Dear Traditionally Published Writer by Cheryl Shireman

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Dear Traditionally Published Writer by Cheryl Shireman

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Today I’m delighted to host the lovely and talented Cheryl Shireman, author of numerous books, including Life is But a Dream: On the Lake and You Don’t Need a Prince: A Letter to My Daughter. Cheryl is also the founder of the Indie Chicks group and Indie Chicks cafe. I hope you enjoy this thought-provoking post about the prejudice faced by indie writers!

Dear Traditionally Published Writer

I love you. I’ve loved you since I started reading. In elementary school we used to get a weekly two page ‘newspaper’ that we could order books from. I always ordered more than my parents were willing to buy, and even so, came home with a treasure trove every week – those slick-backed paperbacks with my order clipped to the corner.

After a few years I discovered The Black Stallion series and read every one of those wonderful books by Walter Farley. Then, one of my friends gave me a copy of My Friend Flicka she had bought at a garage sale. I read it and that was it. The seed was planted. Mary O’Hara did such an amazing job of portraying Ken’s love for his filly on that Wyoming ranch that I decided that I wanted to be a writer. Just like you.

I threw myself into writing. I read all of the books about writing. I wrote one bad novel after another, hiding them under the couch whenever anyone visited my home, stuffing them into a box when I was done. Eventually I submitted sample chapters through the traditional route. To my delight, I received a very kind and encouraging letter from an editor at Doubleday. Then, I didn’t realize how unusual that kind letter was. I soon learned. I finished my book and sent it back again. That kind editor had moved on and I had no way of finding her. This was before the internet and she simply disappeared into the streets of New York City.

I kept writing and kept submitting. I came close several times. I had the interest of a couple of different agents and came close to publishing with a couple different publishers. I dreamed of becoming a published writer. Just like you.

I became even more committed. As a divorced mother of three, I struggled to work full time and put myself through college. I majored in Creative Writing and English and wrote non-stop. I went on to get a graduate degree and I kept writing. I also kept collecting rejections slips and an occasional encouraging letter from an agent or editor. Close, but no cigar.

Then, a little over a year ago, while looking for a book for my new Kindle (a Christmas present from my husband that I did not want) I came across a book from Karen McQuestion. I clicked on ‘About the Author’ and read how McQuestion first published through Kindle. I immediately found Karen McQuestion’s website and started reading. It seemed too good to be true. It was not. It was true and very good. I had just finished another novel and decided to give it a try. Why not? What did I have to lose? Within 48 hours of reading about McQuestion’s success, I had uploaded and published my own novel on Kindle. Within a week it was available as a paperback. That first novel went on to become a bestseller and sold thousands of copies. Those sales enabled me to hire a wonderful editor. I wrote another novel. And then another. I just released a series of eight books for toddlers. I’m currently working on the first novel of a four book series. My editor lives in Australia and I just started working with a cover artist who lives in LA. I’m working with a great illustrator from London on two more books for children. I get emails from readers who tell me they love my books. After all of these years, I am finally living my dream. I, too, have become a published writer. I have become you. Or have I?

I am referred to as an ‘indie’ writer – someone who has published independently instead of going through the traditional route. Was indie publishing my second choice? You bet. For most of my life my biggest dream was being ‘accepted’ and published by a traditional publisher. Now? Not so much. I’m not saying I would reject a traditional offer, but I’m not sure I would accept one either. And I’m certainly not looking for one. I’m too busy writing and publishing on my own.

So – what’s the problem?

The problem might be you, traditionally published writer! Some traditionally published writers (certainly not all) are becoming more vocal in their attacks on indie writers. In a recently published article about bestselling writer Jodi Picoult, Picoult was asked ‘What advice would you give an aspiring author?’ Her answer was: Take a workshop course. You need to learn to give and get criticism and to write on demand. And DO NOT SELF PUBLISH. Really?

Earlier in the very same article when Ms. Picoult was asked ‘What is the story behind the publication behind your first book?’ Her answer was: I had over 100 rejection letters from agents. Finally, one woman who had never represented anyone in her life said she thought she could take me on. I jumped at the chance. She sold my first novel in three months.

Let me ask you this, Ms. Picoult. WHAT IF that ‘one woman’ had not taken you on? What if you were still trying to publish today? What if you were still collecting rejections? If you were in that position, would you try publishing your own book? You bet you would! In fact, you’d be a fool if you didn’t. Why would any writer continue to collect rejections when they have to option to publish now – and receive 70% royalty?

In another article about Jodi Picoult’s novel Lone Wolf, Picoult was asked again – ‘What do you say to people who want to emulate your success and want to be writers themselves?’

