I read an excellent blog post recently about indy published work written by children . The blogger made a comment that a writer is never *really* a published author until a publishing company, i.e. someone other than themselves, has evaluated their work, deemed it worthy of risk and investment, and assumed said risk by publishing the work. Yep. That’s validation. I agree.
Then I thought about it some more and changed my mind. No, I don’t agree.
It isn’t the publishing company or the agent that validates our work, it’s our readers. Let’s say a mid-sized publishing company takes a chance on my debut novel (go me!!) and in spite of all my personal marketing efforts, the book only sells 1000 copies. (I’ve read that’s actually the average). Unless I have that many close friends and family members, (not) that means 1000 total strangers evaluated my summary, took a risk and shelled out their hard earned cash to buy and read my novel. Maybe a good number of them even posted favorable reviews. I’d be a published author. I may have a hard time getting that publishing company to sign up a second book, but I still got my book out there and read by 1000 readers.
Let’s say I’m not so lucky. I spend many months querying agents and publishing houses of all sizes. There may have been some nibbles, but they all decline to publish my work. So I do what a lot of writers do: go indy and self publish. I apply the same amount of marketing efforts, and I sell 1000 copies. That’s the same amount of readers that I had in the previous scenario, yet I’m still not considered a *published* author by many. Those “many” have mistakenly put the validation at the publisher level and not at the reader level where it should be.
In my last scenario, let’s say I self publish and the fates are aligned. I sell 50,000 copies. Am I still not a *published* author? Even though I may be standing next to a traditionally published writer who sold 1000 copies to my 50,000? Now everyone is hemming and hawing and saying “Well, in that instance. . .”
Where do we draw the line when it comes to a novel? I’ll admit my ego would like to feel that I’m superior to another author, but, ego aside, when do we consider someone *published* and when do we not in today’s changing world? If the average book sells 1000 copies, perhaps we should consider everyone who exceeds that mark to be *published*. Maybe that is a compromise that will satisfy everyone.
The best writers get that way through practice, and if that indy published author who sold ten copies of his book “Horseshoe Crabs on the Easter Shore of Maryland” is inspired to continue writing, then he can call himself the King of Easton for all I care. We all need to express ourselves through art, no matter what the medium, and validation of even ten readers is sometimes enough to give someone the strength to go on. I’d love to be picked up by one of the big six, I’d love to be picked up by any publishing company, and I’m sure lots of other writers would love that too. I’m not going to consider myself less of a person if that doesn’t happen though.
Because validation comes from the reader, not the publisher.