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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How Independent Authors are Ruining Literature

Timothy Hurley, plotting to ruin the publishing industry.
"I wonder what I can do to piss Buzz off today?"
You'd think that a successful and retired doctor like my friend Timothy Hurley would be content to sit in his easy chair and write his hilarious, whacky short stories wouldn't you? Well, he's not. Instead, he seemingly spends the bulk of his time scanning the internet and sending me links to things that, by design, ruffle my feathers.

Doc Hurley's Site
Timothy Hurley's Amazon Page


"I'll get you, Timothy Hurley! You son of a..."
As it turns out, it wasn't the Heidi Loney article entitled "Why the Bad Wrap, Indies?" that got beneath my skin. But rather, it was a comment that was posted to it...and it appears to have been posted by another independent author...


"Well...I never! Of all the nerve of these indie authors!"
...out of context it reads like this...
"It’s rather like someone off the street, with no experience or education in the area, coming to your place of employment, for which you went to school to get a degree, and insisting that they do YOUR JOB–and worse, sometimes getting paid YOUR SALARY for it."



"I don't understand. What's "out of context" mean again?"

Yes, I totally took that out of context because she was referring to authors who expend a considerable amount of energy into honing their craft vs. the ones who don't. But I thought that it was a beautifully framed synopsis of every writer and agent and publisher and reviewer who abhors the independent author movement. In fact, I was inspired to write a comment of my own...


"This is going right up on the fridge! It's beautiful. Another Doc Hurley Original!"
And the beat goes on. Writing is an artistic expression of one’s self. Some artists choose to hone their skills and paint beautiful portraits of perfection. Others opt to experiment or toss globs of paint from fifty feet away onto a canvas whilst riding a tilt-o'-whirl. The value of either is debatable, subjective, and will always be up for interpretation by everyone who chooses to lend their critique.



"I'm writing and publishing this book - because I can!"
There are a lot of independent authors today that I would rather not read. There are a lot of books in bookstores that I would rather not read. However, I strongly encourage everyone and anyone who has a story in their heart, to write the thing. Print it. Self-publish it. Hone it to polished perfection or not. It’s your story. They’re your words. It’s your book. People will love it or hate it either way. Anyone who has read much classic literature in first edition form would find it difficult to argue that the number of errors and typos detracted from the ultimate importance of the work.
 
"In 1930, they called me a pig. Now I'm the feature piece in a museum collection."

I have come to view independent authors as the folk artists of the modern era. Folk art isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always refined. It’s an expression. To assign a ‘value’ to one expression above another based on education or training or industry acceptance is pretentious at best, and reinforces the need for alternative publishing mechanisms. Emerging forms of expression, or opportunities for the masses to engage in expression have never been embraced by the status quo or the intellectual elite from within their own fields. Much to their chagrin however, and beyond the grasp of their (the elite) understanding, some people like it.


"What's mine is mine. What's yours is mine. If I'm not getting enough then it must be your fault."
 If their expressions go on to get paid “your salary” for their work, then it is only because people enjoy and appreciate it. It isn’t “your salary” if they are being compensated for their writing. It never was. If your major concern as a traditionally published author is about “your salary” and the nuisance of lesser beings cutting into “your” market share, then perhaps you’d be better suited for Wall Street than for writing, because most of us, independent or otherwise, are content to keep writing regardless of the level of compensation. It is, after all, about the love of the thing, and anyone who loves the thing enough to write deserves to hold a book with their name on it.


"Thank God I didn't write a book while I was alive. It would have been awful. Every publisher in Philadelphia would've hated it."
Beyond leaving comments on the web, I do the unthinkable. When I speak to book clubs or groups or interested individuals, I ALWAYS encourage them to write AND publish their work. I tell them that is accessible and easy and virtually cost free. I tell them that somewhere, someday, someone will want to read what they have written, and someone will enjoy and appreciate it. I can't pass through a cemetery without imagining how many incredible and forgotten stories are buried beneath those chunks of granite. How many literary classics and autobiographies were lost due to the suppression of their own contemporary elite?


"Wow. This is full of typos and mistakes and it is still awesome!"
Even when people tell me they aren't very good writers I encourage them to do it. I ask them if they wouldn't enjoy reading something written by their grandparents or great-grandparents? "Of course," they answer, "who wouldn't?!" Naturally. So, like I said, somewhere, someday, someone at least, will definitely want to read your words. You have a story. Everyone does.