Her answer was: My current advice is to not self-publish. It’s still too hard for people to separate the wheat from the chaff, and what you miss out on is the marketability that is afforded to you by a brick and mortar publisher. There’s a lot of crap out there, and one day we may find a way to segregate well written self published fiction from that stuff which anyone can throw on Amazon, but I just don’t think we’re there yet. Let me put it to you this way. The anomalies of self published fiction, the Amanda Hockings of this world – what did they do with their next book? Do they self publish it? No – they make sure they get a publisher.

Well, I won’t go into discussing the many indie authors who are now rejecting offers from publishers (read David Gaughran’s article on writer Lindsay Buroker). And I won’t go into the increasing number of traditionally-published authors who are now turning to indie publishing to publish their backlists (read why Barbara Freethy turned to indie publishing on her website). Nor will I list the traditionally published authors who are now going directly into indie publishing with some of their books (read Jackie Collin’s very honest piece on her blog about why she turned to indie publishing). There are plenty of articles out there on such writers. They aren’t hard to find.

Picoult contends that there is ‘a lot of crap’ out there. I agree! There is a lot of ‘crap’ out there written by indie writers. But there is also a lot of ‘crap’ out there in the traditionally published community. In fact, probably over fifty percent of all books traditionally published could be easily classified as crap. Look at the bestseller lists. This is nothing new. The truth is, crap often sells. Very often the primary difference between traditionally published crap and indie crap is that the former is better edited.

What I do want to address is the prejudice against indie writers. Yep. That’s the word. Prejudice. That pretty much sums it up. Picoult even uses the word ‘segregate’ when discussing indie writers. An ugly word, no matter how used. Let me say right now, I’m not bashing Jodi Picoult. That is not my intention. I am sure she is a lovely woman. I respect her writing success. Let’s be honest – I envy her writing success! As I write this, I can see three of her books on one of my bookshelves. All three books are on my ever-expanding ‘to be read’ list. Instead of bashing her, or any other traditionally-published writer, this is an effort to understand their position. Because, you know what? If I was one of them, I’d probably feel exactly the same way. Let’s look at the facts.

Indie writers are getting an increasing share of the reader’s dollar

It’s true. An increasing percentage of books on the bestseller lists are written by indie writers. Indie writers are here to stay. They aren’t going anywhere. There are people who don’t believe that, but they are probably the same people who thought ebooks would never sell. I think the very fact that Picoult is trashing indie publishing is proof that indie writers are seen as a threat. Perhaps not by Picoult personally (her sales are doing just fine), but certainly by the traditional publishers. I am wondering how much of Picoult’s disdain for indie writers is based on personal experience and how much is based on parroting the ‘party line’ of the publishing industry. I would imagine that she does not have a lot of interaction with indie writers.

Traditionally published writers are relinquishing a huge percentage of their income to publishers who are often doing very little for them

Sure, some of the hot writers are getting a nice share of the marketing budget, but most writers are receiving meager marketing attention. Why wouldn’t these mid-list writers be frustrated? They suffered through their share of rejection slips and, finally, someone said yes. One of the publishing gatekeepers let them in and published their book. All of those years of submitting and never giving up finally paid off! Their book was published. Maybe it didn’t get much initial response from readers. Sales were not so great. They then found themselves fighting for their piece of the marketing budget. Writers within the same house are suddenly competing with one another for the very life of their book. On Jodi Picoult’s website she admitted that the worst part of her job was: The actual world of publishing. Mergers between companies, tightfisted marketing departments, and a bizarre fascination with Hollywood makes the publishing world a very difficult place to forge a career. For reasons that are still a mystery to me, companies will throw promotional dollars at books that aren’t selling (they say it’s a last ditch effort) but they will ignore some wonderful books by writers who are just starting out and could use the boost.

Imagine you are one of those writers. You have put in the time and effort. You collected rejection slips. You have the degree. You’ve done everything right. But still, your sales are lagging while your publisher throws money at the latest ‘celebrity’ or the newest ‘hotshot’ writer. Then along comes some twenty-something indie writer who writes a poorly written (unedited) book (or series of books) that starts selling like crazy on Amazon. You watch as their book climbs the top 100 bestseller list while yours remains firmly entrenched with a ranking somewhere over a million. Over a million books are selling better than yours.

No editor, no agent, no publisher – and no years of rejection (and no degree in writing!) and that indie writer is making more money per book than you are! Suddenly, the rules have shifted and your publishing contract doesn’t look so good. Although, of course, you don’t want to admit to that. You are in the “published author” club – something you have dreamed of for so long. But like the Eagles say – “What can you do when your dream comes true but it’s not quite like you planned?” The only thing you can do is start knocking the indie writer. It’s a matter of self-defense. They must be ignorant and untalented – or you’ve just made a big mistake and they are way ahead of you.

