Self-Publishing: An Insult To The Written Word (my comments in red)

To: Laurie Gogh, traditionally published author of several books, including Kite Strings of the Southern Cross: A Woman's Travel Odyssey

 

Fm: Artist/VR/AR producer  Stephen Black, self-published author, including the bestseller i ate tiong bahru.(2000 paperback copies sold, with no media coverage nor advertising)

Re: Your recent submission to the Huffington Post

Dear Ms. Gogh,

Thank you for your submission to the Huffington Post. We at the Huffington Post are aware of, and truly appreciate, the time and effort it takes to write an outstanding essay. We sincerely hope the following notes from one of our  editors will assist you on your journey towards becoming a professional writer.

All the best to you.

Sincerely,

Submissions Desk at the Huffington Post  (JUST KIDDING.)

Self-Publishing: An Insult to the Written Word Laurie, Fantastic title! Clickbait yet literary!

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.

Laurie, wonderful opening paragraph. A few things: a. add sales figures. Can't go wrong with sales figures.   b. your awards. Can you weave these in, in a punchy way? c. how about "Surely you'd make much more money or...much, much more money..."😉 And hey, just between you and me... haven't you considered self-publishing? What do you make per book? Forty, fifty cents? Do publishers still line up promotional tours these days? How's your backlist moving?

I’d rather share a cabin on a Disney cruise with Donald Trump than self-publish. Can I try to arrange that?  Ha ha! Actually it is a great line. Can you open with it? However, you'd have to come up with a follow up paragraph that would outline why you cannot see yourself in the world of self-publishing.

To get a book published in the traditional way, and for people to actually respect it and want to read it (Can we rethink this? must we associate the word "respect" with traditional publishing?  +... want to read--or want to buy? 🙂 — you have to go through the gatekeepers of agents, publishers, editors, national and international reviewers. Laurie, let's make this really work for us: can you make it personal and mention your editors' names?..and OOPS! Your sentence begins with "to get a book published... you have to go through agents, blablabla national and international reviewers". Reviewers aren't necessary to to get a book published, are they? Don't reviewers add value AFTER a book is finished? Remember, Laurie, we have to be clear and exact...we're not self-publishers, are we? lol These gatekeepers are assessing whether or not your work is any good. BLEH! Gatekeepers assure readers of quality. Something like that. Readers expect books to have passed through all the gates(repetitious), to be vetted by professionals. Just like Fifty Shades and Wool and all of those wonderful books by Joe Konrath, who has sold millions. This system doesn’t always work out perfectly, but it’s the best system we have. Laurie, let's rethink those last two lines. Readers don't expect those things, though the world would be a better place if more readers did. For now, we will feign ignorance of excellent services like Reedsy.

Good writers only become good because they’ve undertaken an apprenticeship. Yes! The craft of writing is a life’s work. Yes! It takes at least a decade to become a decent writer, tens of thousands of hours. 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! At the end of her self-imposed (move this 'self-imposed' up so that it modifies the first 'apprenticeship') apprenticeship, she’ll be relieved that her first works were rejected because only now (rethink your use of tense here!) can she see how bad they were. Laurie, isn't it also possible for self-publishers to have their work rejected, in many ways? If an honest friend or a teacher told you that your book was unreadable, would that be better or worse than an unsigned rejection form letter from the office of an agent or publisher?

Did you ever hear what Margaret Atwood said at a party to a brain surgeon? Rewrite, does not sound literary. At. all. 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 coolly replied, “Great! When I retire I’m going to be a brain surgeon!”An anecdote Laurie, well done!

The irony is that now that brain surgeon really could dash off a “book” in a of couple months, click “publish” on a Amazon, and he’s off signing books at the bookstore. Laurie, can we link to where Amazon provides this service?  lol 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. Laurie, perhaps we can give this a little rethink? Most self-published books sell much less than a 100 copies. I doubt a bookstore would automatically share their valuable time and space with just anyone, self-published or traditional. So, let's give this paragraph a little thinkie, shall we? The appearance of being uninformed and writing with an ink made of sour grapes: no thank you!

And, when something is badly written, do we toss/throw/dump it into the trash or do we crumple it and then throw it into the trash? And, what do we do if the amateurish writing is digital, like an ebook or an online article?

