Bashing Self-Publishing: An Insult to Indie Authors, Writers, and Readers Everywhere
by Christina Hart
Christina Hart has A BA in Creative Writing and English. She has self-published eight books, three of which have become Amazon bestsellers.
In response to:
Self-Publishing: An Insult To The Written Word, by Laurie Gough
I read an article that was posted in Huffington Post’s blog today. To put it simply, it was one of the most biased opinion pieces I’ve ever read. And that was exactly what it was: an opinion. Furthermore, most of the points the author attempted to make were just plain wrong, and very outdated, if they were ever true at all. The main problem with this specific opinion piece? It insulted an entire demographic, including writers, indie authors, and even readers. (Anything listed in quotes below is a direct excerpt from the original post by Laurie Gough.)
“As a published author, people often ask me why I don’t self-publish. ‘Surely you’d make more money if you got to keep most of the profits rather than the publisher,’ they say.”
In this case, what the infamous “they” say is true. You do make more money if you keep all the profits. You also see exactly how many books you sell because you have direct access to the royalty statements.
Do you know what is also true about self-publishing? You don’t have to wait months, or years, to have your book released. You don’t have to wait for it to go through all the stages the traditional publishing process typically takes. You are in control of when it comes out. You are in control of the content, the release, the cover, everything.
“I’d rather share a cabin on a Disney cruise with Donald Trump than self-publish.”
No comment. Actually, yes, comment. No one cares.
“To get a book published in the traditional way, and for people to actually respect it and want to read it — you have to go through the gatekeepers of agents, publishers, editors, national and international reviewers. These gatekeepers are assessing whether or not your work is any good. Readers expect books to have passed through all the gates, to be vetted by professionals. This system doesn’t always work out perfectly, but it’s the best system we have.”
Part of this is true. To get a book published the traditional route, yes, you do need to go through the “gatekeepers” the author lists. Yes, they are assessing whether or not your work is “any good.” However, part of what “any good” also includes is the mainstream and commercial value of said work. They want to know if it’s going to sell. Of course, other things go into it, such as the actual writing itself, what genres are currently selling the most (or what genres are the most popular), and/or what they predict will be the genre people shift toward next. Most agents say they also need a book they “connect” to “wholeheartedly” for them to want to represent it.
Now let’s get to the part that is up for debate here. Yes, writers everywhere can decide whether or not they want agents and publishers to determine if their work is “any good.” Writers everywhere have chosen to—or chosen not to—submit their work to agents, publishers, literary magazines, etc. However, does getting rejected signify that every writer who has ever been rejected is not good? Some famous authors who have been rejected include: Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Stephen King, Emily Dickinson, E.E. Cummings, Jack Kerouac, Jack London, George Orwell, and J.K. Rowling, just to name a few.
“This system doesn’t always work out perfectly, but it’s the best system we have.”
Wrong. This is undoubtedly one of the most ignorant comments in the article, and the very reason it’s wrong is the other system that she is bashing! Self-publishing is the other system we have now! SELF-PUBLISHING IS HERE; and it has made a hell of a lot of writers a hell of a lot of money. Not only that, but just use Google to your advantage and search just how many self-published authors have received traditional publishing deals due to the success they achieved with their self-published book(s). That doesn’t go to say that every self-published book is a huge success. But, it can happen, and it has. Many times.
“Good writers only become good because they’ve undertaken an apprenticeship. The craft of writing is a life’s work. It takes at least a decade to become a decent writer, tens of thousands of hours.”
Lol. Okay. I’m going to ignore the word “apprenticeship” because this response is already two pages and there are so many more points I have to get to. Part of this is also true; the craft of writing is often a life’s work. However, it does not take “at least a decade to become a decent writer.” I’m about to blow your mind right now, but, some writers are born decent and just become better and better. I am not sure where this decade timeframe came from, but it seems invented, much like other points from the author. Actually, there is no guaranteed specified time it takes for one to “become a decent writer.” I’ve heard that writing is a lot like riding a bike. Do it every day or you’ll forget certain tricks. And this is true. You need to write, every day if you can, or as often as possible, to improve. And some would argue the ability to write well and tell stories is a gift one is born with, that improves over time. (Some. Not all. I’m just making a point.)