Publishing is a business, just like any other business. The publishers aren’t the bad guys. They push the proven winners. Who wouldn’t? Every year, they also take risks and publish new novels from unknown writers. When those first novels don’t do well, the publishers cannot afford to pour money into a hole. Unfortunately, as a writer, you have a relatively short time to prove your worth in the traditional publishing industry.

It’s just a matter of time before young and promising writers skip the traditional publishing route

Right now there is a writer (many writers!) in an M.F.A. program. She reads ebooks and owns an ipad and an iphone. When she buys a house or sets up an apartment she won’t bother with a land line. She will never own a ‘home’ phone. She doesn’t see the need for one. She will never own a phone book. She has GPS on her phone. She will never buy a map. Immediate directions are at her fingertips. When she graduates from that M.F.A. program, or maybe even before she graduates, she will decide to publish her novel. And she won’t bother submitting to a traditional publisher or an agent and waiting a couple of months for a form rejection. That doesn’t make much sense to her. Instead, she will hire an editor. She will hire a cover artist. And she will publish her own book. It will be well-edited, professionally presented, and wildly successful. The thought of traditional publishing will never cross her mind. Not unless they come to her with a lucrative offer. Even then, she might not accept it. Because, for the first time in the history of the written word, a writer doesn’t need anyone’s permission to publish their book. Ultimately, the reader is the gatekeeper. Readers will find the books they want to read. They will find new writers to love. And they don’t need for their books to be ‘segregated’ because they are capable of deciding what they want to read.

So while Ms. Picoult, and other traditionally-published writers, continue to bash the indies, our promising M.F.A. student has no pre-conceived notions of how a book should be published. She doesn’t care who publishes her book, as long as it is published. And, here is a little secret – neither does the reader. I can give you a list of my favorite writers, but I have no idea of who published their books. I don’t care. No one does. No one ever has. It’s all about the writer. Not the publisher. It’s always been about the writer.

Writers should be sticking together, not bashing each other

For the first time ever, we are in control of our books and our careers. We indie writers have learned to stick together and network. I can email any bestselling indie writer and they will take the time to answer me. I know. I’ve exchanged emails with some of the biggest sellers. Without fail, they are polite and encouraging. Some of them have become close friends, even though we have never met. We ask each other for advice and we exchange tips. Because we know (at least the smart ones know) we are not competing with each other. Your success is my success. And it is just a matter of time before the traditionally published writers figure this out, too.

I think it’s great when a writer signs a much-coveted traditional publishing contract. But I think it’s also great when a writer rejects a lucrative deal from a publisher and decides to publish as an indie. Because either choice is just that – a choice. I am thrilled that writers now have multiple options. If you are a writer, you should be thrilled about that, too.

The bottom line is we are all writers. We all dreamed the same dream. We all labor over words – agonizing when the writing is not going well and rejoicing when the words are flowing. I used to love and respect traditionally published writers. I still do. In fact, I love all writers. No matter how published.

About Cheryl Shireman

Cheryl Shireman lives in the Midwest on a beautiful lake with her husband, Bruce. She has three adult children and one adorable granddaughter. She writes full-time, often in her pajamas. She is the author of several novels as well as many non-fiction books. All of her books can be found on her Amazon Author Page.In 2011, Cheryl gathered a group of women writers together to create the first Indie Chick Anthology. Since then, more bestselling women writers have joined the group and together they continue to create anthologies based on various themes. Cheryl and the other “Indie Chicks” can be found blogging about topics they are passionate about at Indie Chicks Cafe.

Cheryl’s websiteFollow Cheryl on TwitterFollow Cheryl on Facebook

Please note, the views of the post author - and indeed anyone who guest posts on Day by Day - are not necessarily indicative of the views of Terri Giuliano Long and comments are moderated to filter spam/profanity only.

"Censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates in the end the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion."
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2015-02-04T15:59:03+00:00 June 19th, 2012|Categories: Guest Posts|Tags: , , , |

About the Author:

Terri Giuliano Long, a frequent guest blogger, with appearances on hundreds of blogs, is a contributing writer for IndieReader and also wrote for Her Circle eZine. She lives with her family on the East Coast. Her debut novel, In Leah’s Wake, winner of the Global eBook Award, Popular Fiction, and Indie Discovery Award, Literary Fiction, has sold over 130,000 copies worldwide.


