What makes a writer?
That's a question I deal with quite a bit. Am I a writer?
I think the answer is actually easy. I write, therefore I'm a writer. I make a substantial portion of my living as a writer, and the portion is even higher if you count the writing I do for video projects at the day job.
I published my first novel by myself, as an independent publisher. My second novel was put out under the "Silence in the Library" imprint. I followed the model that I took with the comics route and the independent film route. I helped write Pirate Club with Derek Hunter, Derek published the book himself and it was picked up by Slave Labor Graphics. I produced two films, This Divided State and Killer at Large, we made them, and then they were picked up by distributors.
It's a business model that makes sense to me. It's the model for everything but books, but why?
Does that business model make me (or anyone who chooses it) less of a writer?
I write for many different outlets, some of them for free, some of them I'm paid for. I write regularly for Big Shiny Robot!, Huffington Post, Salt Lake City Weekly, The Examiner, and a number of other sites and outlets that ask me to. Am I less of a writer because of the amount of compensation I get per word at some outlets and more of a writer at others?
I think the answer is no. I write, therefore I'm a writer.
I've been running into a few people lately that I'm glad are in the minority. They are people who live to tear others down. They find something they don't like, be it a method of publication, a line in your book, a means of marketing, and they do their best to tear you down. They get it in their heads that they're better than you because they see their path as having more value than yours.
Aaron Allston talked about this on his blog. Some writers are mad at others, or discount them, or don't claim them as peers because they didn't jump through the same hoops that others did. What they fail to realize is that no two writers, published traditionally or independently, fiction, non-fiction, journalism, or anything else, jump through the same hoops as any other writer. We all have a different path, why scoff at paths that don't intersect with ours?
That attitude simply needs to be abandoned, but another attitude that needs to be abandoned is shitting on other writers. Sure, I'll poke fun at Dan Brown or Chuck Palahniuk now and again because I don't like their books, but I would never, never, ever, disparage and attack a writer working their hardest to make it in this difficult life path.
Writing is an art form. It is a very personal art form. And I understand that not all of it is aimed at my tastes or sensibilities and not all of it will be aimed at your tastes or sensibilities. So for me to tear one of them down because I didn't like this line or that line in one of their books or stories, or to call them a con man because an acquaintance reviewed the book at a major media outlet, is not only out of line, it would be downright shitty and unprofessional.
Those of us that have chosen this profession have a hard enough road before us. We don't need to be tearing each other down.
I get offers to read a lot of books from other authors. If I don't like their book, I don't talk about it. It's as simple as that. We need to create a positive echo chamber for each other. If you don't like my book, I can respect that, but don't tear me down. If you do like it, scream from the hilltops about it. I'll do the same for you. Part of the reason that independent publishing has such a bad rap is because all you hear about are the horror stories or the runaway successes.
Be positive for each other and ignore the bad.
Independent publishers put out just as much crap as the traditional publishers, the traditional publishers just happen to have a better, more positive echo chamber.
I would say my first book, Lost at the Con, is somewhere in the middle. I've sold over 10,000 copies of the book, digitally and in print, and I've given away thousands more. It's been read by a lot of people in the last year and of all the bad reviews I've had or heard about I could count on both hands. And there are some people whose opinion I respect considerably that have read the book, didn't like it, and never said a word about it, good or bad. It's because they understand how difficult our life-paths as artists and writers are. What good would it do any of us for them to trash me or my book? Lost at the Con isn't for everyone. It's written in an odd, misanthropic voice. I get that it won't be everyone's cup of tea. But to say I'm a bad writer because you didn't agree with how the story was written? That's not okay, especially in light of all the people who do like it and find my reading a joy.
I've had fan letters from authors that were my idols in childhood. Why should I take the opinion at all of jealous, envious writers who don't have any of their own work to show because they hide behind anonymity?
I'm not asking anyone to be disingenuous. I'm just saying that if you don't like a book, don't give it the time of day on your social media networks, in your conversations, or anything. Send the author a note telling them what you didn't like so they can improve for next time. What you shouldn't do is go on a crusade against an author, any author, because you didn't like their book.
There's too much negativity in this world to spend time thinking about it. All you can do is put your story out, hope people like it, and move on to the next one.
That's what I did with Operation: Montauk. As much as I love the work I did with Lost at the Con, I think Operation: Montauk is a vastly superior book, and the reaction and reviews are bearing that out. Will there be a person here or there who doesn't like it? Probably. But that doesn't phase me. The audience I wrote it for loved it and that's all I need.
Sure, I'll work on promoting it still, I need to recoup the cost of time and money it took to make, but I've already finished another manuscript for a non-fiction book, and I'm 2k words into my next book.
I'm a writer.
That's what I'm getting back to doing.
In the meantime, if I like your writing, I'll make sure everyone knows about it. If not, I'll wait until you have something I'm daffy about, then go crazy promoting it. Because I'm not going to tear anyone else whose chosen this path down.
I'll do that because I'm a writer. And that's what real writers do.