How to ruin the literary establishment with ten bucks or less, a new book coming soon by Buzz Malone?
And then, in the most horrible disrespect to the system and the industry and, dare I say, the respected craft itself, I tell them that from start to finish, they could be holding a paperback in their hands that they have written, for less than ten bucks. And if that isn't bad enough, I offer to help them in any way, free of charge.


"My crap is extraordinary due to my pedigree!"
You can't claim to love the written word while simultaneously discouraging people to write. Just like you can't assign values to human expressions. No one has that right (except for possibly Ebay). Like everything else, you can choose to love or hate something, or to read it or not to.


So many choices!
The industry (publishers, agents, editors, distributors, reviewers, etc.) is scrambling to figure out how to beat back the tsunami wave of independent authors. They despise the fact that anyone can publish a book these days without them all getting a cut of the profits. With no control of the number of books being produced, it's becoming more and more difficult for them to control what we read.


"We can write whatever crap we want to!"
They claim to be beside themselves with fret and worry about so much bad, "unprofessional" writing getting into the hands of readers. But really, of course, it's about control, and you guessed it... money. But like I said before, it's hard to imagine how you can claim to genuinely love literature and not also want to see a lot more of it, with more authors out there encouraging more people to read. For my part, I am excited about the future. So many future classics are being created right now by so many people who would've never even attempted it before.


"Mmmm. Isn't that delicious?"
The people finally have an open forum to create and produce, and readers have choices that go beyond what was being spoon fed to them at the Wal-Marts by New York. Successful writing makes people feel something. I invite everyone to join me in becoming a successful writer today. Write something. Publish something. Sell your books (or give them away) outside the Wal-Mart. It's guaranteed to piss somebody off.

Thanks for reading!

Buzz

43 comments:

  1. Amen! It's hard enough for artists to share their work as it is, for fear of not being good enough. Now we have to have the elitists putting more fear in us, letting us know we haven't paid our dues. Really? Watch this, BOOM! 50 Shades of Gray. LOL

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    1. I firmly believe that your best writing emerges when you finally stop creating things for your perceived "audience" or for approval or for anything other than testing your own limitations and following your own voice anyways.

      And this notion of "paying your dues" is a ludicrous one, when success or failure is dictated primarily by fame, fortune, or inherited connections to New York.

      Thanks for reading, Diane!

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    2. Umm, when you talk about New York, I wish you'd make it clear you're talking about those pain-in-the-ass Manhattan lawyers and not us innocent writers who live in Brooklyn. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, Malone.
      Mom always made it clear in Peoria that we weren't like those folks on the hill who thought their sh*t didn't stink.

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  2. You can take the boy out of the union but you can't take the union organizer out of Buzz Malone. I love passion. I love feeling it in the words written by someone.

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    1. Well. Damn it, Doc. No matter what you do or where you go in the world, it seems like there's always somebody trying to knock folks down for doing what they want to do. Everybody who has ever loved the smell that emerges from an old book ought to be rejoicing about the growing number of pages being written these days. It's incredible and just think of all the amazing things that will come of it eventually. And yet, the powers that be would like to have just one printing press in the whole damned world, with all of us standing in line, begging to get the right to use it, please. Well guess what? We aren't begging any more. We're writing and we're publishing and we're even selling books to folks who also happen to be enjoying them. Thanks for reading Doc, even if you sort of had to, you know, because of the picture and all!

      Buzz

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. Wonderful, logical, inspiring, and eloquently said! I'm nodding in enthusiastic agreement.

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    1. Thank you so much, The Author (if that is your real name!). And thank you for reading. I, like an indy author, always appreciate it.

      Buzz

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  5. If someone is brave enough to share their story, and they ask for my help, the answer is always yes. I don't see any point in tearing others down for following a dream.

    Why aren't people rejoicing about all of the options out there... people are reading! Isn't that a win for everyone?

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    1. I agree wholeheartedly, RandomGrrl! I've discovered that the joy of helping others publish their books is right up there with the experience of having published my own. There is room for us all beneath this one big literary tent and nothing but good can come of it.