  1. Molly Greene June 19, 2012 at 7:37 am - Reply

    Bravo, Cheryl and Terri! Indie writers are some of the most generous, supportive, giving people I have ever met, and I am honored to stand with such an amazing group. Thanks for the wonderful post!

  2. Debra Holland June 19, 2012 at 8:37 am - Reply

    What a wonderful article. I echo so much of the author's experience, right back to being an avid reader from early childhood and loving horse books. I have SO much gratitude to authors.

    I, too, came close, but didn't sell my sweet Western historical romances, and instead, self-published them. I sold almost 97,000 books in a year and made the USA Today list. Yes, I'm living my dream. A different dream than what I thought it would be, but even better!

  3. Jeri June 19, 2012 at 9:20 am - Reply

    Thanks for this awesome post! I'm the product of many graduate writing classes, but then lost my writing drive due to becoming an English teacher. I've finally worked my way back to writing on a regular basis and I'm not even considering submitting my book to traditional publishers. On one hand, I feel I need to make up for lost time and all those years I never sent anything in. On the other hand, I'm building an author-platform as I draft my book and feel my chances are probably much better at reaching readers by going the self-publishing route. The times they are a changing and as more writers self-publish and if quality wins out in the end, traditional publishing has a lot to fear.

  4. Stephanie Queen June 19, 2012 at 9:35 am - Reply

    Fabulous column! All I can say is: I agree!

    But Jodi Picoult isn't the only Traditionally Published author to show disdain–Look what Joan Brady had to say recently:

    Although I have to say, both Picoult's and Brady's comments have gotten them lots of publicity!

    Looking forward to continued independence and choices as an author–

    Stephanie Queen

  5. Christine London June 19, 2012 at 11:31 am - Reply

    Marvelous, well balance article. Thank you for your thoughtful contribution to the Indie/Traditional publishing discussion.

    I have been published since 2007 through small press and am still selling no more than pocket money royalties. There is no magic to traditional. I suspect the same can be said of Indie. If anyone knew the yellow brick road to publishing success they would be a bazillionaire. We do the best we can to learn our craft, write the best book we know how and navigate the business end.

    There are wonderful books that languish and crap that makes it big. The eddies and tide of what strikes readers is mysterious. One thing for sure—this publishing path is a marathon and not a sprint. Tenacity wins the day.

    • Cheryl Shireman June 19, 2012 at 12:45 pm - Reply

      Well said, Christine!

      And my advice is always this – let your joy be in the writing. If you define "success" as stellar sales or universal acceptance, you may be sorely disappointed. But if you write a book that you truly love, then it doesn't get much better than that. The rest is gravy.

  6. Cheryl Shireman June 19, 2012 at 12:11 pm - Reply

    I agree Molly! The generosity and support of the indie community is just amazing. Thanks for your comment!

  7. Cheryl Shireman June 19, 2012 at 12:14 pm - Reply

    Wow! 97,000 books in a year! Good for you Debra! How many writers have given up after those same kind of rejections? I am sure your success will inspire others to persevere. Thanks so much for your comment. And congrats!!!!

  8. Anna June 19, 2012 at 12:18 pm - Reply

    Thank you SO much for this post today. This morning, a (traditionally published) author that I have always admired and whose work I love posted an absolutely awful, narrow minded and hateful blog post about indie authors and the indie publishing route. This post was a lovely antidote!

    • Cheryl Shireman June 19, 2012 at 12:53 pm - Reply

      Ah, well. There are also hateful and narrow-minded posts written by indie writers. Unfortunately.

      We are not enemies. We are all writers – no matter how published. And I think it's just a matter of time before we all begin to realize that. Indie publishing means more opportunities for the traditionally published writer too – which can certainly be an advantage when they are negotiating that next contract!

  9. Cheryl Shireman June 19, 2012 at 12:21 pm - Reply

    Jeri, your comment makes me wonder – how many graduate programs are even broaching the subject of indie publishing? Would be interesting to know if any of the MFA programs are discussing this in their classes.

    And I agree – quality is key. Another result of the indie revolution is the increased opportunities for freelance editors, book formatters, and cover artists. Now, the indie writer can produce very professional results because they can work with the same people who are (or were) with the publishing houses.

    Best of luck on your writing!

  10. Cheryl Shireman June 19, 2012 at 12:24 pm - Reply

    I would also bet that there are plenty of traditionally published writers who are not bashing the indies. We just don't hear about them. Unfortunately, the negative stuff is always gets the most attention. Thanks for your comment Stephanie!

  11. Cheryl Shireman June 19, 2012 at 12:36 pm - Reply

    Thanks for your comment Naomi.

    I think you are right – it is important to hire help. The most important thing any indie can do (besides finishing that novel) is to hire an editor. If you want to "run with the big boys" then you should make every effort to present a professionally edited book.

