Weaners and Whiners

ostrichI keep trying to wean myself off of the self-publishing controversy blogs, but I do have a semi-rooting interest and it can be entertaining sometimes. Lately the big theme has been “hey we’re just as good as those (bestselling) schmoes so hey”. It’s gone beyond inferiority-complex-defensiveness and gone on the offensive against the other self-publishing wannabees whose “quality” is not up to snuff. We oughta be in the big time now, we’re not in the “minor leagues” anymore, they say. So all of you bush leaguers get out of Dodge or at least hire editors and proofreaders and cover artists and make your books read and look like ours! These posts get a lot of supportive comments from other indie writers laying claim to the same exalted heights, and sometimes I take a peek at their links to see just who they are and what they’re selling. On the whole, they do seem to be on a par with “the big leagues”. You have your derivative spy thrillers, your tedious historical romances, your blood mopping CSI detectives, your typical Jack Machos and epically endless Space Chronicles, surprising Schools for Young Geniuses and tremendously romantic misfit werewolf and otherwise Teenagers. The covers likewise leap straight off the supermarket and drugstore shelves. Impossible to tell the difference. Yep, and they also let you know how much money they made, much like the retirees working at home in their spare time advertising on telephone poles in a neighborhood near you.

As professionals, these self-publishing authors should have more self-respect and higher self-esteem, and not continually compare themselves to “traditionally published” authors, who by and large are not better and no worse than they are.

I’m right there with my old friend, the judgmental bookseller ostrich! Go ahead and write your summer beach reading and be as awful damn proud of it as you like, but why, people, why lash out at others less grammatical than thou, the typographically challenged, the desperate scribes of nary a clue who have just as much right and just as much access to the send button as you? You say they only confuse the issue? You say they muddy the waters and tar you all with the same stigmatic brush of less-than-USDA-approved quality standards? You say there’s too much noise, how can your glorious purely pitched signals ever find their way through to the ear of their true and deserving readers?

How about this? Leave the term “self-published” to those to whom it always belonged – the great teeming mass of unwashed rejected scribblers – and coin a new term that represents only those who can honorably carry the flag of “just as good as those other crappy fuckers who sell a lot of books”. Let’s call it something “Right-Published” (like when a corporation “right-sizes” their workforce) or, Alt-Published or I don’t know, come up with something. You’re good with words. You should be able to do that. Rebranding works for corporations. Philip Morris became Altria! That’s one way to crawl out from beneath the stigma.

Some of us who are self-publishing are amateurs and hobbyists and like it just the way it is, with no barriers, no attitude, no pretentiousness, no self-importance, just the freedom to publish what we want.

7 comments

  1. I feel like I’m on both sides of the fence. On the one hand, I feel like the general public mixes all non-mainstream publishing together. From the professional to that books who just one day decided that wanted to write a book.
    Then on the other side I know that being something is often a matter of attitude. Complaining about being seen as lower class just keeps us in the hole. Acting the a professional writer with credible work does more to bolster the reputation of every indie author.

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    1. I also have mixed feelings on the subject but I don’t think you win by picking on the little guy. There’s a tone of bullying in a lot of these rants lately, and the term self-punishing, the word ‘self’ in there, is always going to sound of narcissism and amateurish-ness. That’s just language. I would not be surprised to see a new term try to take over, like Bell Atlantic became Verizon, rebranding might be the best way out of the so called stigma.

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  2. I feel a bit schizophrenic about it all too. And I can see that if you are trying to earn serious money out of writing (and even if you aren’t, but just want to be read), then it is pretty frustrating to find that your work is rendered less discoverable – by a torrent of self-published porn (I’m taking the view that authors in this category won’t care much about being the whipping boy here – some of them may even quite enjoy it). So I do sympathise with some of the sentiments expressed in some of the rants.

    But what is the answer? If de-stigmatising self-publishing involves imposing a set of criteria that largely mimics traditional publishing, that means throwing away the most valuable thing that self-publishing has given us – which is the ability to put worthwhile books in front of readers that traditional publishing won’t touch. That’s what I don’t like about sites like awesomeindies.net. I can’t argue with the overall aim of demonstrating that independently published titles can be worth reading and should not be dismissed as “vanity publishing by another route.” But I’m not so keen on their emphasis on the need for a background in professional publishing or a degree in creative writing etc in order to have a say on what is “worthwhile.”

    I accept that if we insisted on those kinds of criteria being met, we would be able to get rid of a lot of the dross (and here again, I can agree with the ranters that there’s an awful lot of dross out there). At the same time though, we would also exclude a minority of people with no such qualifications, but something interesting, important or funny to say. And I doubt very much that a consensus can be arrived at on the meaning of “dross” – it’s just too subjective an issue. So for me, the answer is for the ranters to spend less time trying to impose dubious criteria on the rest of us – and more time reviewing and promoting actual examples of self-published fiction they regard as worthwhile.

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