Privilege in the Writing Community

There’s been a lot of talk about privilege in our society lately. Whether it’s abled vs disabled, rich vs poor, etc. it’s undeniable certain groups of people have access to things others do not.

A few months ago, I stumbled onto a conversation between several very famous authors on Twitter. No I won’t name anyone, but as I watched, they blantantly disrespected a large portion of their fanbases without any kind of remorse. They were talking about how they don’t want their books sold in second hand stores because they can’t make money off of the sales.

As someone who has exclusively had to buy books in second hand stores (Except for the 4 times I was required to buy new books at signings, which is also ridiculous but I digress.) I was LIVID but I kept my mouth shut and just watched the conversation. They went on to talk about how they wished they could ban that practice and sell their books exclusively, brand new, to their fans. One of them said one of her fans said she couldn’t afford to buy books new every time this author put one out. Then she laughed…at…her…fan.

Now as an author myself, I get it, we’re all in this to make money. But as a fan, and someone who grew up dirt poor, I understand not everyone can afford to buy new books. I’ve been discussing ways with my team to get my books INTO libraries, used bookstores and other second-hand stores so that people who cannot afford to buy my books new will still have access to them. My accessibility efforts are not just for people with disabilities.

As a fan of many of these authors, I was absolutely disgusted by their behavior. But, they’re hardly alone in their thoughts. There is an unspoken rule in the writing community on social media that you have to write a certain way, edit a certain way, have certain covers etc or your book isn’t good enough for them to even acknowledge you. If they do acknowledge you, it’s to tell you what you’re doing wrong and how to fix it. Which usually means dishing out several hundred if not thousands of dollars.

You are expected to pay an editor. You are expected to buy a cover with a sexy person on it. You are expected to have the money to market your book. A lot of review blogs won’t even consider indie books and the major ones charge outrageous prices. One I saw wanted $300 for a single review. That’s almost half my entire montly income. But you need reviews to sell books. You are expected to have a newsletter, which requires you (legally) to have an address to put on the bottom of it. If you don’t want to use your home address (And who does? That’s dangerous as fuck) it’s gonna cost you more money to get a PO Box. After months of being pressured into it I found a free newsletter site that allows me to use their address instead of having to buy one. That’s the only reason I started a newsletter recently.

It doesn’t matter how good of a writer you are or how good your story is, if you do not do these things they will ignore your existence or completely shit on you. You are not good enough regardless.

All of those expectations leave people like me believing we aren’t worthy of becoming authors. Every single day I question whether or not I can do this. Every DM that starts out with, “I loved your book but…” or, “You’re an amazing writer but…” leaves me questioning, am I an amazing writer or are you kissing my ass? Did you really like my book or are you just trying to soften the blow of the next half of your sentence?

Lately I’ve gotten DMs from people with these statements where the second half of those sentences points to some flaw in my book  and ends in some form of “but I have a service to fix that.” I completely ignore those messages FYI. If you’re telling me what I should fix about my book just to try to make a buck off of me, it won’t work.

Now I will say it’s not like this in every circle of people I’ve encountered, but it is like this in too many circles I’ve encountered. Yeah, every book out there isn’t for every person and there have definitely been books I’ve read that could have been improved on, whether it was the writing capability of the author or their editing. In those instances, I either kept my mouth shut or tried to politely tell the author (A lot of times I offered to help them too. WITHOUT charging them.) what needed to be fixed. Even when I did reviews for indie authors several years ago, I would mention if I saw errors, but also talk about the good parts of the book. I see a lot of people lately making very rude comments about things they don’t like and I have to ask myself why. Tearing others down to make yourself feel better is a shit thing to do. We should all be in this together, but once again, we’re not.

I didn’t do any of the things expected of me and definitely don’t have the money to spend on some huge marketing campaign. In fact, I purposely avoided putting faces on my books and had them designed the way I wanted them to look. But people like my books. I get way more compliments than complaints.

I’ve made no secret of how hard I’ve worked on my books. I’ve done everything but my covers and my audiobook myself. Are there errors in my books? Yeah probably, but you’d be hard pressed to find a traditionally published book on the shelf today without at least one error in it. Errors happen and we shouldn’t be shunned for not being perfect. When I find an error or I’m told about one, I fix it. That’s all I can do. I’m not perfect and I’m not going to pretend to be. None of us is perfect, so why are we working so hard to be something we’re not?

I’m disabled, my brain is literally falling out of my skull, I’m working my ass off and you want money out of me because a comma is in the wrong place? Fuck off.

I broke every “rule” possible with my series, but people like what I wrote and that’s what’s important to me. I may not ever be on a best sellers list. I’m okay with that. I write because I love to tell the stories turning around in my head, not for the acceptance of anyone else. If I wanted acceptance, I wouldn’t write blogs like these. I’d kiss ass instead, but in the words of Aria, “I’ve never been good at keeping my mouth shut.”

If you’re reading this as an aspiring author (or creator in any form) and you’re scared because you can’t afford to do the things expected of you, I have two things to say to you.

One: Master your craft. You can do it and if someone says you can’t fuck em.

Two: If you need a beta reader or advice on your writing (or other creative things) find me on social media and reach out. I will do my best to help you, but I will not do it for you. The only way you’ll learn is by doing it yourself.