      It boggles the mind that someone would find offense in anyone publishing a book and sharing it with their friends and family and anyone else who finds pleasure in reading it. Thank you for reading and for leaving your two cents worth! Buzz

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  6. This was an exceptionally humorous piece, and thank you. When I saw the title I thought "oh, here we go, one of THOSE people (the ones who don't like indie authors)." But now I'm passing it on :D

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    1. J.R. There are enough of "those people" in the world. But looking around the blog today (could use a bit of a dusting methinks), there appear to be more of these people than there are of those. Isn't it about time we ceased the madness of allowing those people to paint these people with as broad a bitter brush as those people see fit? Independent writers are not odd anomalies (although some of us are admittedly odd nonetheless). We are here to stay. Thanks for visiting, for reading, and for commenting!
      Buzz

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  7. But think of the children!

    Actually, come to think of it, I haven't seen that argument against indie publishing yet, which is rather surprising. Whenever the well-funded establishment perceives loss of control, limiting freedom of the masses "to protect the children" is a standard fall-back argument. Oops, might be giving people bad ideas here....

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    1. Stuart,
      It's difficult to imagine a more perfect literary environment where every child who so desires can write and publish his or her own stories, and read ones written by their parents and grandparents. Who wouldn't just love to open a chest in the attic and discover the words of their ancestors?

      Thank for reading and for contributing. Feel free to stick around a while, read some older posts, and scribble graffiti on the walls before you leave! Thank you!
      Buzz

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  8. Wow - thanks! I needed this encouragement. The more you step out, the more they try to beat you back into their box. My husband keeps reminding me that the truth about it all is that there is no box. The great THEY have created that delusion!

    Making the comparison of indie publishing to folk art was perfect. All the more fitting for me because I just met with our local arts council to see about getting writing included in their mission statement. Writing is an art, and to look at it another way steals some of the magic.

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    1. Kathryn,
      A few years back when I first started publishing locally based novellas here in Southern Iowa, I quite unexpectedly ran into a book industry insider. She asked who my publisher was and I replied, "me!"
      "Oh," she replied, "a self-published writer." But she said it in a way that reminded me of the scene from Jim Carey's Pet Detective movie with "the monopoly guy."

      Anyone who invests thousands of hours on a labor of love, find no financial reward at the end of it, and are compelled by the love of the thing, to turn round and do it all over again, is no second class citizen. She is an artist, pure and simple, and to hell with anyone who fails to see that.

      Thank you so much for reading the blog and for your comments.

      Buzz

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  9. Thank you so much for this! As a non-published writer who may never be published... it's about having the dream sometimes... about hope. Why anyone would want to remove hope from another for the mere purpose of creating some elite club of deserving writers... *meh* That's a club I'd rather not join even if I were to have credentials to do so.

    Write on Buzz... Thanks again =)

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    1. I don't even know what "credentials" means anymore. I see so many incredibly talented people out there expending sooo much energy trying to be accepted by the establishment. The hard facts are that 99.99% of them never will. The joyous reality is that in the here and now...it really doesn't matter anyways. The foundations of the clubhouse are crumbling and in the brave new literary world, people who can develop and maintain their own followers will come out on top. But whether you're on top or writing a book and printing one copy to put into a trunk in the attic, it doesn't matter, because today...all of us have the ability to create something and what a magnificent moment in history. At NO OTHER TIME has EVERYONE had the ability to write a book and print the damned thing. We shouldn't be wasting the moment.
      Thank you again for reading and for commenting, AnnMarie! Look me up when you're ready to publish that writing.
      Buzz

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  10. I listened to Robert Persig's book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance this weekend as an audio book and he said his book was rejected 121 times before a publisher finally took a chance on him. 121 times! I know my book will never come close to his, but his perseverance inspired me just like this post. I should be ready to publish later this summer. I am really thinking about your suggestion that we write about the things we love regardless of who likes it. I find it hard to do when all I ever read is, "Think about your target audience" when writing a book. I think there must be a middle ground somewhere between writing out of personal inspiration and keeping the needs of our readers in mind.

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    1. The trouble is that "our readers" is too vague a concept. When you walk into a bookstore and start browsing for something interesting to read, you're not "our readers" or the general public. You're Elaine, and you find something matches your own interests. If you are passionate about what you write because you're writing it for you, people will feel that passion and that book will touch someone. Not everyone. Not the general public. Not "our reader" even. But someone will pick that book up just like you do and feel you through its pages and have to read every damned one of them. Write for you, Elaine. Or, in the words of the late great Jimmy Durante, "Make just one someone happy."

