Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

What’s Wrong with #Selfpublishing ?


Three years ago I wrote what I consider my most important post; and, that’s most important out of 1,400-some posts… 

It’s called, What About All The Authors Whose Books Don’t Sell Very Many Copies?

One of the main points in the post was how wrong some writers’ opinions can be when they only look at authors who’ve sold thousands or millions of books.

They seem to cling to what those authors have said about how to be a “success”—they usually find no success

Naturally, “success” can come in many colors and knowing that the book trade these days is in rapid and confusing transformation can lead some writers to quit and others to redefine what “success” really means

Part of my point in today’s post depends on what the differences are between Self-publishing and Traditional publishing <— those links will show you posts I’ve written about these seemingly contradictory methods of publishing (This post will show up in those links since I’ll be tagging it with both terms :-).

So, I’ll now introduce you to the author Ros Barber.

She had an article in The Guardian this month called For me, traditional publishing means poverty. But self-publish? No way.

For me, that title is a little ball of mystery and contradiction

I found out that The Guardian wrote that title because she wrote a blog post—“You” = “One” = “Me”—that tries to excuse her from what she wrote in the article.

The blog post was a big ball of mystery with a different blend of contradictions

I’ll share some excerpts from her Guardian article, as well as my opinions.

Under the topic heading, “You have to forget writing for a living”, she says, in part:

“If you self-publish your book, you are not going to be writing for a living. You are going to be marketing for a living….if your passion is creating worlds and characters, telling great stories, and/or revelling in language, you might want to aim for traditional publication.”

I must mention her blog post about The Guardian article to let you share in some of the mystery of how this author expresses herself.

She got quite a bit of negative feedback from The Guardian article

In the blog post, she says her biggest mistake was using “you” as an “indefinite pronoun” since she didn’t want the article to be full of the word “I” and that “one” was “too posh”, etc….

In spite of what the received “wisdom” of Grammar might say, if “you” read the words, “If you self-publish your book”, do you think the writer is talking about themselves or about “You”?

And, there are plenty of ways to let folks know about a self-published book without intensive “marketing”—just one being to put it on Wattpad in serialized segments and interact with folks a bit—it doesn’t, by any means, have to take more time promoting a book than writing more of them.

And, the second half of that first excerpt is Way out there

Is it absolutely impossible to create worlds and characters, tell great stories, and/or revel in language in a self-published book?

Is to “aim for traditional publishing” going to magically make a writer create worlds and characters, tell great stories, and/or revel in language??

Let me excerpt only her other topic headings (so I don’t have to become entwined in her mysterious manner of justification) and comment a bit on each:

“Self-publishing can make you behave like a fool”

Now, if I could have read her blog post before I read her Guardian article, I would have known that she meant she had acted like a fool

Simple little logic question here:

Because she acted like a fool in her self-publishing adventures (or, because she feels she would act like a fool—it’s hard to know since she has self-published but she claimed in the blog post that “you” means her, so why does she show someone else’s “foolish” twitter behavior?)

Sorry, have to start over since I tried too hard in that last sentence to be fair to an author who says one thing but certainly appears to mean another

This is the logic question: If someone who’s self-published has acted like a fool in their promotion efforts, does that mean everyone who self-publishes will act like a fool?

And, let me try to be yet more fair with this logic question (since she claims “you” means her): If Ros Barber acted like a fool about self-publishing, does that mean most folks will?

Next topic heading:

“Gatekeepers are saving you from your own ego”

“Gatekeepers” is a word for various people in the Traditional publishing industry; but, I’m wearing myself out trying to be fair to this author, so I’ll just ask you to read my past post, Are Readers Going To Be The New Gatekeepers?

Next topic heading:

“Good writers become good because they undertake an apprenticeship. Serving your apprenticeship is important”

“Your apprenticeship” in that heading refers to writing a number of books and having them turned down by traditional publishers.

What’s to stop a person from writing a whole bunch of books, self-publishing them, finding out that each time they published their books were a bit better?

And, if they’re worried that publishing a string of “bad” books might harm their reception when they’ve reached a point in their personal apprenticeship where they have a fairly decent book to offer, they can just self-publish to a select audience (Wattpad come to mind again…) until they feel they can hit the major self-publishing channels.

Why not learn how to interact with an audience of readers as you improve your work instead of waiting for the opinion of one traditional publisher to shine on your effort with God-like grace?

Next heading:

“You can forget Hay festival and the Booker”

“Hay” and “Booker” are the award programs that seem to me like riding a merry-go-round and waiting for someone who might happen to walk past throw a gold ring at you

Next heading:

“You risk looking like an amateur”

If I tried to rationally deal with what she says in this section, I’d need a vacation in Australia to recuperate

This section tries to make people believe that to “look like” a “professional” author you must entrust the editing, cover, marketing, and publicists to a traditional publisher.

And, the magic belief that “proves” her point is that it will cost a fortune to do all that as a self-published author.

Do I really need to explain that, as self-publishing has gained market-share, entrepreneurs in all those areas have devised relatively low-cost ways to accomplish all those tasks?

In fact, because I’ve been researching and writing about the book world for the last five years, I’m sure there are more options for editing, cover production, marketing, etc. than ever before and they will only increase—when a market is expanding, people rush to take advantage of it (naturally, one must use common sense in judging the trustworthiness of people—I won’t mention the lack of trust many authors have from their experience with traditional publishers—oops, Damn!, I mentioned it…)

“70% of nothing is nothing”

Here she’s referring to a very common royalty percentage offered to self-published authors.

She’s also expressing her opinion of the odds of selling scads of self-published books.

As an argument for never self-publishing and entrusting your writing career to traditional publishers, that heading takes no account of the sales histories of most traditionally published authors (Please read this particular post…).

And, please, also, don’t forget the title of this author’s Guardian post: “For me, traditional publishing means poverty. But self-publish? No way”.

And, even though in the blog post about the Guardian article she says The Guardian wrote the title, I feel the article (along with the blog post) more than justifies what the title claims

I usually encourage folks to read the complete article I’m reporting on

If you can stand peculiar, one-sided “logic”, go ahead and read Barber’s article; but, also, to be fair to her, read the blog post she wrote after the article appeared

I’ve said it before and I stand up and shout it now:

Words are slippery critters; and, sentences are slipperier—God save us from paragraphs and longer written works!

You do know I’m “somewhat” kidding, right…?
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2 responses to “What’s Wrong with #Selfpublishing ?

  1. martinaseveckepohlen March 31, 2016 at 6:27 am

    I spent four weeks in a fight about the admission of self-published authors for a contest. I had got myself into the jury somehow … (Long story) One member of the jury insisted on closing the contest for self-published authors. In the end, most jury members including me resigned and even left the organisation. Now I’m watching from a distance who will survive. At the time I thought, this attitude was mostly a question of age. Those members who wanted to open the contest for every author older than 18 had published with big and small presses or had self-published, and they were aged between 35 and 55. The other author was much older. But age is apparently not the only factor.

    Like

  2. Alexander M Zoltai March 31, 2016 at 11:27 am

    Good for you, Martina, sticking to your guns

    There are more things opening up for self-published authors—contests, books in bookstores, etc

    Age—interesting idea

    Could be part of the equation but not for all folks—I’m nearly 70 :-)

    Liked by 1 person

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