Obviously I need to work on my fanaticism

You know, I'm clearly pro-self-publishing, and I even took Dean Wesley Smith to task for being too fair to traditional publishing.

And yet, when he suggested that short-story writers send work out to traditional short-story outlets (magazines and the like), I totally whiffed it. I looked at that and said, "Makes sense! You'd be swapping a delay in self-publishing for the possibility of ready money and terrific marketing exposure! The risks should be minimal, since unlike some publishers, magazines don't typically tie up rights to your work until the end of time or force you to stop writing."

Apparently, I should have looked at that piece and said, "Die, unbeliever!! Tradpub is THE DEVIL!!!"

But that's what I get for being a pragmatist.

I think part of the issue is that its intellectually easier for people to just lump everything into two categories: GOOD and BAD. Traditionally-published writers are professional; self-published writers are amateurs. Traditionally-published writers are stupid; self-published writers are smart. These are nice, easy categories, and you can use them without having to do all that troublesome research to discover the facts of the matter.

The larger problem with the divide-and-demonize approach is that it ignores process, and process is key to making good decisions. You need to look at your situation, think long and hard about what will work for you, and then go do that. Honestly, I don't care what you wind up doing, as long you've put actual, rational thought into making that decision.

What infuriates me is the people who don't think. People who give away half their royalties or spend exorbitant sums of money because they don't want to bother learning the first thing about what's happening in publishing. The people who think the only way to create a paper book (that you can hold in your hand! It's such a great feeling! Well worth giving up a hundred million dollars!) is to crawl before a publisher. The people who spout off completely ignorant, unhelpful, and out-of-date advice to new writers. The people who think you should sign contracts without reading them, or even thinking about it.

And of course traditional publishers encourage you to not think. They don't think. They believe these quaint little myths about themselves, wherein they nourish new talent and promote literature and never have to worry about turning a profit.

But the appropriate remedy to a harmful myth is not another myth. It is to tell the truth. Connect to reality. Don't say, "I don't want to sign with GinormoMegaCorp because they are EVIL MONSTERS!" Say, "I don't want to sign with them because the terms they are offering me are unacceptable."

I really, really, reallyreallyreally believe that new writers are completely wasting their time when they pursue traditional publishing deals. But that's not because these companies are inherently and eternally evil. It's because as a new writer, you have no track record of sales, so you are in the worst possible position to pursue a publishing deal. If you manage to sign a deal, you have no leverage, so you will get the worst possible terms, and you are in the worst possible position if your publisher pulls the rug out from under you.

How can you get in a better position? How can you develop a track record and have some leverage as well as some income security if everything goes to hell with your publisher? Self-publish. Get books out.

Once you're in a better position, by all means if you are offered a deal you like, feel free to sign it! Don't worry about "betraying" your fellow writers, or the indie-writer movement, or whatever. A far-more serious betrayal is feeding the myth that writers ought to be poor.