“Your favorite authors might have spent years writing works that were rejected. But if a writer is serious about her craft, she’ll keep working at it, year after year.”
Yes. This is absolutely true. If I may, I’d suggest the author invent a time-machine and go back to a time before she wrote this article, and instead, focus on her own writing if she is so serious about her craft, instead of preaching to others why self-publishing is so blasphemous and shameful.
“Did you ever hear what Margaret Atwood said at a party to a brain surgeon? When the brain surgeon found out what she did for a living, he said, ‘Oh, you’re a writer! When I retire I’m going to write a book.’ Margaret Atwood said, ‘Great! When I retire I’m going to be a brain surgeon!’
The irony is that now that brain surgeon really could dash off a ‘book’ in a of couple months, click ‘publish’ on amazon, and he’s off signing books at the bookstore. Just like Margaret Atwood, he’s a ‘published’ author. Who cares if his book is something that his grade nine teacher might have wanted to crumple into the trash? It’s a ‘published’ book.
The problem with self-publishing is that it requires zero gatekeepers. From what I’ve seen of it, self-publishing is an insult to the written word, the craft of writing, and the tradition of literature. As an editor, I’ve tackled trying to edit the very worst writing that people plan on self-publishing just because they can.”
Before I start, let me just point out an editing error I put in red for you, Laurie. (Ps- you may also want to fix your bio. Use a period or semi-colon instead of that comma. You’re welcome.)
I don’t know where to start with this or where the rest of the original opinion piece leads to. Self-publishing doesn’t require any gatekeepers. However, to call it an “insult to the written word, the craft of writing, and the tradition of literature” is extreme, disrespectful, ignorant, and biased. If you are going to give such an extreme opinion and make such offensive statements, at least back up your statements with facts. To even compare self-published books to something a 9th grade teacher would want to crumple up and throw into the trash, is just, negative and judgmental beyond belief.
“I have nothing against people who want to self-publish, especially if they’re elderly. Perhaps they want to write their life story and have no time to learn how to write well enough to be published traditionally. It makes a great gift for their grandchildren.”
Rude and offensive.
“But self-publishing needs to be labelled as such. The only similarity between published and self-published books is they each have words on pages inside a cover. The similarities end there. And every single self-published book I’ve tried to read has shown me exactly why the person had to resort to self-publishing. These people haven’t taken the decade, or in many cases even six months, to learn the very basics of writing, such as ‘show, don’t tell,’ or how to create a scene, or that clichés not only kill writing but bludgeon it with a sledgehammer. Sometimes they don’t even know grammar.”
This is the part I personally loved the most. The part that infuriated me the most. On behalf of every single writer, I’d like to ask you, Laurie Gough, how the fuck do you know how long we’ve all been writing? Who are you to decide that every self-published author is lazy or talentless? How do you know how many self-published authors have or have not dedicated their entire lives to the craft of writing? How do you know how many mothers or fathers have waited until the kids have gone to bed before they could pull out their laptop or journal and write the story they needed to get out of them? How do you know about the kids or adults who couldn’t afford a higher education but always had a passion for writing and wanted to study it? How do you know about the writers who haven’t been brave enough to tell people writing is their passion because they’re afraid people like you will judge them for it and belittle them? You don’t. You don’t fucking know.
Ignorant statements such as this, as well as many others made in the original article, are offensive to so many people on so many levels. Not only is the author declaring self-published writers everywhere talentless frauds, but she is also basically questioning the intelligence of readers everywhere who read self-published books.
And I want to remind authors what makes a writer. A writer is someone who fucking WRITES. I don’t care if you never publish a word. If you sit home, every day, every night, and you write, guess what? You’re a writer. You may not call yourself one. You may not even consider yourself a writer. You may journal for fun. But if the desire, the urge, is there to get it out, you are a writer. And no one can decide whether or not you are a writer. Only you.
And no one can decide whether or not you are “any good.” People can have their opinions, just like the author over there. Just like I have my own opinion on her ridiculous point of view.
We write because we have to. We self-publish—or publish—because we want to. And that is fucking that.