      Thank you for reading and for posting and best wishes to you in your writing!
      Buzz

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  11. I completely agree with this. It's not just less than great writing that is not getting published, but great writing is slipping through the cracks as well. With so many submissions to the literary magazines that get recognition and big publishing houses, a lot of great stuff doesn't get noticed. It seems to be all about luck and connections and there are those that would like to keep it that way. I've read some great things published by small presses that will never get the recognition that drivel from Random House will get.

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    1. I agree with your sentiments as well, Audrey. Tons of great stuff does slip through the cracks. It would be one thing if the traditional publishing industry had unanimously said that your work wasn't good enough for the "big leagues." It's quite another when nobody ever even cares enough to read it. They establish a myriad of rules for submissions, run writers through a grind of blogs and individual submission policies...then never even read 99.9% of them unless another author has referred the work directly, or the writer has shelled out a couple of grand to attend a conference the agent is speaking at. Fortunately, the rules of the game have changed and we all finally have the ability to create what we want, when we want to. These are very exciting times we are living in. Thank you for reading. Now, if you will excuse me, I am off to read some blog about Aud Comments or something...
      http://audcomments.blogspot.com/2013/05/paying-for-sex.html

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  12. What a fantastic take on self publishing! I especially loved the caption "Wow. This is full of typos and mistakes and it is still awesome!"

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    1. Yeah. I know that one because I might have heard it once or twice, or perhaps every single time that an ivy league English Lit major reads some of my stuff. That one always kills me. "What a great story! Too bad he didn't write it right. The bastard never even bothered to learn all of the rules!"

      Thanks you for reading and commenting, Cody!

      Buzz

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  13. Yes! Yes! I hope you don't mind if I lift quotes from this article the next time someone curls their lip at the notion of independent author. The folk art concept is a perfect description of what many indie authors are creating. Not everything has the same readership, target audience, or publicity machine behind it. The key issue is that what is on offer to readers is changing, that the choice "space" is larger now and the basis for the traditional publishing paradigm is quickly ebbing away. Oh, and the pictures are priceless.

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    1. Thank you Carmen! And feel free to plagiarize away. There hasn't been anything new under the sun since the Greeks anyways. Everything is a plagiarism somehow. Use it. Call it yours. Write it on bathroom walls, etc., etc. The pictures on the other hand cannot be copy. They were strictly forbidden from being copied or reproduced in any way when I stole them off the internet. Thanks for reading Carmen! Buzz

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  14. I just received a 4 star review for my novel, Mama Lacee, and was even given a 'must read' tag. I was confounded though, by the reviewer's statement."If you can get past the technical flaws in the writing...Mama Lacee is a fantastic read." I'm not sure what that means.

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    1. That means you know how to write. Writing is about conveying information or making people feel something. Period. You're a success...rules or not. The rules are sifting away...

      Thanks for reading!

      Buzz

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  15. I received a highly favorable review that said, though there were technical flaws in my writing, my novel deserved a 'must read' status. Which is all well and good, except I'm not sure what those 'flaws' are, and how to correct them. My wife says I'm a stream-of-consciousness writer, so I guess that's where my problem is. If there's really a problem...

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    1. It's funny if you think about it really. The "technical flaws" are notions that have been developed by academics studying hundreds of years worth of collective writings by individual authors who usually had no "technical" training at all. Each time someone came along with a new style, they were cursed and mocked. A few decades or hundred years later, they said it was genius and wrote new rules based on it. pfffffft.

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    2. ---like Thoreau and Emerson whose new journal writing style was mocked and criticized at the time---and look where their work ended up in the literary world.

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  16. I agree. Publish if you are so moved, and hire a freelance editor to help you out. The pics and captions are hilarious.

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    1. Thank you, Jennifer. I would amend that however, and say hire a freelance editor IF you can afford one (because it is a great investment). BUT, if you can't afford to hire an editor, there are beta readers, etc. AND, if that isn't your thing...publish anyways. If you write it, publish it. This is the first time in human history that everyone has the ability to publish their words. We should not miss out on the opportunity. No one who writes should miss the opportunity to at least preserve their words for the sake of posterity. I think of the importance of works like Anne Frank's Diary, or Laura Ingall Wilder's first diaries, or Uncle Tom's Cabin, or Ernest Hemingway's Maestro (Mice) who never published his words because he didn't think they were good enough, and I imagine what will come of all this opportunity we have today. These are remarkable times.

