A terrible idea for serious writers?

I started reading an article the other day by an author who admitted that most traditionally published authors aren’t rich, but then she said she would never consider self-publishing. And she considered it a “terrible idea” for “serious writers.”

Because self-published authors, she continued, spend most of their time marketing rather than writing.

And in order to market their books, many of these self-published authors — she even said “the vast majority” of them — make fools of themselves on social media in order to cajole every person who so much as skims their timelines to buy, buy, buy their books, please, I’m begging you, here’s a link to my Amazon page, my blog, and a few other places that will make it super easy to buy my book for the limited-time special offer of FREE-SO-BUY-MY-BOOK-ALREADY-DAMMIT!!

The writer of this article condescendingly wrote about “indie” publishing — with the quote marks — as though she were using a pair of sterilized tongs to hand a sick person a tissue.

That was the first thing that raised my hackles.

Then she compared the indie-published author to someone who creates — as his first woodworking project — a crappy dresser and then, after failing to sell it to local furniture shops, tries to sell it himself.

One of my new favorite authors right now (whom I’ve recently discovered) is Hugh Howey, the author of Wool, Shift, Dust and many other novels that he published himself.

I’m looking at the long list of novels and short stories he’s written so far, and it seems he spends plenty of time writing, as well as marketing.

And he’s done very well. Because he’s a very good writer. And he’s done the work involved in marketing his books, too. I don’t recall ever hearing that he regrets going it alone — or that, given a chance, he would rather have been published by a well-known publishing agency.

Yet, neither have I ever heard of him shitting on traditional publishing for those who prefer that route.

I don’t know why the woman who wrote the “I’d never consider self-publishing” article seemed so intent on insulting those who take the reins and go indie.

Maybe because she doesn’t think she could have done the work involved in marketing her books. Better to leave it to “the professionals,” right?

Some things, yes. I’m thinking of the light fixture in our kitchen that suddenly made a loud popping sound, right as the whole thing sorta launched into our sink, leaving nothing but a bare stem where the light socket used to be.

I’m thinking we’ll be hiring an electrician to sort that out.

But even many of those professional publishing outfits are putting more of the burden of marketing on new authors — still keeping as much of each book sale as they ever did but requiring the author to do more of the work involved in getting the word out about their books.

And they’re also encouraged, before submitting their work to an agent, to consult a professional editor — or at least a team of dedicated beta-readers.

The day may come when there will be little to no financial advantage provided by traditional publishing agencies over self-publishing. The cost of a cover will probably come out of the advance payment. Maybe even the cost of editing, proofreading, and formatting. If it doesn’t already.

As publishing companies struggle more and more to keep up with Amazon and the rising tide of indie publishers, they’ll need to squeeze their authors more and more just to pay the bills.

I wonder what this author will say if she sees this day come. Maybe she won’t care. Maybe she’ll be so used to giving up more and more of her advance to help her publishing company pay its own bills, she won’t even notice.

As long as someone else keeps telling her, “We’re doing everything we can to get your book into the hands of as many readers as possible,” maybe she’ll consider her shrinking advances big enough to stay on that track.

As long as she sees her book on the shelves of local bookstores, maybe she’ll think, “This is still the best way to go,” even if she doesn’t know how many indie-published books share those shelves with her books.

How would she know, anyway?

With an attitude like the one she has toward indie-published authors, I doubt she knows any well enough to say whether any of them have their books in local bookstores.

It doesn’t help that she dismisses all self-published authors as special snowflake amateurs who can’t get a publishing contract — most likely (she assumes) because their first novel (or second or third) just isn’t that good — and who then decide to publish it themselves, foisting their mediocre novels (with their smaller price tags) on the world and making life harder for those who are trying to sell their more expensive traditionally-published novels.

I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t like to be dismissed as “a delicate flower who needs the validation of a publishing contract in order to feel special.”

(Side note: I’d love to receive the validation of a publishing contract. I’m thinking it’d feel pretty awesome. And it’s always tempting to envy my fellow writers on Twitter who score a publishing contract. From what I’ve read, it takes a lot of work and time. These are not delicate creatures. Neither are the indies out there that I’ve met).

