This week my guest is acclaimed Fantasy author, R.T. Kaelin. who talks about the respect we need to gain as writers, and where that respect has to come from within the industry.
When presented with the guideline to write about an issue about which I am passionate, I was perplexed. While I could do a post on my strong political convictions, I am unwilling to commit career suicide and alienate half of the people reading this. Therefore, I will not touch the topic with a hundred-and-ten-foot pole.
I considered focusing on a subset of writing—self-publishing and the correct manner in which to do it—but I have written about that extensively at various outlets. However, recent experiences inspired a tangential subject regarding self-publishing, so here we are.
It is a difficult thing for any author to gain in this industry, but if the qualifier ‘self-published’ precedes your name, it is thrice as hard.
Many people imagine the life of an author to be one of isolation, a lone sole sitting in a dark basement or a sun-strewn office in his or her mountain chalet, punching away at the keyboard, bringing stories to life. The moment ‘The End’ is typed, off the manuscript goes, book printed, accolades bestowed, parades ensue.
That’s how it works, right?
The truth of the matter is very different. Authors are not solitary creatures. We chat. We email. We network. We do everything anyone else does in any industry. Also, like in any other industry, one of the things for which we all strive is the respect of your colleagues. Don’t get me wrong, I want to earn the respect of every one of my readers, I love hearing from them. But gaining the approval of professionals is key if you wish to advance your career. And there are a lot of professionals involved with producing a book.
When you are wandering about the bookstore (or Amazon) and you pick up a book, what are the things to which you most likely pay attention?
The cover and title? Most likely.
The short synopsis or review blurbs? Probably.
The author’s name? Perhaps.
What about the publisher or imprint, the editor, the copyeditor, or the author’s agent? I doubt it. I mean, I do now, but before I started writing? Never. Not once.
Yet those are the people who will help make or break an author’s career. Before readers on the mass scale can ever have a chance to enjoy a book, the author needs the respect and approval of dozens of people within the industry. And that often starts with gaining your peers’ respect first.
While I have learned much in my journey as an indie author, the thing that I think has surprised me more than anything is just how important it is to cultivate the respect of your fellow authors. However, do not expect instance acceptance into the community. With self-publishing, anyone can put out a book now, sans editor, copyeditor, agent, or publisher. Often, this is what many people do and it shows.
Some authors, when they discover I am indie, are standoffish, believing I am one of the many who do not take the craft and business aspect seriously. Others are curious, non-judgmental, and let the writing speak for itself. Luckily, there are more of the latter than the prior.
In the past two years, I have had the pleasure of meeting, having dinner with, picking the brains of dozens of established authors, a few even NYT bestsellers. The experience has been invaluable and has proven to me just how much I crave the respect of them all.
Case in point. This was my second time as an author at Origins, a gaming convention held in Columbus, Ohio. Along with the thousands of games, books about games, game paraphernalia, and seminars about games, there is a four-day authors’ track where fans, readers, aspiring writers can attend panels on any number of topics about writing craft. I sat on a dozen this year and learned twice as much from my fellow writers as I imparted to any of the attendees.
A tradition at the end of any convention is for authors to exchange books with other authors. So, last year, I gave everyone a copy of Progeny, heart in throat. Readers had enjoyed what I had done, but this felt a little like I was high school quarterback tossing with NFL MVP Tom Brady.
Something else I have learned is that you never, and I mean never, ask another author, “How’d you like my book/story?” We all have personal preferences, opinions, and what we like. I am not a big horror fan. Yet I know a few good authors who write horror. I can appreciate the artist, even if I do not care for the art. This is why you do not ask for an opinion. It is best to sit back and let others voluntarily offer their thoughts.
Which is why when a veteran author who has published thirty novels, pointed to my book during a panel about storytelling at Origins and told the audience, “You should all read this. This is a really good book,” I started to glow like the equatorial sun at high noon.
Later, after signing my Origins short story anthology, she handed me back my copy, looked me in the eye, and said, “And I mean what I wrote. I don’t say it lightly.” Curious, I flipped open to her story and signature and found this: “R.T. – You will hit the big bestsellers list.”
At that point, the glow was so strong I might as well have been standing on the surface of the sun.
Respect. I had earned it.
R.T. Kaelin is a loving husband, father of two, and a lifelong resident of Ohio. His first novel,Progeny, The Children of the White Lions has garnered critical acclaim and reached #34 bestselling at Amazon for Epic Fantasy. He has also published the Terrene Chronicles, a series of twelve short prequel stories and is currently editing book two in the series, due out in the fall of 2012. He is a contributor to Fantasy Faction