Writers: What Makes You Feel Validated?

Validation. As writers, it’s what we’re looking for. In other words (pun?), are the stories we write good? As in good enough for an agent to offer us representation? Good enough for an editor to throw it toward consideration? Good enough for one of the Big 6 publishers to take us on? If we are one of the few to go down this exact path, does that mean we are truly validated as a writer?

Not necessarily.

It used to be that traditional publishing (i.e., agent-editor-publishing deal) was the only way a writer could get his or her work in front of readers. If you didn’t make the cut, you certainly weren’t worthy. However, like all forms of creativity, including acting, painting and dancing, writing is subjective and whomever the eye is that beholds it is often the judge. Mind you, not everyone will like your stellar work. Maybe one will, if you are lucky. Even better, your book goes to auction with editors throwing themselves at you with advances and promotional promises. (Quick tip – you will probably make more self-publishing than most publishers will give you for shackling you to a contract. If you don’t believe me, go read Joe Konrath’s blog.)

For the rest of us, it just isn’t so. Does that mean we are any less validated as writers? Granted, when I landed an agent four months into querying A Place In This Life, I was blown away. I’d received seven requests, all of them rejected and one accepted. By golly, I was validated! Maybe I wasn’t so crazy after all to pursue my dream of getting the words out.

My book was thrown to the lions (which really means under Vogue magazine on the toilet tanks of the editorial set, in case they needed something to read while doing business, or they ran out of TP). In roughly one year of circulation, it received two rejections and nothing else. I almost forgot it was out there, as I was too busy doing my daytime copywriter gig and writing two more books. When I finally sat down and thought about it, I didn’t feel any less valid because an editor decided my work wouldn’t fly with their list. Instead, I felt compelled to do what I’ve always done: take matters into my own hands.

Aye, the rub about self-publishing was that I had a very nice, hard-working agent pushing my work, and I didn’t want to mess with the validation that comes from having an agent in the first place. However, when she eventually suggested I self-publish A Place In This Life to get the story out to the real audience – the readers – I knew that a tide had turned and I’d better surf that wave or forever stay stuck in the riptide that is traditional publishing.

I published the story in September 2011, and eventually put it on Smashwords and then Barnes & Noble in mid-December. The results were stellar for little old me, and I was amazed that people were actually buying my work and giving it good reviews). Word spread and I found myself selling hundreds of books between December and today.

Now there is a hard copy version of A Place In This Life and a novella available as well, and I feel very much validated. Not so much that I’ve made it as a writer, but that I did what I felt was right and necessary to put my story into your hands. It takes more than a dream to get published, and for those indie writers who go it alone from start to finish, you are truly valid as creative folk with savvy business acumen and chutzpah to boot. Hats off to everyone who walks the road alone (you have lots of company!).


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