What this woman is also assuming, then, is that all books worth publishing — and whose authors are diligent about sending query letter after query letter, acquiring an agent, and doing everything human possible to get their book into the “YES” pile of a reputable publishing company — will eventually get that publishing contract.

But this is not true.

Neither is it true that “the vast majority” of indie-published authors make fools of themselves on social media. Sure, there are plenty of authors on Twitter whose tweetstreams are crammed with book ads — mostly for their own books, though some authors also promote a few others.

I don’t know how many of these authors are self-published and how many are traditionally-published, but I always check out tweetstreams before following anyone.

And a tweetstream full of little besides book ads (especially those that post several of them every hour of every day) gives me no incentive to follow.

These are the authors who show little, if any, sign that they interact with their readers, with other writers, or with anyone else on Twitter. Maybe they do more socializing on Facebook. But on Twitter, their accounts are basically echo chambers.

And there are plenty of authors who seem more intent on building their number of followers (assuming this will translate into book sales), but they either don’t bother following anyone back, or, if they do, they show little interest in what other people are sharing. Their Twitter accounts also tend to be focused on themselves and their books.

And, for some reason, they seem to think sending an automatic DM to thank me for following them is a good way to build rapport.

You know the DMs I’m talking about. Allow me to paraphrase:

“Hi, there! Thanks SO much for making my number of followers grow. I probably have no reason to follow you back, and I’ll probably never notice you among my tens of thousands of awesome followers, but I really super appreciate your +1. Fist bump! Via @crowdfire.”

And if those are the only indie-published authors on Twitter that the aforementioned traditionally-published author has encountered, then I guess it doesn’t surprise me if she thinks indie-publishing is the last resort of the boorish egomaniac.

But she’s wrong.

And she really should look a little deeper and spend some time getting to know the indie-published authors on Twitter who care more about connections than about book sales. They’re out there. I’ve met several. They deserve better than the article this woman wrote.

(Plus, there are boorish egomaniacs among traditionally-published authors, too. Because that group is also made up of human beings and just as prone to egotism.)

I’m not giving the article-writer’s name, though you could probably find it easily enough by going to The Guardian‘s website and looking over some of the more recently-published articles. I honestly don’t know when this particular article was published. I learned about it on Twitter, and I forgot to check the date.

I also forgot to check the name. Or to remember it, anyway. Details. I’m not good with them.

So, do your own research, if you like. This woman is not unique in the way she sees indie-publishing. You’ll find negativity, preconceived notions, and snap judgments in both camps. I know plenty of writers on Twitter who plan on finding an agent and getting published the traditional way, at least for their first novels. I wish them the very best.

I read an article a few weeks back about a self-published author who wanted to make it clear to everyone who read about her surprising success in publishing and promoting her own novels that she wished she could have gone the traditional publishing route instead. She was still hoping to do so, in spite of her success as an indie-published author — mostly because of the work involved in promoting her books.

Not everyone wants to shoulder that load. (I haven’t even begun to shoulder it, and it already sounds intimidating). And those who choose to self-publish should never try to make them feel bad about that. It’s a lot to undertake.

And if one of my fellow authors on Twitter finds a great agent whose diligent work results in a publishing contract, I’ll be thrilled for him or her.

And a little nervous for myself. Because while I’m leaning toward self-publishing, I see the appeal in the traditional publishing route. And I’m afraid I won’t have what it takes to promote a novel that, for all I know, won’t even be worth reading.

In the meantime, I’ll act as though getting my book finished and then published depends on me. Because if I don’t do that, it won’t get done. I’m the one writing this novel. And then I’ll be the one doing what’s necessary to get it published and promoted in a way that (hopefully) doesn’t scare people off.

But I’d really rather no one told me to believe in myself. If anyone does, I’ll probably just tune it out and go stress-eat or something nonconstructive like that.

(Aldi’s keeps their Jalapeno kettle-cooked chips right by the front door, making it far too easy for me to pick up a few bags on the way home from work. The veggies are . . . wait, they do sell those, too, right? I forget. But they’re nowhere near the chips. My time is precious.)

I’m an introvert (with very short fingernails) who’s pretty close to the opposite of a workaholic. Which makes me wonder all the more why I’m leaning toward self-publishing.

