Friday, May 9, 2014

The Wonderful Democracy in Writing

The publishing industry is rare. I mean incredibly, supremely rare. This entire post will revolve around the traditional publishing route because, well, you'll see.

Why do I think the publishing industry is rare? Because it is free.

Let's say I want to write a book. Woo! Now I've written one. Now I'm querying. Now I'm on submission. Now I got picked up by a publisher - yay! Now I get an advance. Now I can use some of that money for publicity, but most of it I'll keep. Yay, I get royalties! Or, say the book does badly - I get no royalties and have a crappy chance of getting my next book traditionally published.

But think, just once: did I ever lose money? Did I ever even use money that I didn't get from the industry in the first place?

I'm literally pausing as I write this because it's so mind-blowing, trying to wrap my head around the concept that in this publishing industry, the only thing you can ever do is gain money.

Of course, the vast majority of writers don't make money because they don't get published. What, like 99% of people who start/write a book never get published or something crazy like that? But if you think about it, isn't that percentage justified because all you can ever do is gain money?

Yet, the best part about it is this:

You don't need a dime to get into this industry.

Everything you need to start writing, you can find in the library. I guess, technically, you need a laptop in this day and age but there are many libraries that loan out laptops or computers for free. You can get books on the craft of writing from the library. Best of all, you can get books from the library and learn the craft just by reading masterpieces. You can find critique partners online. You can get it all for free.

It's this remarkable trait of publishing that has allowed works like Harry Potter to be in the shelves of millions of homes. Everyone knows the JK Rowling story - single mother in poverty, all that. If there was some sort of fee to get on the publishing route, I bet she still would have found a way to pay--she's a writer, after all--but what if the fee was very high?

This does not apply only to fiction, or even books. Think about newspaper editorials, letters to the editor, short stories, and--above all--memoirs.

Memoirs exist so that a person's experiences can be shared to others. This experience usually is unique, out-of-the-norm. Different. Memoirs are where democratic writing shines because some people just cannot afford to pay fees for their stories to be told. That's why their stories are so crucial in the first place - they cannot afford any fee. The stories and experiences of people who have it rough in society are exactly what society needs to hear. If there was a fee to get heard, you think society would hear a word?

In other journeys in life, you need money to get going: entrepreneurial routes, music (generally you need a band, and that means equipment), finding a job (don't tell me you don't need to look the part to get a job), hell, even getting a loan from the bank to go to college or get a house (don't get me started on that topic because, boy, I can go on for hours).

But writing doesn't require a fee. Writing is free. It's only requirements are solid prose and a good story. Writing very well can be the greatest source of change. It frequently is, after all. Books change lives, change laws, change nations, and change the world. And it's because it's so democratic.

So what I'm saying is let's REJOICE!! We're a part of the most democratic, free, and equal process of all processes that exist in the professional world. The sky's our limit because almost everything depends on our own stories and abilities. 

Our field is probably the most democratic professional field out there. And the only reason I say 'probably' is because there hasn't been a field that's proven me wrong - but hey, you never know.

HAPPY DEMOCRATIC WRITING! Now let's make the most of this gift.

1 comment:

  1. Your point is well taken.

    My (respectful) counterpoint would be to note that time is money. And if I spend thousands of hours of a project which may never earn me a dime, that is thousands of hours I could have been doing something else (even freelance writing) to earn a living.

    My $0.02