They All Have a Right To.

“Not every book should be published.” It’s a line I’ve heard a few times. It comes up often around NaNoWriMo, when hundreds of thousands of people across the globe embark on the challenge of becoming an author, working to complete that first novel, chasing a dream. Not every book should be published, sure, but I think they all have the right to.

Otherwise, how do we decide who can or can’t? Where do we draw the line? And who sits on that board? Agents and editors are incapable of allowing all the quality books through, if for no other reason than they’re too busy. All it takes is the death of one great manuscript for this to be true. Seeing how close CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES came, I think it’s safe to assume that there were casualties out there. This flaw in the system remains hidden because the corpses are rarely unearthed.

I think it helps those who are gravely concerned with the torrent of published works to consider that these books do not get in the way of anyone’s reading or anyone’s discoverability. Hundreds of thousands of books are completely invisible to the shopper (alas, those who are hidden might say). But at least they are there. All it takes is one cousin or best friend to relent to familial pressure and give the work a chance, find that work riveting, and tell a few others. The system isn’t perfect, but no system is. The only worse chances of discoverability are to go unpublished. Some people complain that the slushpile is now open to the public. I lament that it ever wasn’t.

Let’s also keep in mind that these are early years. The tools and methods for publishing, reading, and discovering great books should only improve with time. Look at the Napster days and compare that to iTunes and Spotify. I believe the industry will continue to mature, and readers and writers will be better off for it.


15 responses to “They All Have a Right To.”

  1. […] self-publishers, but he is also a huge supporter of the rest of us. Read his recent blog post on why all writers have the right to publish their books. I also love that he has opened up his story world for fan fiction. I may try my hand at a story […]

  2. Absolutely! The book industry will only get better by having more exposure to the reading masses.

    The people saying “Not every book should be published” are the same people who probably think switching to electric cars and solar power are a silly or impossible idea. They are those who aren’t on the leading edge of life and can’t see the changes that are coming. They are believing things are getting worse, when things are really getting better all the time and they just can’t see it. They are missing the forest for the trees, but innovators (hopefully myself included) will show them how wrong they are.

    1. *Is a silly or impossible idea.

      sorry for the bad grammar… =/

  3. Thanks for your encouraging words. I have finished my first book and am in the final throes of editing before uploading to Amazon. Lately, I have been discouraged by the naysayers and I appreciate your comments. You give me hope.

    1. Congrats on finishing your first book! An amazing accomplishment, something the naysayers can never take from you.

      Best of luck with the release. Now is the time to be patient or concentrate on writing the next work. Keep in mind that it can take years to land an agent and years more to get a publishing deal. Fill those years with more writing. Don’t worry about your book — it’s in the readers’ hands now. Believe me, this part of the process is much more liberating than sending out query letters and fielding rejections. That book is behind you, and now it’s on to the next!

  4. Let the reader and the market decide. The public might not like every book, but how can they know until they get the chance to read them?

  5. Every time I hear that “not all books should be published” line, it conjures to mind some kind of hypothetical evil book written by a hand-wringing villain.

    Like, “Mwahaha, my how-to guide on committing racially motivated hate-crimes against children with diseases would NEVER have seen publication, if not for Amazon! Their self-publishing platform makes it easier than ever to disseminate my views upon an unsuspecting world! The fools! If only they’d had a slush pile and an obtuse querying process, they might have stopped me!”

    1. Quite a brilliant comment, Brandon!

  6. Thanks for always supporting the new voices coming up. As one of those – I self-published my first book this year, titled The Oasis of Filth on Amazon – I really appreciate the words of encouragement and wisdom from someone who has gone through it and had great success.

    In my day job, I have connections to several of the largest publishing houses, but I have chosen self-publishing for two reasons. In addition to not wanting to impose upon my work colleagues at the publishing companies, I also decided that going on my own would afford me more personal freedom. Perhaps down the road the two paths of self-published writing and work connections will converge, but for now I am letting it grow organically.

    You have been a particularly large source of engaging information and advice, so thank you.

  7. […] And author Hugh Howey touches on the frequently heard line “not every book should be published” in his short essay They All Have a Right To. […]

  8. […] They All Have a Right To. | Hugh Howey […]

  9. When literacy opportunities were limited and the time and the materials needed to write were quite expensive, very few got to publish. One could say that only those of the highest quality did. Did that mean that there were no stories told around the hearth, no urban myths or legends, no sentiments and heartfelt emotions poured into songs or poems made up for one’s beloved?
    Maybe the opportunities that independent publishing have offered seem problematic because it blurs the line between art and what might be considered folk art. Folk art conjures up images of something rustic or from the past, but in essence it’s just the creative sharing of a people without official vetting by artists and professionals. (Or not, I just made that up.)
    Publishing has traditionally supported the professional-caliber writer, and rightly so. But with the disappearance of hearths and common physical places for folks to share their imaginations, it’s not surprising that they’d turn to the online world.
    Print on demand and independent publishing have acknowledged benefits for readers and professional writers, but I think that they also offer opportunity for those who simply have the equivalent of hearth stories to tell to each other. You don’t have to be a professional tenor to sing your children to sleep and have them treasure the sound of your voice. But even independent publishing sites seem determined that every aspiring writer ought to be thinking about promotion and sales. And that’s where the problem comes in. The hearth storytellers, the plain-folk writers (I’ve played around with terms such as amateur – in the sense of one who does it for love – or the clumsy but more apt: primarily-readers-who-occasionally-write) are thrown in with the professionals and with the same expectations. They shouldn’t be competing with each other for space; there’s room for all. But how to best present them to make the right reading connections?
    Writers need readers; readers need writers. To truly appreciate the craft, it’s helpful to have regular experience doing both, though we’re all different in how much we spend on each. My limited experience with independent publishing sites is that they tend to focus too narrowly on the old publishing model that anyone who wants to share writing must promote it and sell like a professional.
    It’s hard for me to blame fellow amateur writers who have it in their heads that if they’ve written something, it has no value unless a price is put on it. Most of the guidance on publishing sites relates to getting works ready for commercial marketing. And I do think it’s ultimately the reader-writer connection that should decide what’s worth paying for. (I love the way Howey’s site handles that.)
    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and even started a thread on Lulu’s site wondering if there ought to be an acknowledged and formalized venue for those like me who are primarily readers, but who occasionally write, simply because we have stories in our heads. I consider myself a reader first, and will always support the Hugh Howeys of the world (and thank God for them) because even though art and folk art are necessary, art is what’s timeless and worth the price to pay to keep it going.
    However, if there was some way to acknowledge the non-commercial value of the homey comfy folk writer, the amateurs swapping their non-marketable tales with each other in a place (relatively) safe from opportunists preying on them to sell them services that aren’t appropriate for them, that would be ideal.

    1. Brilliant analysis. And very original. I’ll have to think about this.

  10. In the beginning of this year, I began reading eBooks. Prior to that I seriously believed that kindle editions are by those indie authors who couldn’t impress a well known publisher and thus lacked somewhere. But then I read Emperors’ Edge, a novel by an obscure (at least for me) Lindsay Buroker and then I realized how myopic I had been. Stories need vivid imagination and well presented narration irrespective of a medium. And unless and until someone writes and others read, the real test of a book’s worthiness remains incomplete. So, I welcome all books with an open heart now. The more the merrier :)

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