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Us and Them

usthemOne of the reasons I agreed to and wanted to form Entrepreneurial Authors was this. There is no “us” or “them.” There is only us. I was reading a sermon (don’t die of shock, please) when it hit me. I won’t post the source, because to some the source itself would be controversial. The sermon was preached by a woman, who believes everyone should be included in the church and the gospel, the velvet ropes should be removed from the entrances to churches everywhere, and be burned. Not because she thinks so, but because Jesus said so. That’s not my topic today. The point I saw was that the current state of the church is much like authorship, and like the music industry used to be. And we can all learn something from that sermon. This quote was particularly poignant.

“In a week when I was particularly filled with self-righteous indignation and feelings of “us” and “them” – when I was pridefully standing above and feeling spiritually superior to those who, unlike me, were clearly not taking the high road, this all sounded like really good news. Because keeping score, and knowing where I stand above or below others, and maintaining divisions is just so damned exhausting.”

You see, I was bemoaning cancelling a conference, and was sitting, thinking about “us” who got “it,” and “them” who did not. And realized, as this pastor did, that I was simply creating another division, and not one based necessarily on fact, but differences of opinion. It doesn’t affect just me when I think like that. It affects everyone I interact with. So I have to stop thinking about “us” and “them” and realize the self-publishing revolution did one thing: it rearranged the seating chart at the author table forever. And we need stop trying to put it back, because the old way doesn’t make sense any more.

The Velvet Ropes are Gone! (Hallelujah) The Big Five (Big Six back in “the day”) were the gatekeepers of the holy of holies, publication. Only those who were worthy, not to mention lucky, were allowed in the club. But not everyone in the club was even treated the same. (Following me, churchgoers?). The ones who, for a variety of reasons were selected, got to sit up front, and sip the caviar and champagne. It seemed a lot like sports and music. The top 10% made all the money. The rest did what they did for the love of their craft.

We welcome the publicans and sinners. There has always been stigma attached to genres. Certain types of fiction and storytelling were simply not allowed. Convention told the gatekeepers this would never sell, at least not enough to be viable. Even good stuff was left in the slush pile for a multitude of reasons. There were small presses, but they struggled to survive. Print on demand was almost unheard of, and even a small run of books for an author who didn’t sell could bankrupt them. But the world changed, and authors discovered a wonderful thing: there were indeed audiences for what they wrote. The trick was finding them, and making it possible for readers to discover their work.

The Market as a Gatekeeper. As a reader and as an author, this is great news. However, there is a catch, as always. If you want to write for passion, there are now no obstacles. If you want to write for a living? Well, then there are things you must do, ways you must operate in the new marketplace, to be discovered, and to market your work effectively. In short, you have started a small business, and it’s hard work. It comes with good and bad, painful work and work you love. Breaking in, finding your place in the market, is the key.

The Gospel according to Troy (and others). The Good News if you will, the message of salvation is that authors are doing this every single day. There are a ton of mid-listers making a living from their writing. Sure, they often do other things as well, related to the publishing industry or another industry they are involved in. But primarily they do what they love: write. And they are able to make a living at it.

It isn’t that simple. At the same time, it isn’t that hard. There is no “us” and “them.” There is really only one division. Those who do, and those who don’t. The real gatekeeper isn’t the market, or a publisher. Your only gatekeeper is you. Choose your path. Because the ground here is level, and everyone is welcome.

Published inAdvice for Authors