ELITISM: We all INSULT when feeling INSULTED…
My Indie friend sent me a link to an opinion piece by a traditionally published memoirist. She wrote that "self publishing is an insult to the written word." She argued that traditionally published work, vetted by a publisher, editor, agent, etc., reduced poor quality novels which saturated the book selling industry. I also read many of the comments written by self published authors (and some traditionally published authors), many who are quite successful, and disagreed with her--taking personal offense to her statements. After I read everything, I shrugged, grimaced, and said, "meh." I neither disagreed or agreed with her. And her words weren't anything I hadn't read or heard before, especially from Self Published authors.
When I began my writing journey, I ventured into the self publishing world with complete naivety. I had no idea how difficult it would be, and still is, to navigate this industry. I attempted to market my books in Facebook groups and endear myself to readers and other Indie authors, many of whom I had admired and were my favorite go-to authors. In one group, I responded to a post and received backlash so harsh that I will never forget the word or the person that spewed it (calling on her Indie buddies to gang up on me and drove me away). I was called a "hobbyist."
This may mean nothing to many, but to me, and the Indie's intent, was to label me as a hack--an untalented, uneducated, incapable pseudo-writer who was attempting to strike it rich without going into the trenches of writing. That Indie was wrong. Six books later and a seventh started, I'm not a talentless hack. I'm a writer. Now, I've never said I was a great writer. I'm also not a financially successful writer--I'm not even a Midlist author. To the Memoirist, I'm the definition of failure that has insulted the written word. I've always said that I'm NOT the second coming of F. Scott Fitzgerald or Jane Austen. I had a story to tell and I wrote it; then, I wrote some more. I self published because I'd researched enough to know that it was a great way to sell my own work, like Stephen King or Charles Dickens had done in the past--even Jane Austen, after countless rejections, self published.
Does Traditionally Published mean quality books? Eh…not really. I'm no expert. I like what I like, but as a reviewer on Netgalley, I've read a huge amount of traditionally published books this year that were poorly executed stories--and they had a team of readers to assist in making their stories shine. I've read many bestselling self published books that stunned me because they weren't of a caliber that screamed New York Times. But list makers don't mean that the books are literary epics. It just means that the book struck a chord with tens of thousands of readers in the genre. Good for that Indie--you rock!
But many Indies, whether top selling or barely selling, have turned their noses up to other Indies. We've laid judgments, from low book pricing destroying Indie credibility to poor punctuation pulverizing publishing (that was fun to write). If you haven't made commentary about poor quality Indie books, or smirked at a Chuck Tingle ebook, you're lying. I'm no saint because I've done it. I've discussed with other Indies how my books can't be seen because of the glut of Sasquatch Erotica or Dino-Toasters Beach Romance.
Despite my transgressions, I've never called someone a "hobbyist" or laid claims that "not everyone is meant to write." My frustrations came from a place of disappointment for my failures to gain traction in the steep hill of self publishing. As a former professor, I'm an advocate for everyone to learn their craft, follow their desire, and define their own success. Even Stephen King advised writers to 1. Write and 2. Read other writers. If you're writing, reading, and studying the craft, then you too can be a writer. Self publishing is a means to get writing to an audience. There's an audience for every writer. There's a book for every reader…EVERYONE. If there weren't a reader for every author, Chuck Tingle wouldn't produce several books a year, Sasquatch would never find a lover, and the Dino-Toaster would just be a fossil.
I'm proud that the Indie community made their opinions known to the Memoirist (That label sounds snarky, doesn't it? Totally not my intent) about the industry, but please be mindful that within your own community, there are authors that don't believe you have a place. But there is a place. You can be part of the elite. Work harder on your dreams and you will achieve great success. Most of all, just ignore those naysayers and write your book. And when that book is done, it's your choice to self publish or receive 80 rejections like Marlon James before finally finding a publisher, which lead to him winning the Man Booker prize for Fiction. Whatever your prize, self publishing or traditional publishing requires a goal, a plan, and hard work to achieve it.