In many industries, music, writng, art, and acting, for example, there is a myth that you have to “wait to be discovered.” Actors are expected to do theater and auditions forever before they are “discovered” by a talent scout and get a role in TV or a movie. “Writers” are expected to publish short stories for 6¢/word and send in manuscript until an agent or editor says “yes” to their work and publishes their book.
This waiting stuff is complete bullshit. It is the way that the publishers of New York or Toronto and the Film Studios of L.A. want you to think it should be. But as long as people wait for publishing houses, record labels, talent scouts and art buyers to notice and make an offer, those industries have power. They have the power to make people think that they are only legitimate if a big company decides they are. They have the power to offer you lousy money for your hard work and make you feel grateful because someone “finally appreciates you.” (Trust me, they don’t.) And it gives them the power to arbitrate the tastes of the public by pushing creative works and people based on the publisher’s ideology.
The moment you top waiting and start self-publishing your work is the moment they lose their powerover you. And you can self-publish anything today. Musicians release incredible musical albums on sharing sites like Jamendo, creative teams create whole television series on teh web like Amanda Tapping’s Sanctuary, or the fan created remake of Star-Trek. Artists show their work in cafés, student galleries, or sell prints through sites like Etsy and Cafepress writers self-publish through Createspace and Lulu. The Internet has eliminated the need for big publishing companies, and it is draining them of their power.
In the process it is getting fresh ideas and fresh opinions out there. We are re-opening dialogues about our culture that the one-to-many style media like television managed to choke out for awhile. The people are no longer letting ideologues dictate what we think the way they did before the Internet. It is a revolution! I am excited to see how much the world will change by the time you are old enough to read these letters, both for Art, and for the ideas that Art transmits.
When I was writing novels, I waited to be noticed. I spent seven long years writing stories and often only get $6, $15, or if I was lucky $50 for weeks worth of hard work. I spend hundreds of dollars mailing out my book The Coffee Shop Goddess to publishers that never even bothered to tell me “yes we read it, but no, we’re not interested.” And in the process I became frustrated and depressed. Putting it up online on Lulu was the most amazing thing for me – it was like I turned the world upside down. And the funny thing is, I probably made as much money on it selling only 30 copies as I would have selling 500 through a publishing house in Canada.
If you end up in a creative career, son, don’t wait to be published. Don’t let the publishing industry walk all over you. Publish, put it out there, and learn to sell it for yourself. If you work hard enough at it you can make a living and get all the fame you could crave without the need for middle men, and do it while you are still young enough to be happy that you did.
For that matter, if you create something, share it. Put it out there instead of keeping it for yourself. Somewhere out there there is someone like you who will love hearing what you have to say.