Everyone Wants to be a Writer in the 21st Century

With computer access and self-publishing it seems everyone wants to be a writer now. Even worse yet, everyone thinks they have what it takes, and if they can’t find a publisher or agent, they resort to self-publishing. The problem is not everyone has the ability to be a good writer, and self-publishing makes good writing skills unimportant to many new writers.

Where Does the Problem Begin?

What is it that makes everyone today want to be a writer? One of the biggest problems seems to be money, and this is where the self-publishing industry is partly to blame. Writers in the 21st century do not feel there is any need to have a traditional publisher–in fact many are not even attempting to obtain an agent or publisher. What is this happening? Some of the reasons you may hear include but are not limited to the following:

  • They are afraid of rejection–a common reason is “I know no one will publish my book.” Maybe that should be a clue that either you aren’t good enough to be a published writer or need to polish your book some more first.
  • They want complete control of their manuscript. In other words they don’t want a publisher deciding on what the book will be titled, what kind of design will be on the cover, the typeface of the inside or the price of the book. Apparently the days of the publisher knowing what sells is lost to the self-publishing industry that lets writers make their own decisions, ones that are seldom based on research and marketability.
  • Self-publishing offers a higher “return on investment” according to many self-published writers, but this is a fallacy in my opinion. There are many other things to consider such as the number of books you are likely to sell compared to traditional publishing. There is also the loss of one sales outlet: the brick and mortar book store since very few book stores carry self-published books. Those that do make it into bookstores are there only because the writers make some kind of agreement with the bookstore, quite often meaning the store accepts the books on consignment. This means the author must literally purchase their books and provide them to the bookstore and hope they sell. Some small stores might be willing to take a chance on a local author, but this is not the normal process.
  • Writers tend to think they know more about the publishing industry than agents and publishers or they develop a mindset where they don’t care what sells as long as they can publish their manuscripts and receive “royalties,” which are really not royalties but rather the difference between what the author paid for the book and the sales price.
  • They fall for self-publishing companies that say they is “no cost” to publish thinking that means they don’t even have to proofread or edit their work. This makes the author look bad and gives self-publishing the stigma it still retains.
  • They think being traditionally published eliminates any type of marketing and are disillusioned when they find out differently. They figure if they have to market their own material they might as well self-publish. the reality is traditional publishers are doing less marketing than they used to do, but this should not discourage writers from choosing the traditional route if that is what they really want to do.

Everyone Wants to Write a Personal Memoir

Another problem that has developed with the advent of self-publishing is that everyone thinks they have a unique story that will be interesting to the reading public. I am amazed at the increase in the number of people who want to write personal memoirs thinking everyone will be interested. For those who wish to self-publish memoirs so they can give copies to friends and family members, I say go for it, but the problem is there are too many writers–or writer wannabes–who think they have a special story that the public will find interesting. Even if you think your story is unique chances are someone else already told the same story and/or went through the exact same trials and tribulations.

Self-Published Authors Are Another Problem

I also see self-published writers as being a problem because they encourage new writers to self-publish without knowing whether the writer has writing ability. They also do so without telling both the advantages and disadvantages or know if the manuscript is ready for publication. We have to reach a point where all writers have enough pride in their work to make sure it is polished before they put it into the public’s hands. In addition, potential writers need to understand not everyone has what it takes to be a writer, and just because you have a computer doesn’t mean you should be a writer.