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  17. Great article, makes me proud to be an Indie x

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    1. Anyone who writes should be proud. Your words have value and merit and are important. All of them. All of us. Thank you for reading, Carol!

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  18. Inspiring words Buzz, was expecting another rant from one of those elitists you mentioned, thanks for posting this. But might I add a word of warning to all those who have been inspired to self publish their work. When a well known New york publisher allies with a self publishing company, it's a sure bet they do not have the best interest of the writer at heart. To give you an idea I've put together a little comparison of the costs involved in my authorhouse vs createspace post. Eye opening reading for anyone planning to self publish for the first time. I hope you don't mind my posting the link here, Buzz.

    http://www.rschiver.blogspot.com/2013/01/is-amazon-ripping-off-writer.html

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    1. Richard,
      Your article falls right in line with what I am preaching, so a big AMEN to you, brother Shiver. I've read your post and shared it with 3,000 of my closest and dearest friends. I tell people over and over...you could be holding your own book in your hands for less than $10! Don't buy the packages or pay for anything if you can't afford them. Don't pay for cover art if you have digital camera. It doesn't have to cost you any more than $10 if you want it and haven't the funds. Thank you for sharing this, and thank you for reading.

      Buzz

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  19. I loved your article! What's amazing to me is how many indie books are being picked up by NY (after being refused by them).

    I write what I want to write--not what I think I should write, if that makes sense. I love that I can sit home in my PJ's and 'work' all day on a story, and then hit 'submit' when it's done and see it come to life in the hands of readers.

    I'll continue to be an indie as long as people keep reading my books! Those that don't like it, shrug, don't have to read me :)

    Great article!

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    1. Thank you for the comment, Hope. And congrats on getting all of that quality time in your jammies. I'll continue to write stuff too, so long as Mom's social security checks keep coming and she's still able to make it out to the local coffee shop and buy tens copies a week, at which point I will probably get her a Kindle to buy them on.

      And, I will remain a proud Indie author until the day I die (you know, unless Hollywood calls and wants to sign a six trillion dollar movie deal because just think of all the good I would be able to do for the movement with that kind of cash. I could sit on the beach of my private island all day writing encouraging blogs then. I mean, I wouldn't, of course, because the rum starts to get to your head in the tropical sun after 9:00am, but I could, conceivably, if I wanted to).

      Thanks for reading, Hope. All the best to you on continued PJ workin'.
      Buzz

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  20. Thanks for the encouragement and for the picture with that guy smiling the cheesy grin with the caption, "Admitting you're an asshole is the first step." I almost wet myself laughing. I still can't find my teeth. Your wit should easily get you six trillion and plenty of tropical sun. But go easy on the rum. I think House mentioned that there's a reason they call it the "liver."

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    1. Fear not, After (if that is your real name), because if memory serves me correctly, Timothy Hurley is a retired liver doctor and he has offered his services pro bono. Wait a minute...an Irish liver doctor. I'm suspicious.

      Anyhow, sorry about your teeth and the moist britches. Thanks for reading!

      Buzz

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  21. Great insight as always Buzz... Very well said.. As a new author - I find it pretty disturbing when others feel there are 'classes' of authors. Aren't we all pretty much the same? We all have a story - we all want to tell:) Just saying....

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  22. There are always those literary experts who feel they need to express an opinion about the validity of another's work. Romance writers get a bashing, and poor old Agatha Christie often gets slapped with claims she would never get published today (sure, 'cause publishers hate it when they get a prolific writers who can deliver plot). Everyone has the right to pursue their own dream and every reader has the right to accept or ignore that work. I think there is a problem with many self-published authors experiencing cognitive dissonance - they write their story and reach the very difficult goal of 'the end', edit it roughly, slap on one of dad's home pics as a cover, but are then disappointed when they don't make the sales or their book receives negative reviews. It's okay to create a keepsake for your family/friends or to strive for literary genius, or any mark in-between, but I think it's important for writers to decide what they are trying to achieve, and if their goal is to be a professional author, then there's some professional steps they'll need to take. And they can. It's work and it's not always fun, but it's not unachievable either.
    Thanks for this article, it was refreshingly honest and it's rare to stumble across posts so engaging.

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