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. Wow... that last line may not technically be a run on...but it ain't no dancer! And Laurie, dear, are all traditionally published books worthy of the tradition of literature? Dangerous waters here! And, what percentage of self-published books have you read? Aren't there also gatekeepers in self-publishing; that is curators? Or even Goodreads!? Only an idiot would pick up ANY book without doing any sort of checking, regardless of how it was published. And, historically, there have been some noteworthy self-published works. I certainly know what you mean about editing bad writing.

I’m a horrible singer. But I like singing so let’s say I decide to take some singing lessons. A month later I go to my neighbor’s basement because he has recording equipment. I screech into his microphone and he cuts me a CD. I hire a designer to make a stylish CD cover. Voilà. I have a CD and am now just like all the other musicians with CDs.

Except I’m not. Everyone knows I’m a tuneless clod but something about that CD validates me as a musician. (Does "something" about that object truly validate you? And, the example of you screeching/recording a CD feels like an unnecessary repetition of the doctor story above. Pick one.) It’s the same with writers who self-publish. Literally anyone can do it, including a seven-year-old I know who is a “published” author because her teacher got the entire class to write stories and publish them on Amazon. It’s cute, but when adults do it, maybe not so cute. With the firestorm of self-published books unleashed on the world, I fear that writing itself is becoming devalued. Gosh, Laurie, I agree with you. But so far, your piece isn't realizing its full potential and could come across as an unresearched rant. Can you spend some time going through some bestselling self-published books and then tear them apart? It'll be a breeze and make for a better, strong essay. Grrrr... you go girl! Devalued writing is not for us!

I have nothing against people who want to self-publish, especially if they’re elderly. Thank you for that! Me too! Perhaps they want to write their life story and have no time to learn how to write well enough to be published traditionally. Laurie, just say that they are going to die soon! Death adds drama! Make this piece come alive!  It makes a great gift for their grandchildren. But self-publishing needs to be labelled as such.Memo to self: get Amazon to create a category for people who quickly write and self-publish books before they die but do not have the time to become great writers like Laurie. The only similarity between published and self-published books is they each have words on pages inside a cover. Rewrite. Clunky. Maybe something like: Self-published and published books share one thing: words on pages between covers. Or something like that. Laurie, you're the wordsmith:) Oh... we should say "traditionally" published. The similarities end there. And every single self-published book I’ve tried to read has shown me exactly (not approximately? lol) why the person had to resort to self-publishing. These people haven’t taken the decade, or, in many cases, even six months(I believe the correct amount of time should be six months 18 days. lol), 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.cliché in  a sentence that is 40+ words long. Intentional, right? Sometimes they don’t even know grammar.

Author Brad Thor (what has he written?) agrees: “The important role that publishers fill is to separate the wheat from the chaff. If you’re a good writer and have a great book you should be able to get a publishing contract.” Laurie, can we give that quote a rethink? Not only is it bland and kinda wrong, but the cliché police are outside. They want you to come out with your hands up...lol

Author Sue Grafton (she wrote...what?) said, “To me, it seems disrespectful...that a ‘wannabe’ assumes it’s all so easy and s/he can put out a ‘published novel’ without bothering to read, study, or do the research. ... Self-publishing is a short cut (Hey Laurie, FWIW, my books usually take about three years to write and research, at least two months of that time winning and losing battles against the world champion editor Vikki Weston) and I don’t believe in short cuts when it comes to the arts. I compare self-publishing to a student managing to conquer Five Easy Pieces on the piano and then wondering if s/he’s ready to be booked into Carnegie Hall.” Laurie, if you want to criticize self-publishing, again I suggest a better strategy is for us to pick apart some of the self-published bestsellers that have sold, for whatever reason, tens or hundreds of thousands of copies, like your books have. These quotes you've chosen have nothing to do with your opening which is about economics and why you don't self-publish. And, please, do some research...with an open mind.

