I used to make up stories and have my mom write them for me. In second grade, I begged my parents for a typewriter until they finally consented. I was ecstatic and spent hours teaching myself how to type. I would create all sorts of newspapers about the neighborhood and other made up tales. My mom still has them all stored in a box somewhere. The best Christmas present I ever got was in third grade when I got a subscription to Writer’s Digest. By fourth grade, I’d written my first novel. It was entitled, The Overnighters, and it was all about a group of friends who had sleepovers. I gave it to my fourth grade English teacher and never saw it again. My mom is convinced he published it and that it’s lining the shelves of a bookstore somewhere.
I still remember pouring through the Writer’s Digest magazines and reading again and again how difficult it was to get published. Fast forward, twenty years and they are still saying the same thing. I’m getting a bit tired about what they say about the current publishing climate. I’m not so sure I trust them. And quite frankly, I’m not sure they even know much about good quality writing.
I wrote a great parenting book about a year ago that marries both my education and my experience with being a first time mother. It’s hilarious and heartbreaking all at the same time. This last year, I’ve been trying to publish it. I secured an agent which wasn’t any fun. I would much rather write an entire book than draft a query letter. Seriously. But I did it and I got a pretty great agent. He started shopping around my book to the big publishing houses. You know the ones. It’s where they live.
Here’s the responses I got: Harrison has a great voice. We really like her writing style. She describes early motherhood from a unique perspective. They sang lots of praises about my writing. BUT…she doesn’t have the platform necessary to be competitive in this category. Yep. Over and over again.
I write non-fiction and in the midst of this I would walk into Barnes and Noble and see the big posters of the latest non-fiction book to get published. Names like Kate Gosselin. Snooki. Yes, Snooki. Almost every Desperate Housewife from every state. It just kept getting worse. This was my competition? Each week it seemed to get more ridiculous. A few weeks ago, I walked into the blazing banner of Ozzy Osbourne. Ozzy? Ozzy has a book? The guy could sing, but let’s face it, he’s done so many drugs he can barely speak. I’m fairly certain he can’t write.
Here’s the deal: I’m a writer. I’m not a reality TV star. I can’t compete with that and honestly, I don’t want to. I want to be judged by the quality of my writing and not by my ratings on primetime. I decided to take matters into my own hands. I recently self-published my book. I did it even though they said that no one will take me seriously if I self-publish. But you know what? I don’t care what they say anymore.
I believe in the intelligence of the people. I believe there are still people out there who read books because of the writing that is inside of them and not because of the face on the cover.
Your turn, readers.
Do you think that having a platform should be a prerequisite to being published through "traditional" means, or is talent more important? Is there still a "stigma" attached to being self-published? What are your thoughts here?
Dr. Heather Harrison is a psychologist, freelance writer, and the mother of a spirited 3 year old boy, Gus. She is the author of The Mommy Psychologist: The child psychologist who thought she had all the answers to parenting until she became one herself. If she’s not running around after Gus, you can find her running through the streets of Los Angeles prepping for her next marathon.