Some of you in the self-publishing or even just the writing world may have heard of novelist Chuck Wendig’s two recent blog posts about self-publishing. They’re being discussed on author blogs, writing forums and social media sites, stirring up emotion for better or worse.
Basically, what Wendig is calling for is that self-published authors need to step it up.
That’s what I got out of his posts, and its been something I’ve been realizing more and more in recent months. Since self-publishing is here to stay, and many are choosing this option, it is best to take it to the next level.
In his first blog post, Self-Publishing is Not the Minor Leagues, Wendig says this:
See, here’s the thing. Though acting as author-publisher is a viable choice, it’s one that retains a stigma — lessened, these days, but still a stigma carried by other writers, by those in publishing, by bloggers, and in some cases by readers. The air, suffused with an eggy stink.
You want to get rid of the stigma once and for all? Clear the room of any bad smell?
Then it’s time to take a long look at the culture surrounding self-publishing. We’ve moved past the time where we need to champion the cause, okay? We’ve seen enough success in that space and have plenty of positive examples it’s time to stop acting as cheerleaders.
The sad truth about self-published books is that many are not produced well. Many of them are loaded with poor editing, and some even have poor cover designs. Some would say the stories are terrible, but that’s a matter of opinion and a whole different debate.
But yes, many self-published books are released with many typos and grammar issues. It has gotten to the point where many readers are refusing to read self-published books unless word of mouth assures them that a particular book has no editing issues.
Is this something we really want for ourselves? Do we really want that dark cloud hanging over our work like that? I don’t. My book had editing problems when I initially released it. Even though I fortunately got that fixed and re-released my book, the complaints are written in stone on Amazon, Goodreads and book review blogs. So, my book and my reputation as an author is another statistic. I don’t want that for myself in the future, and I don’t want that anymore for my fellow self-published writers.
We no longer have any excuses. There’s just no reason to shrug such flaws like that. We shouldn’t even shrug off lousy book covers or unprofessional behavior. If we want to be taken seriously and respected by writers and readers alike, then we have to take our work and ourselves as writers seriously. A few years ago, writers like ourselves raved that self-publishing was the future of books. We’ve helped revolutionize how books are produced. But with our unprofessional work and behavior, we’ve made ourselves look bad among readers, publishers and traditionally published writers. If we truly believe in what we are doing and creating, then we can’t live in denial about the reputation we have now.
I like it when Wendig says this:
Self-publishing isn’t a lifestyle choice.
It isn’t a hobby.
It’s not a panacea. It’s not pox on your home.
It is neither revolution nor religion.
Yes. It’s a business. Period.
(Oh, and it damn sure isn’t a place to improve your craft. That’s called “writing.” Writing is how you improve your craft — by doing a whole lot of it, by reading, by having your work read by friends and family and by other writers and by editors. Publishing is not where you improve your craft. You don’t learn to pilot an airplane by taking a job with U.S. Airways. A job as an executive chef is not analogous to a cooking class. You wouldn’t expect that of other careers, so why are we okay with it when it comes to author-publishers?)
Yep, once you click on “upload”, you are in real time and not practicing. By then, you are asking for total strangers’ time and money, even if its only a few cents or dollars. They are like any other reader, and having your book not be traditionally published doesn’t mean they will see your work differently. Unless of course, its badly edited like too many are.
I’ve said before and I’ll say again: it’s time to put down the Pom-Poms and time to pick up a magnifying glass — or, for some, a mirror. Don’t celebrate mediocrity. Don’t encourage half-assing this thing for a couple of bucks. This is scrutiny time. This is time to not to say, “Here, you’re doing this wrong,” but “Here, let me help you do this better.” This is time for conversation and constructive critique, not empty applause and pedestal-building.
The culture will need to start asking tougher questions. If we’re going to admit that self-publishing is an equal choice, then it’s time to step up and act like it. It’s time to stop acting like the little brother trailing behind big sister. Time to be practical. And professional.
Since self-publishing my book in September 2012, I’ve changed my whole attitude toward self-publishing, writing and being an author in general. Doing this has made me question why I write in the first place, why I am aiming to publish my work when I write, what it means to be an author, and how I see my audience. I’ve radically changed my attitude since September 2012. I’ve grown so much and learned much more. I have also been honest with myself about why I write at all, and why I want to share my work with total strangers worldwide.
Maybe its because it’s innate, like the “I can’t not write” mindset some writers have is also mine. Or maybe once I start writing scenes, creating characters and worlds, I cannot wait to share them with others. As I write the sequel to The Dark Proposal, I get giddy when I write a good scene or a character shows a deeper side of themselves or a twist comes along. I then get excited by others reading that, and hope they get as excited as I do. It’s give and take when it comes the author and the reader. I offer to share my stories with them, and hopefully they will accept and appreciate that I entertained them or made them think.
Which leads to Chuck Wendig’s second post about self-publishing: Self-Publishing Readers are Not Good Gatekeepers. Here, he discusses the attitude some self-published writers have toward their audiences, and it is not very good. He says:
Because the moment you go somewhere — Amazon, Smashwords, B&N, wherever — and you start charging money, that changes the equation. By a strict reading, that’s no longer Hobbytown, Jake. You’ve entered pro grade territory. You’re asking readers to take a chance on your work for one buck, three bucks, five bucks, etc. You’re not hosting a party. You’re running a lemonade stand.
So stop pissing in the lemonade and asking people to give you cash to drink it.
Once a book is uploaded somewhere, it becomes a product and the buyer is a customer. Would anyone give something mediocre to an interested buyer? And would that person honestly expect them to shrug off any mistakes and ignore unprofessionalism?
If anyone wants to be a respected businessperson and really cares about what they are producing and selling, the answer is no. If they really care about their audience, they also would not see them as guinea pigs or people who exist to boost their egos. It’s all give and take between authors and readers. You want to share your story with someone, that someone wants to be entertained. You give them respect, they give you respect. You give them crap, they throw it right back at you. If you really give them crap, you have a very deep hole to climb out of with not too many willing to help. Wendig says it better:
[I]t’s putting out. It feels exploitative. It feels careless.
And it’s is not an uncommon attitude amongst author-publishers, and what it tells me is, you care about yourself as a writer but not your readers.
He goes on to say this:
Asking readers to be your gatekeepers is putting a lot of responsibility on the people who are paying you. Stop saying you’re going to let the readers figure it out when it comes to sorting through what’s crap and what’s not. You need to figure that out. That’s on you.
Eventually, readers will grow tired of having to be your gatekeepers.
And they’ll ask someone else to do it for them.
Do we as self-published writers really want that? To ruin what we hyped up so much? To ruin our personal hard work and money? I don’t. I realized about a year ago that I did not want to be another statistic, even if I already was. I didn’t want my failures to ruin my goals and dreams, and have me stomp away from the literary world like a little brat. I wanted to learn and improve myself as self-publisher, and take responsibility for everything I worked on.
So, I am ready to move on. I’m ready to get going and be a businesswoman. I have a product here, and I need to represent it well. I have potential readers who may be curious about it, and they deserve respect. I’ve read a lot about the negative attitudes some have toward self-publishing, and I’ve seen many writers make similar mistakes to mine. All have made me rethink my perspective on self-publishing.
I think enough is enough, and we need to move on. We need to improve. We need to prove to the literary world that we truly are a force to be reckoned with, and not a fad. But that will only come if more self-published authors step it up.
Chuck Wendig has rung the alarm, and he says it best here: Writing is a craft, storytelling is an art, publishing is a business.
I’m ready to step it up, and I hope I succeed. I hope many want to do the same.