    I work with an editor, a fomatter, and I just started working with a cover artist. All of that comes out of my pocket – one of the things not quite so great about being an indie. But all necessary.

    So, yes the "middle man" is removed, and I have full control over my books, but it is a lot of work. There is no doubt about it.

  12. Naomi Blackburn June 19, 2012 at 3:17 pm - Reply

    I had to take some time to think about my response to this so that it came off as professional! ;)

    The original article, which was published in the Daily Beast, actually ticked me off. The second one published in the HuffPo added to it! lol

    First, I am really a free market girl. I love when alternatives are given in any area. To me, it gives consumers many more choices. Since I opened my eyes with indie publishing, I actually seek out indie pubbed books. I find them fresh really fresh to what is out there.

    I think a point needs to be made, as well, in regards to poorly written self pubbed books. There are poorly constructed, written, produced etc big house pubbed books, as well. Thing between big house and indie pubbed though is that I buy a poorly written BHP book, minimally, I am out $15 (if I am lucky)…Indie $5. I haven’t seen a huge difference between the poorly written indie and poorly written BHP books!

    Finally, one can be taught business skills OR one can hire a consultant to assist them in doing so. I don’t think that should deter a wanna be author from choosing the indie pubbed route! I look at the indie route as taking out the middle man (BHP) between the author and the consumer.

  13. Melissa Maygrove June 19, 2012 at 3:19 pm - Reply

    Great article. I'm glad you mentioned authors going toward indie & self from both directions. It's about more than just getting one's foot in the door.

    • Cheryl Shireman June 20, 2012 at 11:47 am - Reply

      Thanks for your comment, Melissa. Yes – you are right. Indie publishing might have once been seen as just that – a way to get your foot into the door and possibly be picked up by one of the big six. But now, more and more writers are seeing it as a viable alternative for the long-term. I love that we have so many choices now!

  14. Sibel Hodge June 19, 2012 at 7:55 pm - Reply

    Fantastic article, Cheryl!

    I love this quote: "My current advice is to not self-publish. It’s still too hard for people to separate the wheat from the chaff, and what you miss out on is the marketability that is afforded to you by a brick and mortar publisher. There’s a lot of crap out there, and one day we may find a way to segregate well written self published fiction from that stuff which anyone can throw on Amazon, but I just don’t think we’re there yet. Let me put it to you this way. The anomalies of self published fiction, the Amanda Hockings of this world – what did they do with their next book? Do they self publish it? No – they make sure they get a publisher."

    It's easy to separate the wheat from the chaff – readers are doing it everyday when they make their choices of which books to download. They are the new gatekeepers and that's what makes it so exciting! Check out the top 100 Indie List for June 2012 and see the kind of success they're having:
    I'm honoured to be on that list! Would they have these amount of sales if they were crap? No. A crap book is a crap book, whether it's trad-pubbed of indie-pubbed.

    • Cheryl Shireman June 20, 2012 at 11:50 am - Reply

      I thought the same thing, Sibel. Readers have always been able to sort the wheat from the chaff – with their pocketbook!

      Thanks for stopping by.

      And congrats for being a top Indie! You go girl !!!

  15. Faith Mortimer June 20, 2012 at 3:13 am - Reply

    Bravo! Well said. I can echo a lot of your experiences here. I was first represented by an agent – he was rubbish and I sacked him for not doing half of what he said he would do. I had a ‘traditional’ publisher – again the marketing was …nil.It is such a sweet feeling to now be in control of my own work and in less than a year I can honestly say – hand on heart – that I have sold thousands of books. Would I go with a trad publisher if approached? Difficult question and I honestly don’t truly know the answer. All I can say is, I’m doing what I want, when I want. I’m happy and I’m making some money. I didn’t come into writing because I wanted to become rich and famous, but hey, it’s not a bad life, especially when I get a particularly nice letter from a reader or follower who congratulates me on my book/s. That’s when I KNOW being an ‘Indie’ is great because we can reach many more readers than ever before.
    Great post, Cheryl!Faith Mortimer Website

  16. Red Tash June 20, 2012 at 4:14 am - Reply

    I sincerely look forward to the day when this is no longer an issue. It's coming!

    Great post, Cheryl.

    • Cheryl Shireman June 20, 2012 at 12:01 pm - Reply

      Yes – it's just a matter of time, Red. Someday we will all look back on this and laugh.

      The readers really don't care how you are published, or who published you – they only care about the writing.

