kate Pavelle

    All that. I wonder, too, how much the current economic crisis adds to the sense of overwhelm when it comes to learning new things. People need to “pivot” constantly to keep their jobs, to manage their families, etc. (“Pivot” has become a buzzword, which is… weird.) With so many changes going on right now, embarking on learning how to do a “totally new thing” might be daunting.
    Granted, indie pub is easy. The steps are simple.
    But it doesn’t look easy from the outside. The layers of myth, prestige, and so on are generations deep.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if new writes started getting into publishing more late next year, once most of us have been vaccinated and once the economy has settled into a more predictable pattern (fingers crossed.)
    Dean, your bio should also include your non-writing jobs. Of all the things you’ve done, what inspires me more than your prolific catalogue is that you worked regular-people jobs for a lot of it, no pity party, no expectations of instant success.
    After the Kindle gold rush, a lot of us need a reminder that building a career in gradual increments is normal.

  • Terry Mixon

    I was #2 with a dash of #5 when I started. I was just scared of doing something “wrong.”

    I found you and Kris online and came to the coast for your Think Like A Publisher workshops. Has it really been eight years ago?

    Back then I had a full-time job but wanted to be a writer. I was just paralyzed by not knowing what to do.

    You taught me enough to get started that workshop and I’ve slowly put the fear to rest.

    The job laid me off six years ago and I’ve been a full-time professional writer ever since. I’m not as fast as you (or as fast as I’d like to be) but I’ve indie published more than 20 solo novels and a lot of that fear has disappeared.

    Believe it or not, I’ve grown from that guy who asked a question and got you telling the class “extreme caution” with the things I was doing. 😉

    Thanks for what you do and helping shepherd me though those fears. You two are a big part of my success and you help so many others.

    • dwsmith

      Thanks, Terry, but all we do is stand and point in a direction. You do all the learning and the work and the writing to make it happen. We take no credit for just being signposts along the road.

      • Kate Pavelle

        LOL, I don’t know that just pointing a direction is all you do. I love when you pace and vituperate, and yell “Grow a spine!” and “Fight for your characters!” (You don’t pace in the vids, but you gesticulate with your eyebrows. That’s good too.)
        For me, for I’m one of those family peace-maker types by necessity, It’s nice to be reminded that courage is free for the taking.
        So thank you, Dean!

  • JRCSalter

    I chose to go indie precisely BECAUSE I had to do everything. I love having control over the covers, the final presentation, the website, heck, even the marketing.

    I don’t think I could ever publish something traditionally, though I have thought about maybe writing something I don’t care too much about and seeing if I can go the trad route, but it’s not likely.

  • Sheila

    A large number of them are lazy, too. Don’t want to learn anything, somebody should just tell them what to do, and why, bullet point lists preferred. They don’t get that there’s more than one way to successful selling as a writer/self publisher. They don’t bother to learn anything (and many times, they seem to get caught up in the passive income, make a million Kindle publishing notions), don’t want to spend the time and effort. They got a story idea yesterday, why hasn’t Amazon paid them yet?

    At any rate, I appreciate what you do, and hope you’ll never stop. I send people here when I think they’ll learn, because I know you don’t push out nonsense.

  • Desikan

    Hi Dean,

    I am a newbie in this field and you are an inspiration for me in thinking long term while constantly moving few steps every day. It is tough to keep it going (learning patience), but any career is built over time learning few bits daily.

    Couple of things which should be in your bio (in my view) are your contribution to the world through these workshops/lectures/blogs which we all are grateful for.

    • dwsmith

      Thanks. When I was starting off, my goal was to learn one major new thing each week, and if I was coming toward the end of a week and felt like I hadn’t learned something about writing or publishing that week, I would focus on a book or something to really search out that one thing for the week. Really added up as the years went by. I still try to learn something every day or every week in this business. Teaching helps with that.

      But I will never add in the teaching to my bio. I do it to pay forward for all the help from pros I got when I was starting. I’m not a teacher, I’m a writer. But thanks for the kind thoughts.