So, I’ve been thinking a lot about how the publishing industry is upside down. Authors are the ones who bring the creativity and spark to the industry, but everywhere you look there’s somebody telling the author that they’d be lucky to get an agent. Lucky to ever be published. Lucky to get a marketing budget.
In my opinion, which is admittedly worth very little, this is completely wrong. Without authors, agents have nothing to sell. Editors have nothing to edit. Publishers have nothing to publish. Bookstores…well, you get the idea.
Authors want to tell their stories so badly that they sometimes fall into this trap. I see people stressing over pitching to agents, and I think, “You’re hiring them. You’ll pay their salary. You’re the one with the product they want. In the real world, they should be pitching you.”
And because so many authors have fallen for the myth that they’re not enough on their own, an entire industry has arisen from the mist to supposedly give authors a leg up. An industry happy to take the authors’ money and to make them feel ‘less than.’
I’m not saying all education or services aimed at writers are worthless or bad. I’m definitely not saying writers don’t need education to hone skills. Writers have to be really good at grammar. They need to be accomplished at using the tools of the trade, be that Word, Google Docs, Apple Pages or whatever they’ve chosen. They need to understand the structure of a novel. It helps to understand how books are printed, and how copyrights work, and contract terms, and a lot of other stuff. So, yeah. Education is good.
The “industry” will tell you there’s a lot more to bringing a book to market than writing it, which is very true. But it’s also very true in a lot of other industries.
If you go to a fancy restaurant for dinner, you expect great food and excellent service, but you don’t think the guy that delivered your food is responsible for the meal. The foundation of the experience is the chef. The chef is the creator that made your experience what it was.
With help, of course.
Farmers, distributors, decorators, sous chefs. Everybody contributed. But nobody expects the chef to take a backseat to these roles.
The power and credit should belong to the creator. In food, it’s the person who chose the seasonings, who paired the sauces and maybe the wines, who expertly created a meal using their skills and their knowledge of cooking and the senses.
In books, it’s the author.
Not everyone can be a creator. It takes a special kind of skill, and a willingness to take risks, but risks based on a solid foundation of knowledge and expertise. To be a creator, you have to put yourself out there.
And in every creative industry except publishing, it’s the creators who are top of the heap. In fashion, it’s designers. In technology, it’s the programmers. In manufacturing, it’s the engineers.
So then, in an industry that would be nowhere without them, why don’t authors get the respect they deserve?
About Sharon Ward
Sharon Ward is the author of the Fin Fleming Scuba Diving Mystery Series, which includes In Deep, Sunken Death, Dark Tide, Killer Storm, and Hidden Depths. Sea Stars, the sixth book, will be released in October 2023. Sharon was a marketing executive at prominent software companies Oracle and Microsoft before becoming a writer. She was also a PADI certified divemaster who has hundreds of dives under her weight belt. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, MWA, ITW, Grub Street, the Authors Guild, and the Cape Cod Writers Center. She lives near Cape Cod with her husband Jack and their miniature long-haired dachshund Molly, who is the actual head of the Ward household.