"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
Information & inspiration to hone your craft and increase your cash...Since 2009

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Politics of Publishing* By: Dr. Heather Harrison

I’ve been writing long before I could even “write”.
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.


  1. Jennifer Brown BanksOctober 23, 2012 at 1:09 PM

    I'd like to start things off by thanking Heather for this very engaging and enlightening post. And I can certainly relate; something similar happened to me a few years ago, when I sought to have a book published based upon my years as a columnist.

    Though I thought I had a pretty "solid" platform, it didn't seem to be solid enough.:- 0

  2. Thanks, Jennifer. Glad you could relate.

  3. Thanks, Heather- I love your perspective! Will be checking out your blog and book!

  4. Jennifer Brown BanksOctober 23, 2012 at 6:23 PM

    Modern Day Disciple,

    Long time, no hear from. :-)
    Thanks so much for stopping by and weighing in.

  5. Since my post titled: Your Blog as a - Platform - to Work From actually made it into the Most Popular list, I do believe that having a Platform is an important topic, and that it is important for being able to reach, and to develope an audience.

    I also believe that now with the Internet - even for Smaller Markets - Opportunities for Selfpublishing will Improve. - Especially - when there is talent involved.

    1. Thanks, HP. I'm on my way to check out your post now.

    2. You are welcome to have a visit on that blog, and on it you can also find info about Affiliate Marketing, and links to several other blogs.

      On the - About page - you can also discover a tiny little eBook that I Selfpublished, and even while I didn't really promote it that havily, it did have
      some actual buyers, that where not family ;)

      I have been selling it somewhat with my 'Heels in the Sand' since at first I wasn't really Happy about the title I had choosen for it. (as you can read about on the About page.)

  6. Jennifer Brown BanksOctober 24, 2012 at 6:07 AM

    Thanks for your valuable feedback, H.P.

  7. Heather,

    Thanks for sharing your publishing experience in this post. I can relate to what you have shared. My first poetry collection was rejected by two publishers, and I defiantly self-published. Self-publishing is rapidly losing the stigma of yesteryear and readers and bloggers are bigger players in determining the success of books. In fact, many self-published books have gone on to achieve bestseller status and accolades. I am glad you decided to self-publish your book, and I wish you much success. My heart was warmed too when one of my favorite poets, who has achieved outstanding success, shared with me that her first collection was self-published.

    1. Jennifer Brown BanksOctober 24, 2012 at 12:01 PM


      Thanks for sharing your experience as well. Though I must admit; your poetry is pretty good. I would have probably sent it out a bit more for potential

    2. Thanks, Yasmin. I agree. It used to be a huge stigma. However, in the last few years, I just don't think this is the case and I think that we are going to continue to see this trend continue.

  8. Heather, congratulations on making the decision to self-publish. I don't think having a platform should be a prerequisite for publishing; the idea behind the book should. And having the platform still doesn't guarantee that you'd be published.

    There is a stigma to being self-published due to low quality published works. That is changing these days. Also, you can counter this by creating and promoting your high quality work and getting others to share it

    Much to success to you.

    1. Jennifer Brown BanksNovember 9, 2012 at 3:30 PM

      Thanks Marcie, for sharing your thoughts.