Great conversation about this so far. I want to get to some of the comments at the end here.
One thing that hasn't sat well with me since "coming out" here about my secret thoughts has been the people I feel I'm leaving open. There's always a repercussion. When I was taking on the quality level of Christian fiction it was the authors, editors and big publishing community who became a blunt tool of retribution, somehow hearing in my carefully chosen words a personal slam on their mission. Now, mind you, we're all on the same team, giving our lifeblood for books, choosing this path of thankless poverty, in solidarity and mutual respect, to build up the community of dedicated creatives raising the bar of Christian reading together. This is our bond and in my mind at least, it's insoluble.
But I have a tendency of taking that for granted. I also tend to push it to extend to the lesser members of "our" community–the ones on the outside, the unwashed, unpublished authors, those unsavory individuals who find themselves wondering why Christians who all love books can be so insular and exclusive as though it's some big club you have to prove you belong in before you can pay your admission and get a cool drink.
Truth is, I've been waiting to write this post.
I push against the velvet rope around the club because it's the same barrier that kept the Samaritan's brother in that ditch. Listen: "Who do you think you are? Don't you have any respect? You can't just open the doors to help people because they have a need!" They don't hear themselves, but they're saying the same thing. Do they see those who have needs? Or do they see the beautiful building they've occupied for so long being changed, opened up to the riff-raff, sullied by the pungent smell of ripe feet in need of washing? In fact, some will see only rocks threatening their beautiful windows. And nothing else.
I've been silent a long time, waiting to say it and today I finally want to say what's making me so excited about being fired and being shown the door. I was inside. I saw it. It was beautiful. But it was just a building. And you've got more going on out here than they do. "They" are a phantom so it's easy to miss who we're talking about, so don't mistake me. Everyone in that big building of publishing is a good, extremely intelligent, highly-efficient machine of well-oiled skill and experience. Together, they're a powerful force and with the big building as the stronghold, you had better make friends as best you can. Don't be stupid and throw rocks.
But don't accept this lie of inferiority. That's what I'm excited to share. You have more opportunity today than ever before. With everything before you in online marketing and instant information, if you play your cards right, you don't need to worry about getting in the building. It will happen if you want it to once you rise to the bar that's been set. If you will wait and come with me, seek the knowledge that's building out there (much of it freely available online), you'll have more readers than you can ever respond to. What I mean is, you don't need in anymore.
Over the past year and a half, I've begun to see just how unnecessary pursuing big publishing is. Let them pursue you. It's much better that way, believe me. I've seen authors become someone they value without even trying to and I know the secrets. The affirmation thing Katherine mentioned is perfectly reasonable and absolutely right–this IS the primary reason to pursue big publishing I see. Seems perfectly valid. But what I'm saying is, it's unlikely. You won't get it and you will kill yourself trying. Of course on a personal, emotional, and spiritual level, we know where our true affirmation and validation comes from–only one place. But professionally too, it can come only from knowing you've done your very best and not sold out to a false hope of a huge readership, critical acclaim, and giant sales.
Getting noticed as a new author is still possible. But if you're working at it just to be good enough to be published, you're missing the point. Do it and hold on to your rights while you're starting out so you can control the establishment of your own career. Then when it begins to get noticed, you can decide your terms when they come to you. But holding off a while is your best bet. This is, in essence, all I'm saying.
Now, don't read this as license to go self-publish without editing or paying a vanity press thousands of dollars. You are likely ruining your chances of ever gaining a real audience if you do. Be patient. Research, read, contemplate, write, rewrite, edit, critique, review, learn, brand, market, build, explore, listen, watch, wait, craft, strategize. Remember another parable: if you got a talent and a call, it is your responsibility how to invest it. If you act out of fear, selfishness, or anything other than his kingdom, you already know what happens. If you invest with maturity and intelligence, you have no idea the real reward that awaits.
Are you getting it? This is just the barest of bones–the full plan is much more detailed. But do you want to come? I could use the help.