  17. Lucie Simone June 20, 2012 at 5:18 am - Reply

    I think Ms. Picoult does not have a thorough understanding of how little support most authors get from their publishers – and how little royalties. She is a megawatt bestselling author. Of course her books get a major marketing push! But the majority of traditionally published authors get nowhere near the kind of support she does.

    Personally, I think every author has to choose her own path. Some really want to be traditionally published. They want the validation that comes with a book contract. And that's absolutely fine. Some just don't want to take on the role of being a publisher. It's a lot of hard work! But, whatever one's path to publication, I simply feel it is in bad form to denigrate another's choice. To each his/her own.

    • Cheryl Shireman June 20, 2012 at 12:08 pm - Reply

      Agree! Agree! Agree!

      To each his/her own!

      Love this – "Whatever one's path to publication, I simply feel it is in bad form to denigrate another's choice."

      Thank you for that wonderful comment Lucie!

  18. Mark Feggeler June 20, 2012 at 5:38 am - Reply

    I suspect the problem could be one of lack of education (if you want to give anti-indie folk the benefit of the doubt) or an aggressive defense of the old system (if you are happy to assume all anti-indie folk are simply writers like the rest of us who were lucky enough to have been accepted by traditional publishing and are fearful change might level the playing field).

    Of course, one should never rule out the fact someone like Picoult has done her homework, understands the issues, and truly believes the advice she offers is best under the circumstances.

    • Cheryl Shireman June 20, 2012 at 12:14 pm - Reply

      I think Jodi Picoult is busy writing bestsellers. I doubt that she is doing any homework about indie writers. But you never know.

      IF you can get a deal with a traditional publisher, that might be the best route – certainly less work and you will have some marketing behind you.

      Just depends on what kind of person you are. If you are not a self-starter and if you don't have the extra time to work not only on your writing but also on promotion, then Picoult might be giving you perfect advice.

      Thanks for your comment, Mark!

  19. Julie Elizabeth Powe June 20, 2012 at 6:01 am - Reply

    A fantastic article! And I, for one, never mind taking advice from anyone and am willing share everything I've learned. One day I hope that my eleven books might be enjoyed by…….think of a number (a large one) but nothing will stop me from writing.

    • Cheryl Shireman June 20, 2012 at 12:17 pm - Reply

      I love that about the indie community – such a generous group of writers. I suppose there are a few clunkers out there, but the ones I have dealt with are so supportive and kind. It really has blown me away. I never expected that kind of generosity.

      Thanks for your comment, Julie!

  20. Doug Dandridge June 20, 2012 at 7:30 am - Reply

    Great article. I have been through the rejection wringer, getting the good rejection letters, the almosts. I decided to self publish on Amazon and Smashwords in January of this year, using my extensive backlist of rejected novels, which had to be reformatted for eBook of course. Now I am writing books in the proper word format for conversion, and not so much for submission to agents and publishers. I recently sent out another book, a Steampunk Fantasy, to ten agents, and have already gotten five of the brief “not for me” form rejections that indicate they didn’t even look at the damn thing. That used to devastate me. Now I just think “no problem, I’ll just put it out myself Ms. Thanksforthelook.” One of the things I liked about the article was how the author said she hired an editor after she sold her first book. I read all the time to get a professional editor, but some of us can’t afford such. I have medical bills, medications, car payments, food and upkeep for pets, all of which have to come before buying editing services. And as stated, there is crap out there in traditional publishing, even edited crap. I see misspellings and wrongly placed words all the time in traditionally published novels. Thanks for the words of encouragement. As James Scott Bell is saying, Indie authors can make it, but it’s a long term project and not a get rich quick scheme.

  21. Saffina Desforges June 20, 2012 at 9:18 am - Reply

    Great article Cheryl!

    You already know my thoughts on the subject and you already know that we certainly didn’t need to follow the traditional route to sell over 150,000 copies of our debut novel, but, it hasn’t stopped us also taking a ‘traditional’ publishing deal either (albeit on mutually beneficial terms).

    I don’t think there is debate so much over that anymore, more about the ‘prejudice’ you refer to from trad-pubbed authors who refuse to accept the new model.

    Can you imagine having the control you have presently on covers, illustrations & blurbs etc OR being able to produce the amount of titles and variation of titles that you are doing now if you followed the ‘old’ route? Nah.

    Like you say, follow your dreams and write good, professionally produced books and let the readers decide.


  22. Anna June 20, 2012 at 9:51 am - Reply

    I loved this post SO much, and it was so timely, that I felt compelled to chime in. Here's my own take:

    • Cheryl Shireman June 20, 2012 at 12:34 pm - Reply

      Thanks Anna. I just read your post and loved it!

