Hail the Creators (Authors, This Means You!)

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

Sea Stars Coming October 15

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.


  1. Well said, my friend. I’ll add that this upside down structure leads to “same old, same old.” Making it hard to find the many creators out there writing groundbreaking fiction.

  2. For a long time I’ve thought of the writing industry as being the same as the industry that built up around the Gold Rush. The people digging for gold very rarely found it or made a living and most went bankrupt or died. But the people who charged $10 for a dinner (in 1850!) or to do laundry, or to put a person up in a tent for the night, those were the ones who made a nice, steady living. And it’s the same in the writing industry. Just sayin…. It goes back to what I blogged about the last time–write because it’s fulfilling, be professional, but don’t put your whole life on the line for this. And don’t take S**T from anyone!

    1. Hi, Emilya. It was your blog that got me thinking about this again, although there’s an entire chapter devoted to this in my book Strategic Self-Publishing Strategies. And then when you shared one of your personal experiences with us last week, it made me think. If the industry can make a huge talent like you feel so bad, there’s something wrong. Unfortunately ,the industry won’t change as long as we authors allow ourselves to be treated that way. Buck up.
      But I can tell you that publishing is one of the few maker industries that still works with middlemen like reps and distributors. Everyone else has eliminated them as sources of supply chain friction (sorry. Once a supply chain geek, always a supply chain geek.)

  3. Good question, Sharon. Maybe it’s the law of supply and demand at work. Too many authors chasing too few publishing opportunities. The good news is that authors can self-publish or choose to go with a small publisher that doesn’t require an agent. The bad news is that going that way makes it difficult to find an audience because book stores don’t stock those books and reviewers don’t review them.

    Authors should write because they can’t not write. Fame and fortune are illusive.

    1. Totally agree. But since 70% of ebooks and about 60% of print books are sold on Amazon, in my mind the secret of success is no longer being on a B&N bookshelf, or even an indy bookshelf. The secret is mastering selling on Amazon, and that’s a lot easier than trying to connect with every bookstore in the country. And with self-publishing, you are responsible for your own success, which I find thrilling.

  4. Sharon, it’s hard to understand this upside-down pyramid, when all this jobs you mention require the creative work in the first place. We write to share our stories and hope they will get to readers…

    1. Publishing requires the creative work to happen in the first place too. If you hadn’t written your wonderful books, your publisher wouldn’t have it to publish. And yes, we all write to share our stories, and every story and every writer deserves respect for that very reason. What I most object to is the industry’s attitude of “It’s ok if I never get back to the author on their submission” or “they can wait six months for me to decide” or “I don’t have to bother telling them that we’re not picking up the next book in the series”. It’s why I turned to self-publishing. I succeed or fail based on whether people want to read my stories. Lucky for me, they do.

  5. Having had one foot in each world (traditional and self publishing), I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this topic and will share more once it has all fermented. I definitely agree with you, Sharon, that the industry has it upside down. The sad thing is watching writers beg for an agent, a blurb, an opportunity to pitch like they’re waiting to be asked to the prom and spending enormous amounts of time writing queries instead of the stories they are meant to tell. Bravo for this important post and discussion.

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