Writing is hard work, but the act of writing can also be thrilling, enriching your life beyond reason when you know you’re finally nailing a certain feeling with the perfect verb. 31 words, all "beyond reason" and smooth as buttahhh lol It might take a long time to find that perfect verb. (It might never happen and you end up making a clumsy sentence that is a weird present/future continuous perfect tense) But that’s how art works. Writing is an art deserving our esteem. (Writing is an artform that deserves our respect. Writing is an art form that should be held in high esteem. Ya wanna wrestle? lol) It shouldn’t be something that you can take up as a hobby one afternoon and a month later, key in your credit card number to CreateSpace or Kindle Direct Publishing before sitting back waiting for a stack of books to arrive at your door...before being taken down to the bookstore for a signing and massive sales by sheep/buyers who do not recognize works of literary merit. lol. That sentence is 40 words long, clumsy and repetitious. Laurie, we get it, we get it: the doctor can self-publish, the seven year old can self-publish it, anyone with a credit card can self-publish....EDIT

Let’s all give the written word the respect it deserves. Laurie, not a bad closing, but I am still left hanging by the question posed in your opening: why don't you self publish? Surely you could afford an editor and no longer need to fear gatekeepers? Please rethink this entire piece and give it the work it requires. Get rid of the repetition and, remember, facts speak volumes. Your opener suggests that self-publishers make more money than traditionally published authors--and you never touch this important aspect again. I'm afraid I can't run this piece as it is; feels too much like an "intelligent" rant by a wine-fortified semipro blogger. Good luck!

7 Responses to Self-Publishing: An Insult To The Written Word (my comments in red)

  1. Stephen –

    What a TERRIFIC (and witty!) article. I don’t know you. I don’t know Laurie. I do know that anyone who scoffs at “self-publishing” is probably the same type of person who yells: “Kids, get off my lawn!” Is there room in this world for both traditional, self and HYBRID publishing? There absolutely is.

    What “Laurie” doesn’t realize is that many self-published authors do hire content and copy editors. They hire graphics artists. They work with marketing teams and end up investing tons of time and $ to sell their books.

    Readers don’t care where a book comes from. They want to be entertained and taught something. There are countless “traditionally published titles” that go unfinished, just like many self-published titles may as well. Art is in the eye of the beholder, and if someone wants to write, who are we to stop them?

    Thanks for posting. Hope you get more responses (maybe even from Laurie).

    PS. I’m sharing this on my new Twitter page: @brandstandbooks – hope my few followers pick this up and share..

    • David, thank you very much. You are exactly, right, or as we say in self-publishing, “zakly write”. When I first read her article, I laughed. I also made a simple post on Facebook saying that I enjoyed the article. I truly do enjoy it. The irony, the blindness. Her article had typos is it! And–ask any of my friends- I love long sentences. But hers are not strings of pearls; they are the trails of raisins made by chipmunks after eating too many sour grapes.

  2. a gem Stephen, it was like sitting in the Bush/Blair debacle, sorry, debate.

    Keep up the excellent work

  3. Thank you for this article. I’m tired of the stigma surrounding self-publishing.

    In the past, I attended a few award shows for authors and illustrator. By this point, I find it funny how traditionally published authors and illustrators, I’ve been having quite a pleasant conversation with, disperse the moment I mention I’ve self-published my book. As if self-publishing is catching.

    Upon seeing my book, those same authors and illustrators will stare at me and say: “This is self-published?”

    I self-published my first book, because I wanted to publish a picture book/activity book that turned out to be 58 pages long (The horror!). I’m publishing my fantasy series, because I love having absolute control over my work. Another reason I choose self-publishing is that I do not wish to stress out over whether my stories fit a particular category or grade level — a concept foreign to my upbringing and possibly my culture.

    English is my second language. A part of me will always be terrified of grammar and spelling, but that is why I have an editor.

    I would love to spend my life just creating art and writing books. I wish I had someone to deal with the business side of publishing. However, I have not yet met a traditional publisher willing to fight for my work, allow me the creative freedom I require as an artist, and cut me a decent paycheque.

    • Link to your work, please! Thank you for your comments, Mili. I will do a blog post that addresses some of your points. For now, please share this post..and get your link in your comment or send it to me somehow! 😉

      • You are welcome. I already shared this post on my Facebook Page (Mili Fay Art) and Twitter. I think it’s great! I found it in Sandra Beckwith’s Build Book Buzz Facebook Group.

        My website is linked to my name. More information about my picture book, “Animals In My Hair” can be found here:

        http://artofmili.ca/art-and-stories/animals-in-my-hair/

        My Kindle books can be found at:

        http://Author.to/Mili_Fay

        I’m happy to see that general public is beginning to accept that there are great self-published books. Thank you for spreading the word, and educating those who still equate self-published with not-good-enough-to-be-traditionally-published. ❤️

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