Friday, January 27, 2012

Have You Considered the Risks of Publication?

"My family and I were literally under surveillance for their amusement... There's a twist in the stomach as you wonder what do they want, what have they got? It feels incredibly threatening to have people watching you." --  JK Rowling

I read several blog posts yesterday discussing the news that JK Rowling had settled out of court with her former literary agent, Christopher Little. Speculation ran wild and rampant as to why she left Little and how much she had to pay to close his mouth. Some of the speculation was clearly negative toward Rowling, accusing her of betraying the man who brought her out of obscurity and "conjured up her millions."  As if her storytelling had nothing to do with it.

But, what do any of us really know about what happened in that professional relationship? It's almost like looking at a marriage from the outside. If you're not in the bedroom, do you really know who said what and who did what? Plenty of writers leave their agents every day...and sometimes, for just cause.  If you've been writing any length of time, I'm sure you know someone who has.

The repercussions are much larger, however, when you've achieved the wealth and fame of a Rowling.

Once, just like many of us, Jo was an unknown, unpublished writer who had no idea if her story would even sell, much less become a world-wide publishing phenomenon. As she said herself when asked if she'd known how successful her series would one day be, "I'd have to have been insane to have imagined this." And that was in the year 2000!

While most of us will not get the huge bank accounts, instant name recognition, and the perks that go along with both, we'll also not face the stress and trials of having (perhaps unwittingly) left our privacy behind.

If we leave our agent, we're not going to make headlines. While we might have a few writing friends and acquaintances gossip behind our back about why we did it and who done whom wrong, we're not going to become fodder for the tabloid press.

Also, most of us are at no risk of having reporters with zoom lenses snap photos of us in our bikinis as we vacation with our families on the beach. We don't have to worry about someone rummaging through our bins, looking for any snippet on our upcoming release. We're not likely to get sued almost yearly by some rinky-dink author from years ago with a barely published story claiming plagiarism. And we won't have to testify in court proceedings about reporters slipping notes into our children's backpacks.

However, as unlikely as it may be, for every single one of us, once we let our stories out into the world, we relinquish a certain amount of control over both them and our privacy. Have you considered this? Even without achieving the level of success as a JKR, many other writers have found themselves facing intense publicity and the loss of anonymity and the security that goes along with it. In an article publishing on Huffington Post this week, Amanda Hocking reflects on the "necessary evil" of letting go of her privacy to promote her books.

We want the best for our books. We tell stories because we want to touch hearts. We hope for the widest audience possible. If that is to be achieved, we must sacrifice certain things. Up front, we sacrifice time, money, and energy as we write late into the night after our day job, skip fun times with our families and friends, pour money we don't have into conferences and workshop to improve our craft. We're all familiar with these sacrifices.

But what about those sacrifices at the back end that we may not have planned for? I heard once that an aspiring author said to Nora Roberts that when she grew up, she wanted to be her one day. Reportedly, Le Nora responded, "Would you? Would you really?"

Think about the sacrifices that Roberts has made to get where she is, as well as the sacrifices she's been forced to make as a result. Think about the crazy fans, negative publicity, and intense scrutiny that has become the norm for authors like Roberts, King, and Rowling. Would you really want to sacrifice your privacy for that? And, by publishing, are you running that risk?

What do you think?  I know this is going to seem like a ridiculous question to most, but have you considered the negative side of what you may face if your publication dreams become a reality?

Also, a heads-up -- You'll want to be sure to check back here next Tuesday when bestselling author Alicia Rasley will guest blog. She's drawing from her many years of experience, both with traditional publishers and with a smaller press, on where to go and what questions to consider amid all the changes in publishing.

Quote from JK Rowling taken from a CBC interview in October 2000.