prove yourself

I'm really not trying to alienate any self-published authors out there. Really, I mostly don't care how other people conduct their writing business. I'm too concerned with conducting my own.


Yesterday I was at the dentist (no cavities!) and the hygienist started asking me about books and writing and publishing. Her son is interested in writing. Fair enough. I answered her questions as best I could with fingers and those cruel little hook things and a mirror in my mouth.

"How much did it cost you to publish your book?"

I blurted, "Nothing. I mean, they paid me."

I find more and more that when I say I'm a writer, especially when I admit, yes, I'm published, the reasonably informed public assumes I'm self-published.

And even though I don't have anything against self-publishing at all, it's annoying as all hell that people assume self-publishing is the tack I took since I've spent the last eight years working my hinder to a point (as Mom puts it) building my writing into a viable career. Also I have chosen not to self-publish to this point.

Alongside that is a sort of feeling, which I really believe is real, of prejudice in the general public against self-published works. Which I think is understandable: sure, I know several folks who have great self-pubbed works out there. There are far, far more self-published books that should never see any light beyond the glow of the writer's own monitor.

Maybe I shouldn't care. But my success relies on readers. Part of my work, my business, involves caring what they think. So it puts me in the uncomfortable position of having to prove my work's worth, even in small talk. And really, it kind of pisses me off, too, because at the end of the day, despite some success on the part of self-published authors (though minor compared to the hundreds of thousands of books and stories uploaded online every year) I really still have a lot of belief in the traditional route, and I'm proud of the hard work it took for me to achieve what I have.


Aaron M. R. said...

I have to say, when asked if I self-pubbed, I can honestly say I didn't. I have a publisher. My press is small. Does that make a difference? I don't know. Mark Coker of Smashwords would say the market and the readers will decide.

However, the days of working years on a book only to shove it under the bed because you couldn't find a publisher are over. Good.

Write books. Publish them. Repeat. If you suck, you suck. If you're divine, the readers will come. Perhaps only a few, but better than no readers at all.

RenataH said...

Interesting point, Bets. When I talk to a published author, I assume that the person successfully navigated the frustrating, treacherous, exhausting waters of agents, publishers, contracts, promo tours, etc., not to mention actually completing a worthy mss. So, I am suitably impressed and laud the writer volubly because I understand the difficulty and length of that journey. To me, being traditionally published proves professional worth.

However, as Aaron intimated, self pub allows one the freedom to sidestep the staid publishing bureaucracy, its current fear of self-implosion, and the corresponding tightening of budgets, etc., enabling a purer connection with the consumer/reader. As long as the writer is able to convince distributors to put the book on their shelves, the judgment of worth occurs directly at the cash register -- no bureaucratic politics, unexpected marketing changes, or greeked contractual verbiage.

So, despite what I hope is an objective assessment of self-publishing as I learned it in a self-publishing class (ha), I think your angst, Betsy, and my assumption reveal an underlying bias against do-it-yourselfers. Maybe the real point of contention is about the judgement and when, where, and how often it occurs.

Peter Dudley said...

I wrote a big long comment, then I realized I was responding to something you didn't actually say. So I deleted it and now will try again. :-)

First: Yay for no cavities!

The question about how much you paid to have your book published is sort of like asking a PGA golfer, "How much did you pay for your golf clubs?" It is a meaningless data point in a much, much larger question. (Besides, self publishing should cost almost zero. I laid out $33 total to bring Semper to market.)

The idea that the cost of publishing would determine whether you write or not is a little offensive to all of us who have put our 10,000 hours into our craft.

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

Pete, actual cost isn't an issue: her question assumed I had self published. As I said, I don't care what other writers do. I know many successful self-pubbed writers and I know many successful traditional pubbed writers. I made my choice based on what is right for me and spent years and years in the regular publishing trenches,and so it just annoys me when people generally assume I've self-published. Sort of the same way they assume they can write a book with no practice, too. Both assumptions demean my professionalism.