      Will comment on it if I ever get caught up here. :)

      (By the way – Anna is also a fabulously successful indie who has had her foot in both worlds)

  23. Christina Jean Micha June 20, 2012 at 10:18 am - Reply

    Awesome post! Couldn't have said it better myself. I toyed around with the idea of going down that long road of rejection, then I saw the light. WHY should I? As soon as I'm ready to publish, it will be the indie way. No one matters more than the readers–why give agents and publishers the role of gatekeepers when the readers are the ones who truly have that job?

    • Cheryl Shireman June 20, 2012 at 12:36 pm - Reply

      For those of us who submitted and then waited for months for that form rejection slip, honestly, it still DOES take a little getting used to. But – I will adjust. :)

      Best of luck to you Christine!

  24. Terri Giuliano Long June 20, 2012 at 10:48 am - Reply

    Cheryl, thank you so much for your incredible article! I've made no secret of the fact that I'm proud to be indie and I believe it's a choice, not a condemnation. I find it so heartwarming when others share their tales of indie pride. We are making great strides and proving that this can be a wonderful path to choose. It isn't for everyone, but that's not to say it isn't for anyone!

    Thank you so much to all those who have commented and shown such tremendous support for Cheryl. Her post and her commitment to the indie community are both tremendous!

    • Cheryl Shireman June 20, 2012 at 12:41 pm - Reply

      Thank YOU Terri – for inviting me to post on your website. What a gracious invitation!

      At the risk of sounding like a suck up (I AM on HER site) – Terri is yet another example of a successful, savvy, and supportive indie.

      Wow! That is a lot of "s" words!

      This has been a great experience.

      And thank you sooooo much to all of the people who RT this on Twitter and shared it on Facebook. It means a lot to me.

      Happy writing! #WritersEncouragingWriters #WeW :)

  25. Stuart Ayris June 20, 2012 at 11:07 am - Reply

    What a wonderful article!

    The views that you express chime entirely with my own. The bitterness expressed by some experienced authors is quite disappointing though not unexpected. The whole traditional publishing model has always been, and perhaps now more than ever, judgemental and replete with snobbery. With money being the sole aim of the majority of agents/publishers I guess that’s not surprising.

    I believe it is a basic human right to be able to express myself so long as that expression is legal and doesn’t hurt anybody. For years those such as I have been denied this right in the written form by the publishing industry. Now, thanks to the new self-publishing models I have been afforded this right. And I intened to make the most of it!

    So thanks again for a great article! Let’s all stick together, help one another and who knows if we can’t have a success or two along the way!



  26. Cheryl Shireman June 20, 2012 at 11:51 am - Reply

    Faith is just one more example of a savvy author who is making a very good living through indie publishing. If you are willing to work hard, it truly is possible. Thanks for your comment, Faith!

  27. Cheryl Shireman June 20, 2012 at 11:56 am - Reply

    It is funny when I think about it now, Dan – those "good" rejection letters. LOL

    Just think – one day writers might not even know what a rejection letter is! It is conceivable that Amazon may become the new "slush pile" (I wrote a blog post about that on my website some time ago) and those old methods of culling through manuscripts might just become extinct!

    It IS tough to spend hundreds of dollars to have your first book edited when it may only sell a handful of copies. But if you can afford it, I would certainly advise it.

    Best of luck to you Dan!

  28. Cheryl Shireman June 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    And, sorry Doug. As soon as I hit "submit comment" I realized I called you Dan.

    GOOD LUCK DOUG !!!!!!

    (See! I need an editor for my comments!!!)

  29. Cheryl Shireman June 20, 2012 at 12:06 pm - Reply

    Saffi – you are one of the reasons we indie writers do have more power and clout than ever before. Pretty hard to deny the kind of success you have had!

    Yes – besides the wonderfully loyal readers – having control over your final product is the best part about being an indie. I love having final say over my covers. And I can publish as many books as I want without waiting to fit into a publisher's schedule. It is very liberating!

    Thank you for all you have done for the rest of us! A perfect example of your success translating into my success. Every time an indie succeeds, he or she makes it easier for the rest of us!

  30. Cheryl Shireman June 20, 2012 at 12:21 pm - Reply

    I use a hashtag on twitter sometimes #WritersEncouragingWriters or #WeW for short. So you know I agree with you! We (and I mean ALL writers) should be sticking together and supporting one another's dreams. Why not?

    Life is too short to be mean!

    Thanks for your comment Stuart.

  31. Carol Davis Luce June 20, 2012 at 12:45 pm - Reply

    Cheryl, speaking from someone who has been on both sides, I have to say I love the indie world. I've never felt so welcome and accepted. Indie writers are warm and supportive. They're team players. Go Indie Authors!

