What I’ve Learned About The Publishing Industry From The Wizard Of Oz

Ravennas Monday MumblingsWelcome to Ravenna’s Monday Mumblings!

Anyone who’s been inside my writing room at home, or come to my desk at the EDJ, will instantly know I’m a fan of the movie, The Wizard of Oz. Every spring we’d wait for it to air on network TV. Yes, I was alive before VCRs, DVRs, cable TV, or Blu-ray. Now of course, I have it on DVD, but like with most movies, if you watch them too often, they lose their magic.

Sure, by today’s standards, the movie seems hokey and too simplistic, but I rarely judge entertainment by today’s standards. I judge it by how it makes me feel inside, and by the memories and emotions it evokes inside ME. Because seriously, what do I care how it affects someone else? I’m not watching or listening to it for someone else.

When searching for a topic this week, I already knew I wanted to take a look back at the years I’ve been writing, but I wasn’t sure how to approach the subject. I’ve learned a lot, both good and bad, about the way the publishing industry really works. What I didn’t want to do was write a blog post today that came off sounding jaded, bitter, or preachy, so instead I’m going to let one of my favorite movies explain it to you.

woo-tornadoTornadoes are a great analogy for the personal chaos in our lives, and in the publishing industry.

A therapist once told me that the reason I used to always dream about tornadoes wasn’t due to a fear of them. She surmised they were my personal symbol of the chaos in my life at the time. I believe she was right because once that period in my life resolved, the dreams stopped.

It’s no secret to anyone that the publishing industry is anything but calm and smooth. Once the Big Six became the Big Five, and Amazon set out to rule the world, it was mass chaos. The gatekeepers are all but gone, and literally anyone with a computer and the ability to use a keyboard can “write” a book then “publish” it online. You can tweet a book now, 140 characters at a time. You can write it on Wattpad. There are no boundaries or limits any longer. You don’t even have to be a good writer.

What does this mean for those of us who know where to put the punctuation, and how to construct a sentence so it makes sense? For those writers who understand character development, story arcs, and what dialogue should accomplish in a story?

If we’re lucky enough to grow a readership with brain cells that synapse, they will recognize our talent. But the market is so saturated that most of us are left in the dust, no matter how well we write, or how hard we try to give our readers something unique each time.

It’s difficult not to resent that as a writer, because our time and talent are no longer rewarded. Since anyone can do it, it’s no longer considered special. And in fact, there’s a growing number of readers who feel we should all be giving away our work for free, as if all the hours spent crafting a book mean nothing, and we shouldn’t be paid for that work.

dorothy-and-munchkinsWhen you find yourself in a strange land, make friends with the locals.

I still remember getting the first YES. It was five and a half years ago, and I can vividly recall it. Most writers can, and most writers never lose the thrill of getting an acceptance. But it’s a foreign land the first few books, and we often don’t know where to turn or how to ask for help. Your best and safest bet is to make friends with other authors, so you can ask questions and seek guidance from those who have gone before you. It’s also not a bad idea to pimp them along the way.

I’m not talking about pretending to like their work or them. I’m talking about an honest exchange of lifting each other up, which is what all authors should be doing anyway. The romance genre has taken enough shit in the past seventy years, even though for most of those seventy years it’s been the NUMBER ONE SELLING GENRE. We don’t need to add more fuel to that perpetually-burning fire by hurting each other.

It sickens me when I see authors bad-mouthing other authors by name, fighting with their readers or other authors online, or generally acting like disgusting divas by placing themselves above everyone else for any reason. Newsflash, chickie. You’re the same as each of us. I don’t care if you sell a billion books each time, or have made every list there is. You still shit stinky poop, and you still have to floss your teeth to get the food out from in between them. Get off your fucking high horse.

This is a very tough business. Don’t fool yourself about that one. And none of us can go it alone, no matter how many sales we make. We need each other. Plus, it’s the right thing to do. We weren’t put on this earth to be alone. We were put here to love, and to lift each other up. See THIS post.

yellow-brick-roadFollow the yellow brick road.

There is a path. Even though Dorothy and the gang lost it once in a while, it WAS there. So is yours. You simply need to know how to look for it. It’s called your muse, that voice inside you, your conscience, and similar names. You know in your heart what the right thing is. We each do. Be still and listen for it. It will speak to you. Then once you hear it, stop dicking around and follow it.

Each and every time I’ve strayed from what my muse led me to write, I’ve regretted it. Each. And. Every. Time. I promise you, my readers, I will not do that again, from this day forward.

wicked-witch-and-flyng-monkeyThe Wicked Witch and those flying monkeys aren’t as scary as you first think.

Yeah. I know. We all hated those damn flying monkeys. But let’s examine them, shall we? They’re actually kinda cute, in a magical creature sort of way. And they’re pretty harmless. All they did was pull stuffing out of the Scarecrow – who didn’t die when they did that, by the way – and pick up Dorothy and Toto to fly them to the castle. That’s it. Not really that frightening when you look at it that way, are they? They’re just big monkeys with wings, who were under the witch’s spell. Please. You could take them. Easily.

As writers, we face a never-ending series of frustrations, scary moments, and obstacles. So, okay. That’s called LIFE. Put on your big girl panties and face them head-on. Grow from them. Learn from them. Find ways around them. Put them to work for your advantage. The same way you face everyday life. All those sayings about failure being practice for success are popular for a reason. They’re true. You’ve got a lifetime of experience facing wicked witches and their silly minions. Put all that experience to work for you in the writing industry as well.

And never forget that the witch was taken down by water. It’s highly symbolic, after all. I mean, think about it. Without water, we die. All living creatures, right down to those creepy crawly insects we fear, need water to survive. In the story, water kills evil. You do the math and draw the obvious conclusions here.

wizardofoz_4675Sometimes, the wizards are phonies and don’t keep their promises.

We’ve all been burned by at least one reader, blogger, author, editor, etc., etc., etc. who seemed larger than life to us, and who promised us the moon, then failed to deliver. It happens. Why? Because they’re only human beings, just like the wizard in the movie was just a man who got lost in a hot air balloon. The hot air balloon was another great piece of symbolism, wasn’t it? He was full of hot air. Get it?

Some of the people you admire and trust along the way are also full of hot air. You can’t always see it at first. They disguise themselves, just as the wizard did. They put up a front and make you believe they’re much more powerful than they really are. When you expose them, or your dog does, you realize they’re exactly like you, and nothing more.

To his credit, the wizard did try to get Dorothy home, but in the end he failed at that task, too. Which brings us to our last lesson of the movie, and the most important one.

ruby-slippersThe power is already inside you.

A group of authors I knew when I lived in Tennessee called themselves by the name of those ruby slippers. They were all Golden Heart nominees one particular year. For those that aren’t familiar with the Golden Heart Awards, they’re one of the two main awards given each year by the RWA. These authors chose that name for a very good reason. They understood the analogy of those ruby slippers Dorothy wore for most of the movie.

You already have everything you need to obtain your fondest wish. It’s inside you. But just like our slightly clueless heroine, we have to figure that out for ourselves. And meet a lot of odd people along the way.

Let’s recap…

  • There will be chaos in your writing career. Expect it. Don’t run from it. Use it to your advantage.
  • Make friends with other authors. They’ve been there and done that, and have valuable lessons to teach you.
  • Follow your muse. Always.
  • Scary things aren’t scary if you look at them in the right light.
  • Some people are phonies. Once you realize that, it’s okay to walk away.
  • The power is already inside you.

Now go forth and watch that movie again, or for the first time if you never have! And afterward, sit down and let your muse guide you on the path to your true dreams.

Until next week, Happy Writing!

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