So Amazon is starting to get into Christian publishing, working with a well-known publisher Christianity Today. And it got me thinking again about this whole idea of pigeon-holing writers. I don’t really mean this in terms of having publishers who focus on specific genres, because I actually think that’s a good thing—better to focus on one thing and do it well! But I’m thinking more of readers and critics who expect writers to write in one genre and one genre only.
Now I can admit, that this would be important for people writing more non-fiction. After all, I wouldn’t expect someone who writes about physics to make the leap to writing cookbooks (but who’s to say they couldn’t?). But when it comes to fiction writers, it’s just downright ridiculous.
It definitely happens a lot when people write romance and some of the more risqué books. It’s like it’s a black mark on you forever if you happen to write well in those genres. But even look at J.K. Rowling. Eve n though she’d finished writing the Harry Potter series, she still had to use a pseudonym to publish her amazing crime thriller.
It seems to be a fact of the literary world that if you write a great deal in one style, you’re not going to be taken seriously in another—no matter how good the book actually is! If you’re a good writer, you’re a good writer. If you write a good book, it’s a good book. I think we should encourage writers to take up new challenges, to be adventurous!
It’s one of the reasons I like crossing genres so much in my own writing—it keeps me on my toes! And even better, it keeps my readers on their toes. It’s true that some of your readers might not like your departures, but just think of the new readers that you’ll bring on when you go outside of your comfort zone. So I say, vive la difference!
I read something pretty interesting in the news today. It looks like a university in England has created a master’s degree in self-publishing! I was just as surprised as I’m sure you are!
And as someone who self-publishes, I was pretty excited to read this. And the article explains why. We are constantly having to defend ourselves to authors who are already established in the industry. And that’s the main point: the people who are most critical of it (Jeffrey Archer, Sue Grafton in this article) are already published, and they’re always going to be published. I wonder if they would have said the same thing back when they were starting out? I have my doubts!
Because anyone who knows how publishing works, knows that having a good story to tell is only a small part of the battle in getting your book to print. Part of it is about timing—what’s most popular in book sales and what the editor at the time is interested in. A ton of it is about who you know. And a big chunk of it nowadays is having people know who you are. More and more often editors aren’t willing to take a chance on an unknown—and that’s so sad! Just think of all the wonderful stories we might be missing out on because all the big publishers are busy concentrating on people who already have ten or twenty traditionally published books under their belts.
And really, that’s why I decided to self-publish. My first book, An Elk in the House, was published traditionally. But when it came to other manuscripts, people kept telling me I had great stories, but that they just weren’t the right fit, and that I wasn’t well-known enough. So it certainly wasn’t because I didn’t want to work hard. Because I can tell you, self-publishing is really hard work.
Now I’m not sure whether an entire post-graduate degree dedicated to just that is really the best way to spend your valuable tuition money. Or why exactly you’d want a degree in self-publishing—I would think that if you’re already going to go to university for that long, maybe you’d want to spend that time writing and improving your craft! But either way, I’m glad to see that academic institutions are understanding the value of self-publishing.