  32. Terry June 21, 2012 at 3:46 pm - Reply

    I'm an Indie author and feel proud to be one. I agree with those here who have noted the selfless sharing that happens among Indie's. I've published print and e-book versions of non-fiction books (which seems to be a bit slower in acquiring a dedicated fan base than the mystery writers enjoy.) Thanks for writing so honestly about the world of writers, inclusive.

    You can find me at, and at

  33. […] Woodfin finds the Barnes & Noble self-publishing machine lacking; and Cheryl Shireman wonders how soon it will be before new authors don\’t even consider traditional publishing and go straight to […]

  34. L. C. Hayden June 22, 2012 at 5:07 pm - Reply

    This is an absolutely wonderful blog–best I've read that covers the subject. You brought up so many good points, including the prejudice toward indie published authors. By the way, I'm one of those traditionally published authors who decided to try indie publishing. I'm now making more per month than I was as a traditionally published author.

    Thanks again for a super post.

  35. Deb E June 23, 2012 at 5:53 am - Reply

    Heh, I, too, read “The Black Stallion” and “Flicka” stories . . . horse fan-girl am I.

    The thought that *I* would ever be capable of writing anything like my favourite authors never crossed my mind . . . I still struggle to convince myself, despite my efforts.

    I do remember, however, having thoughts of re-typing out some of my favourite books. Why? So that I could correct all the editing errors!

    Fact is, those traditionally published books aren’t perfect either – especially these days. I read one recently with several then/than errors, and a whole half of a sentence missing. And, I’m put off buying any more Raymond E. Feist after picking up a copy of “Rides a Dread Legion” – oh, the editing! It, too, was terrible.

    So, my question is: What *do* publishers do for us? Even the well-established. I’m currently reading the Omnibus of an uber successful trilogy. You think it’s error free? Absolutely not.

    I think I can almost guarantee that the Indie author who cares about what they put out into the world will take even more care than any traditional publisher will, who isn’t nearly as invested in each piece of work.

    And, yet, that prejudice still holds sway. I’m not published. I’m not ready to publish, yet. But, when I do, I’m seriously considering going Indie. Why only seriously considering, rather than definitely?

    Exactly . . .

  36. […] At The Art and Craft of Writing Creatively, Cheryl Shireman guest blogs about the prejudice against indie writers with Dear Traditionally Published Writer. […]

  37. Drew Yujs June 28, 2012 at 5:05 pm - Reply

    I agree with you that writers should help each other not bash each others just to extend their popularity and their works.

    • RA Jones June 30, 2012 at 8:28 am - Reply

      If I was cynical, I might even suggest that the reason behind denigrating Indie authors might be little more than a way of stirring up traffic for some bloggers…
      Most people here know that doing it properly as an Indie is as much hard work as doing it with a publisher. And I can say that because I’ve done both.
      And yes, there is a whole slew of rubbish out there if you’re mad enough to buy it. But the odd thing is that there is little excuse for the reader. Everyone should sample stuff before buying or downloading. It doesn’t take more than a few pages to get a handle on a book. And it’s a lot less hassle than driving to a B and N, right?
      But if there is one little wrinkle in the argument of Indie vs trad, it is that MG and children’s books remain significantly handicapped by attitudes and the fact that the gatekeepers (Librarians esp) have a barge-pole attitude to Indies and Self-published books. It remains the most difficult genre for marketing as the target group are untouchable. Even more reason for getting the best and only the best, most loved, polished and cherished product out there whichever way you go, IMO.
      But I guess on this blog I’m leaning against an open door.

  38. RA Jones June 30, 2012 at 5:39 am - Reply

    Yes, there is dross out there and we all know that some people are published just because of celebrity status and it's a business, pure and simple. But let's not pretend that those names would be published on their merit.

    If I was cynical too, I might suggest that posts by Trad authors about Indies might just be put up to generate traffic…

    Most people bothering to reply and probably read this thread know well how hard you have to work to get anything of quality out there. Just as hard as with traditional publishers. And I should know because I've done both.

    But I will say one thing in favour of traditial publishing, it has the ear of MG gatekeepers. This genre is the toughest to market to as the target audience is rightly untouchable.

    So we Indies have a bit of a battle on our hands still.

  39. Red Tash August 15, 2012 at 12:45 pm - Reply

    I quoted this blog post tonight in the Sue Grafton interview follow-up:

    • Terri Giuliano Long August 16, 2012 at 7:16 am - Reply

      Thank you so much, Red Tash! I've also quoted it today in my own post about the apology and linked back to Thank you so very much for the link!

I'd love to hear your thoughts!