By Emily Nguyen
The more social media advances, the easier it is to treat content creators as homogeneous. These writers face the same stigmas, criticisms, and opposition, particularly those aimed at the nature of their medium. Adhering to an “us versus them” mentality, it makes sense that online writers would have similar opinions about the challenges they face. But like the process of writing itself, every creator’s experience is unique even across the same platform.
In the spirit of understanding as many perspectives as possible, I reached out to Raquel Perez de Alderete, a Tumblr writer whose poems under the pseudonym r.i.d regularly reach thousands of notes.
How and why did you first start posting your writing online?
Raquel Perez de Alderete: I started posting my writing online because I wasn’t naturally talented at poetry. As a prose writer, I had hit a block in my work. I felt like I could get better by expanding my ability base and studying how to write poetry. Posting was originally just a place to deposit my work where I could keep it all in one place.
About how long did it take for your work to start gaining traction?
RP: I believe between nine months and a year. While I had followers as a new blog, it wasn’t until another blog “found” me that people noticed my work.
Are you planning to pursue writing as a career (a sole/main source of income)? If so, are you considering traditional publishing i.e. getting an agent/going through a publishing house?
RP: In an ideal world I’d love to be a writer, but I’m also very practical. I have a degree in Education and am planning to be a teacher. But if I could, traditional publishing would be phenomenal.
A lot of people look down on self-publishing because there aren’t any “gatekeepers” (agents, publishing houses) to keep out lower quality work. Do you think this is a valid criticism?
RP: To be honest, self-publishing is incredible for that exact same reason. Yes, there are going to be works which aren’t necessarily the next great novel. However, a lot of people who write in ways that traditional publishing frowns on are also getting their work out there. It’s a great way for minority groups to be heard.
The publishing industry as a whole is often slow to embrace new technologies. Have you encountered anyone who judged you or made you feel less legitimate as an online writer?
RP: Yes, but I think it’s valid. My popularity isn’t a reflection of my ability. Nothing says that stronger for me than the fact poetry isn’t what I’m naturally good at. Being able to create relatable content might be a trick authors need, but it’s not the only trick they should have. The other reality is that right now, there’s not enough return on investment for authors online. Furthermore, work is too easily picked up and “quoted” without a source.
In your experience, do you think online writers feel bitter or tension towards traditional publishing?
RP: I think it’s a hard thing to balance a love of. We feel validated by publishers, but we know that the system is flawed. I like traditional publishing because I like books, and I like writing books, and I like people reading books. It would be ignorant of me to pretend, however, that the publishing companies always have the best interests of the authors at heart. There is a reason that J.K. Rowling felt she had to change her name.
What do you think the benefits are of writing on social media/writing sites over traditional publishing?
RP: Wider audience, and, as I said before, it’s an equalizer. I don’t have to edit my content to make it more marketable – which means I don’t have to cut out queer themes or any of my other ideals. A lot of publishers don’t want to be the one who puts out something “risky.” They’re looking to make money. Online writers, however, have proven that there is a market for that “risky” material.
Do you think there’s anything that traditional writers might learn from online writers?
RP: I think we can all learn from each other, honestly. Writers are always such interesting people, and I’m sure the lessons other people have, whatever or however they write, are things that could really help me.
A lot of older authors have difficulty tapping into the young, online demographic – to the point of lacking social media/websites at all. Do you think it would be harder for someone older to begin their career online like you did, since they might be significantly older than their audience?
RP: A lot of this, I think, stems from the above issue of the internet actively seeking alternatives to popular stories. We have these themes and ideas that are in books all the time and people who are on the internet aren’t looking for something that’s the same as the rest of their other available content. We teach writers almost to stick to what is easy to write, so, for example, they write the hero’s journey and he gets the girl. The internet doesn’t notice it because it already exists in plenty. But if the author is brave and does something interesting and new – makes the hero disabled, for example – they see that the public actually is excited to read something different. I do know adults who started writing online who have experienced success – it’s just about sticking true to who you are and pushing your writing as far as it will go.
What do you think are the main factors that might influence someone to choose one (traditional vs online) over the other? Do you think traditional writers and online writers are striving towards the same goal?
RP: Besides seeking content they relate to, I think part of it is accessibility. I love books, I love them, but it is astronomically easier for me to find something online than go to the library. I recognize that’s silly, but if I’m stuck on a bus for two hours, I can’t just get up and go. I usually choose books anyway – I don’t like reading on screens – but there is an element of access which is beneficial to the content. Online content can be adjusted to use fonts that help readers who are dyslexic, can zoom in to help readers who can’t see tiny font – but books are comfortable and familiar. They both have their upsides and I think both are important! Our goal as writers – at least I think our goal as writers – is always the same thing. We just want you to read.