It’s partly because I want to be the one in control of the finishing touches. I want to make sure I love the cover, so I don’t want to leave that to a publishing company, though I have every intention of paying someone who’s far better at designing covers than I am.

I haven’t had a make-over in . . . well, ever. So, I plan to enjoy one vicariously through my novel. But first I want to write a novel well-worth the money I’d be willing to spend on its cover.

I’ve been reading books on self-publishing and I may be reading too many of them at once, because I’m already starting to feel overwhelmed.

For now, I’m just going to focus on finishing the novel.

And building my community on Twitter.

And blogging once a week.

One thing at a time, right — or three. Baby steps. Breathe.

That’s about all I can handle right now. Time will tell whether that’s enough to create some buzz for the novel by the time it’s done.

But for all the writers out there, whatever publishing path you choose, pay no attention to the folks out there criticizing the path other than the one they take.

Or, in other words, if you want to write a ranty post about it (like me), feel free. And share the link with me, so I can read it, too. But let’s agree to not let it bug us for long.

And keep up the good work. 🙂







4 thoughts on “A terrible idea for serious writers?

  1. I’ve always been of the mindset that there’s always room for quality content. If you have quality writing, or quality anything, there will be people to enjoy your product. Self publishing has the stigma that because anyone can publish, there’s a lower quality of content. That’s not wrong. There’s no screening process. BUT! the problem this writer has is neglecting that quality content can and will always be successful.

    Self publishing also requires a marketers skill set. So instead of focusing just on writing, you need to wear multiple ‘hats’ and constantly fill different rolls. That’s what leads a lot of writers to self advertising on twitter. They don’t know any better, because they aren’t educated in marketing. They’re writers.

    It feels like this woman chose to focus on a select group of stereotyped self published writers. She chose to comment on the people who write a quick book and only self advertise. However, there are people like that in all industries. People who put in little work expecting enormous results. She also neglected the group of people that are currently pushing out quality content while remaining engaged and selfless with their interactions with their audience.

    I think self publishing is difficult in many ways, but much more rewarding in the end because of the direct impact your have on your won success. Harder you work = Better results.

    Thanks again for the thought provoking article.
    Pleasure as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with so many points in your comment, I had to gather my thoughts before replying. It was the uncharitable stereotyping of self-publishing authors that provoked me into writing this blog post, and I agree that she focused on the ones that shove out one book or novel as quickly as they can — just to be called “published authors” — and then spend their social media time promoting little (if anything) besides themselves. And I agree that people who do this exist, but that the article writer turned a blind eye to self-published authors who produce quality content and put relationships before sales.
      I hope the article writer would do as much herself, even though she seems so ready to dismiss by stereotype a huge chunk of humanity simply because they go indie. I hope she rethinks that and someday writes an article correcting her “serious writers don’t self-publish” article. I’m reminding myself as I write this that she’s probably not a terrible person. I’ve said and written a lot of things over the years that I DEEPLY regret, and while we’re still alive, there’s always hope.
      Thank you for taking the time to write this thoughtful and helpful (at least for me) comment! Have a great week. 🙂


  2. Jeez! That woman is so rude! I haven’t met anyone like this yet. I hate when people generalize a group as a whole. Maybe some indie authors don’t care about being rich and just want to make some money from their work. Not all people who go traditional make it and it doesn’t make you a better writer if you do go that route. As any writer you should be supporting other writers and not taking them down piece by piece. I’m going the self published route. Each side has its ups and down. I support anyone on either side.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This was the first article I read that called self-publishing a “terrible idea” for “serious writers.” That got my attention, of course, and I had to read more to see whether she was serious and why she would say that. I agree that writers should support each other, no matter how they choose to publish their work. I love the creative freedom that goes with self-publishing, and I also love that we get to set the price for our own books. I’ve yet to finish my first novel, so I can’t defend or criticize either route on the basis of real experience, but I agree with you that each route has its pros and cons. The important thing for writers is to do good work and then, when the novel/book is ready to share, choose the publishing route that works best for them, whichever that is.
      Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to leave a thoughtful and supportive comment! Have a great week, and happy writing!! 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s