I have so much to say today that I’m about to get super ranty.
First, I’m currently on my second listen of the new episode of She Podcasts. This is a podcast aimed at women podcasters, but the conversation they have is very on point for self-published writers and indie content creators of all stripes. One of the hosts got started talking about whether is okay that professional podcasters (the NPR types) get all the attention and space. The question is if what they are doing is different than what we as indie producers are doing. Listen here, to get right to the conversation I’m referring to, start at right about the 60 minute mark and listen to the last 10 minutes. I think this is a really important conversation to have. In the world of traditional and self publishing, is it a competition or separate space?
Then I found this delightful post saying that only 40 of Amazon’s self-published authors are “successful.” Yes, you read that right. And since Amazon’s Kindle store is the biggest self-publishing e-book platform, well, you can see where I’m going with this.
The commenters on this and other blogs on the issue immediately pointed out a flaw in the number: success here is defined as selling a million e-books in five years and that’s a pretty high bar to clear. Plenty of traditionally published authors aren’t doing nearly that, especially in the world of literary fiction where books come out slower and tend to not sell as well. But it’s still not a fun statistic to read. Maybe it isn’t really possible to make a living as an author. I’ve asked before on this blog if you really have to give up your day job to be a writer, and it frustrates me is that no one tells the truth about this. When you say you are writing a novel, all the people in your life assume that you will quit your day job when it is published and if not you have failed. Well, you and everyone else, it turns out. Or everyone else minus forty.
So all this was swirling in my head as I sat down to record an upcoming episode of the podcast…and then I sank into it with delight. Such great stuff is coming, such powerful storytelling, and I was thinking about how much more there is to this telling of story than words on a page. Words on a page are important…wouldn’t be who and what I am without them…but they aren’t story. Story is everywhere, and story needs to be celebrated.
Early in my librarian career I heard a very well-meaning instructor on early literacy tell a roomful of children’s librarians that “we need to teach children that stories come from books.” I think I may have actually snorted. Stories don’t come from books. Now, few people love books more than I do. I’m kind of a book hoarder and as I’ve said before I sort of want to be Meg Ryan with my own bookstore. But stories come from books?! That’s like saying Grandma’s chicken soup comes from the big pot with the crack on its lid.
Stories are everywhere. They are all around us, all the time. A friend of mine has a toddler, great kid, just starting to talk, but oh, man can he tell stories. You can’t understand them, they are in his own language, but they are stories to be sure.
I’m not a football fan, but I do live in the Seattle area, and the Seattle area has a well-known athlete who participates in that sport I don’t like so much. He’s known for his reticence to speak out loud. You may remember him. At a press conference. Saying enough not to get fined. And while he got widely criticized for that, I find myself admiring him. In a world of over-sharing, taking a stand to not say everything that comes into your head seems somehow brave.
What does he have to do with all this? Well, today he announced his retirement. With no words at all. In one image he told his story his way. Now me, I use words to share my message and if you’ve been reading this blog long you know that I really kind of suck at pictures. But it’s always nice to remember that there is a world of stories going on that have nothing to do with words on a page.
That’s the business we are in. The capturing stories business. And yeah, who publishes them and how they get to those who consume them is a very important conversation to have and we should keep having it, but I guess for me today ends as it so often does: with the reminder that the most important thing I do is focus on my content: what I am writing, recording, creating. Because if it isn’t the very best I have in me how it gets to you isn’t going to matter one bit. So back to my recording studio I go.