A manifesto for all writers

A manifesto for all writers

"There are too many adjectives in publishing already," writes Carla Douglas. An editor based in Kingston, Ontario, Douglas is a frequent participant in our #FutureChat Twitter discussions and an engaging observer of the creative scene in publishing. "We need to bridge the self-pub/trad-pub divide" she tells us in her manifesto, "do away with these distinctions and let writers be writers." And as she develops her point here, note that Douglas is talking not only to the industry that surrounds such talent but also to the writers, themselves: "Focus on the writing, publish however you like, but publish well."—Porter Anderson

'Authors with adjectives'

When a traditionally published novelist self-publishes his backlist, does he call himself a hybrid author? Usually not—he’s still a novelist.

Most often, authors become hybrid by self-publishing first. They are self-publishing authors, indie authors, indie self-pubs, and then hybrid authors. All are authors with adjectives.

We don’t often hear people calling themselves traditionally published authors or trad-pubs. And we certainly don’t hear unpublished writers referring to themselves as non-pubs. That’s a good thing, because there are too many adjectives in publishing already.

Editors have a reputation for their aversion to adjectives, it’s true. They’ll strike them at every opportunity, because they know that strong writing can stand on its own.  

Editors also know that readers don’t care whether a book is traditionally published or self-published.

Readers want a good read. They want to be taken somewhere new, and they want to be surprised. By picking up a book, they’re saying to the author, “Show me what you can do.” If it meets their expectations, most readers don’t even think about whether a book has been edited—but they’ll notice if it hasn’t.  

'Let writers be writers'

We need to bridge the self-pub/trad-pub divide, do away with these distinctions and let writers be writers.

Because in many ways the lines have blurred already. To publish their books, indie authors are assembling teams of professionals in a way that makes them look a lot like publishers. Some independent publishers have more in common with indie authors than with traditional publishing houses. Authors of every persuasion are exploring new ways to be discovered and reach readers.

Why can’t we acknowledge that they’re all in the same boat?

'Tough times for writers, and they're getting tougher'

Focusing on the how of publishing distracts us from what matters: the quality of the books, of course, but also the declining financial prospects of those who write them. There are exceptions. But these are tough times for writers, and they’re getting tougher, regardless of the author’s route to publication.

  • Could we move writers into the spotlight and recognize that without them, we’d have no new books?
  • And could we also value the work and time it takes to develop as a writer, and not insist that faster is better and that good enough is acceptable?    

Finally, we seem to use the terms author and writer interchangeably. Why do some writers insist on calling themselves authors, while others are satisfied to be novelists, screenwriters, poets, or just plain writers?

The word author is passive. Certainly becoming an author is an achievement, but an achievement that happened in the past. You authored a book, yes, but are you writing now? The word writer, on the other hand, is a doing word. It’s more optimistic, active and energetic.

So embrace the active noun: be a writer.

Focus on the writing, publish however you like, but publish well. 

This is another entry in our series of "Five-Minute Manifestos" for The Future of the Book Business. In his article Those magnificent manifestos, The Bookseller editor Philip Jones revisited his call for the FutureBook community to reflect on five years of the digital dynamic, "to challenge the customs we have begun to adopt." The response has been robust, and we thank all our manifesto writers. See their articles here.

As we add more in this series, our most recently published #FutureBook15 manifestos are:

Main image - iStockphoto: Chris Mueller