Kristine Kathryn Rusch argues knowledgeably and convincingly that authors should self-publish. I still don’t plan to. Here’s why.
I promised you a very serious blog post, and here it is.
I’m a long-time fan of Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s (though for some reason I can never remember her name).
She’s a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, but I admit I’ve never tried her fiction.
I’m a fan of her blog.
She writes about the publishing industry, but not regurgitated primers on how to get published or the latest gossip. She writes well-researched, detailed posts about the nitty gritty things you need to know if you want to make a living as a writer, such as licensing rights, contract clauses, and why you should avoid agents and traditional publishers like the coronavirus.
Her advice about traditional publishing comes down to this: publishers and agents are not your friends.
They’re not there to further your interests, they’re there to further their own. At times your interests might coincide with theirs, but when they don’t agents and publishers will protect themselves.
If you walk in with your eyes closed you will get had. If you walk in with your eyes open you will probably still get had, but you will see it coming.
Agents are not lawyers, and they are not qualified to advise you on book contracts. Anything an agent can do for you, you can do better for yourself, with a few hours paid to an intellectual property lawyer.
Many agents, including those at highly reputable agencies, embezzle from their authors, and if this happens to you you will probably never know because they won’t provide you with the information you need to catch them.
No one can advance your career and maximise your earnings from writing the way you can for yourself. Learn business and self-publish.
If you disagree with any of these points, I’m not here to argue. I’m merely explaining my understanding of what Kristine says. Go to her site, read her blog, argue with her.
Good luck. She’s an incredibly knowledgeable, articulate woman.
I mentioned I’m a fan of her blog, and for the most part I believe what she says when she explains the problematic aspects of the publishing industry.
To clarify, I don’t think agents are bad people. Most of them are there because they love books and want to nurture the careers of authors, and they genuinely do the best job they can.
It’s just that they’re trying to make a living, and they’re doing so within a broken industry.
The information Kristine provides is enough to make an author run screaming and hide under the nearest mossy boulder. Certainly to abandon all plans of agents and traditional publishing contracts.
Yet I still plan to pursue traditional publication.
I consider myself a moderately intelligent and rational individual, so this seemingly illogical decision has bugged me for a while.
Recently I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a copy of one of Kristine’s books, Closing the Deal on Your Terms: Agents, Contracts and Other Considerations.
I read it from start to finish in a day. Like everything else by Kristine I’ve read, it was well researched, well argued, and very scary.
It explains with real examples a number of horrifying clauses that publishers include in publishing contracts as a matter of course and that agents advise their clients to accept.
I couldn’t do the book justice if I tried to explain, but I highly recommend you read it, especially if you plan to pursue traditional publication. It may well change your mind.
However, hidden somewhere in the middle of the book–in a place I’ll never find if I search for it to quote it–is a sentence that explains why I might believe what Kristine says, but can’t follow her advice.
It’s a little thing.
But it matters.
Essentially, she said, if you want to make a living from your writing and not have to hold down another job to pay your bills, you should follow my advice. (“And if you don’t follow my advice then you’re an idiot” was implied.)
The fact is, while I might daydream at times about throwing in my day job and living off writing income, mostly I love my other job.
I trained a long time to learn how to do it well, it’s intellectually satisfying, rewarding, flexible, and it pays remarkably well for New Zealand. It gets me out of the house and facilitates fascinating conversations with smart people who share my interests.
Some days I even think what I do there makes the world a better place.
I don’t want to write instead of doing my day job. I want to write as well as doing my day job.
I’m not writing and attempting to publish to make money–I have a way to make money that I can work as much as I like at, and at a higher hourly rate than I could ever hope to earn writing.
I’m writing and attempting to publish because I love writing and I want other people to read my writing and love it too.
Yes, I could learn how to self-publish, manage all the various rights to my work as Kristine advises, and milk every last cent from my writing. But I would have to do many things I hate, like learn to do formatting and talk incessantly to people on the phone.
I’m not going to.
Instead I’m going to do the parts of writing that I love and the parts that are unavoidable, and earn my money elsewhere.
If that means I earn $100 from my writing instead of $100,000, I’ll still be ahead.
Does that make me an idiot?
Judgmental Cat thinks so.
Is Judgmental Cat right? Do you follow Kristine’s blog? Is she right? Would you sign a publishing contract you didn’t fully understand?
Subscribe to my blog to hear more from me (but not too much). Most of it isn’t nearly this serious.