Friday, November 12, 2010

Holding Out or Getting Hitched

Some things are easier to say when you’re at a certain station in life. And some words may come off as cheap when shouted from a particular step on life’s ladder. If you’re a published author, telling aspiring authors to hold out when it comes to agents, publishing contracts or movie deals--that they should know their own value--may sound laughable.

Especially if you’re an aspiring author who has already earned a bunch of form rejections as the only result of your hard work.

Hitching your wagon to someone else’s star may sound like an appealing alternative. We all want to believe we have someone in our corner, even in the sometimes antisocial business of writing.

And publishing is a brutal business—very few of us will tell you otherwise. So I’m not going to judge the aspiring authors who have taken up James Frey on his offer to help kick-start their careers (in a very roundabout and sneaky manner) but I am going to suggest there are other ways to succeed in this business.

Why does this matter to me? I have a book deal and I took a unconventional route getting it, too. Unfortunately I can’t give you the details of why this matters so much to me. I can say that certain situations have caused me to become an even stronger advocate of fair contracts for authors (and this has nothing to do with my publisher—they’re great).

All I can tell you is as often as I’ve preached that there is no one right way to reach your dreams of publication, giving up all your rights (or even most) and most importantly giving up YOUR VOICE about any aspect of your journey is a crippling way to go about it. Your voice is that thing wedged right next to your heart (doctors have it wrong on the charts—at least for writers). It’s the reason we do what we do—location, location, location. If voice and heart didn’t touch so frequently we’d never put our books—our babies in so many ways—in a position where they’d be eagerly discarded, raised with love or torn apart.

As an author you decide what your words are worth and what you’re happy settling for (or you don’t settle). If you’re happy publishing a book just for family members—awesome! Do it. E-publishing is what you want instead? Great! Pursue it. Small press? Cool. Oh, you’ll only feel truly successful if you’re picked up by a NYC house? Okay—start working on it and focus your passion and hone your skills so you get there. Your goals and mine (and nearly every author’s are different—and that’s good). Do what makes you happy. Chase YOUR dream, not someone else’s.

But while you chase your dream, watch out for the snares along the path. Having never met James Frey, I can only go on what I’m seeing about him in the media. Go. Read. Form your own opinion. In my opinion, you can tell a lot about a person based on the contract they offer (and any subsequent addendum). You can tell how badly they’ve been hurt before, how much they trust now, and how desperate they are to protect themselves. Or to grow an empire based on the work of others hungry to make their own mark. It’s like reading reviews for a book—the reviewer has no idea how much they’re saying about him or herself when they write their opinion down.

So, in short: know your dream, set your goals and avoid the snares so you keep your voice powerful. And good luck!



ladystorm said...

I'm a aspiring author and I think I will just go about things the old fashioned way and if I ever get a book published then it was ment to be but doing things with James Frey is just giving him a bunch of glory and not really yourself..its horrible.

Shannon Delany said...

I agree, ladystorm--just don't want to judge the ones who've done it--I know lots of aspiring authors who'd consider doing it on their darkest days.

Good luck!

Saranna DeWylde said...

Yes! Don't be afraid to do what you think is best for your career and your goals. Even if it means walking away from something others might snatch with both hands.