Mar 21, 2016

Traditional Publishing equals Poverty, but at least I'm not a slovenly Self Publisher

The Guardian published a rather click-baity editorial recently by one Ros Barber entitled For Me, Traditional Publishing Means Poverty. But Self-Publish? No Way. Now, I don't know Ms. Barber from a hole in the wall. A quick Amazon search of her name, however, appears to show she's the author of at least four books ... three of which have covers which seem to have been puked out by a designer not quite qualified to advertise on fiverr. However, let's not start this article off on a judgmental note, now, shall we?

Nah, there'll be plenty of time for that.

I feel sorry for any literate cockroaches
Judging by her article in The Guardian one gets the sense Ms. Barber fancies herself something of a professional.  Mind you, a professional who claims to be making chump change at her chosen profession. That's not so surprising because, as I've mentioned here before, publishing is a really difficult business to make ends meet with.  I don't have a problem with this.  What I take issue with is her stance that making so little as to be forced to eat one's own books for nutrition is still a superior option to Self Publishing.

To back up her lofty position, she lists out seven rather ridiculous reasons why she'd rather sell her children to a work house than dirty her fingers in the muck of us filthy self-publishers.  Let's take a look at them:

You have to forget writing for a living
Her theory here is that if one self-publishes one will have to spend the vast majority of their time marketing and hawking their wares on street corners. That leaves pretty much zero time to actually write those books we seek to sell like snake oil in back alleys. Here's the thing, you CAN spend all of your time marketing. Just like one CAN spend all of their time watching TV, downloading porn, or writing smarmy articles for The Guardian.  But that doesn't mean you have to.  A savvy business owner will be able to find the right mix between promoting their new / existing books and working on their next. Social media, paid advertising, interacting with readers. All of this can be done with a fraction of one's day. I have over a dozen books available, which I've put out over five years while working full time and raising a family ... and some might even call me slow compared to some of the true dynamos in this industry. Amazingly enough, I have managed to do this without giving up either eating or sleeping. Go figure.

Self-publishing can make you behave like a fool
Yep, so can alcohol, drugs, excessive gambling, and convincing oneself of one's own misguided superiority. The author seems to think that self-publishing and being a shit-bag spam-monkey go hand in hand.  And here I must concede it does look like that sometimes.  Go onto twitter and you can literally drown in a sea of BUY MY BOOK tweets.  However, what the author fails to mention is the inverse correlation of spammers and spammers who are successful authors.  Seriously.  The vast majority of successful self publishers I know don't do this.  A few do, but even in their cases they know that to be successful at marketing means standing out from the crowd. Also, if Ms. Barber is aware of how annoying this is, one might conclude that she wouldn't do this herself.  Or perhaps she thinks of self-publishing much like a zombie virus outbreak. One slowly loses their humanity and is forced to wander the internet, eternally moaning for sales in lieu of brains.

Gatekeepers are saving you from your own ego
I will be the first to admit there's a lot of truly terrible self-published material out there.  However, a lot doesn't equal all. Also, are not the best gatekeepers ultimately the end readers themselves?  Now, I, for one, have said all along that if my books were judged harshly by the public then I'd take my ball and go home, happy in the knowledge that I tried. Sure, there are plenty of egomaniacal assholes out there who will be happy to tell you that their books don't sell because readers are too stupid to understand them, but I'd counter one might find that same ego behind the screen of a traditionally published writer who might, for instance, be inclined to write an article about how superior their way is to self publishing, all while complaining about how they've had to sew up their childrens' potato sacks for the third time that week.

Good writers become good because they undertake an apprenticeship. Serving your apprenticeship is important
Probably the one gem in this whole turd pile.  No question, practice makes perfect.  However, that doesn't mean someone can't hit one out of the park on their first or second try.  Even so, there is no denying the difference between a first book and a fifth for many in this industry.

You can forget Hay festival and the Booker
I don't even know what the fuck these are, but maybe that's because A) I'm self published and B) write ... gasp ... genre fiction instead of literary fiction.  Oh well, I have little chance of scoring an invitation to the local yacht club either.  Doesn't mean the fish I catch are any less fresh.

Wait ... Booker? Wasn't that a show on Fox with Richard Grieco? You mean I can't meet him now!?  Kindly excuse me while I go and burn my hard drive.

Tonight we eat like kings ... self published kings!
You risk looking like an amateur
I was about to agree with this one, but then I read it again and saw the big takeaway from this seems to be "Traditional publishers pay for this stuff so you don't have to" Well, no shit.  There's some valid points in here, littered among the vitriol.  I mean, sure, you CAN look like an amateur by having lousy editing and crappy covers (*cough* pot calling the kettle black *cough*), but once again, as a so-called professional, you'd think this would be a pitfall the author of this article could easily avoid. I mean, I run the risk of looking like a pervert every day, but I mitigate that by being smart enough to wear pants when I step outside ... at least most of the time.

70% of nothing is nothing
Well, damn, if that isn't a bombshell.  You know what, 7, 17, or 25% (or whatever is the traditional % these days) of nothing is still nothing as well.  That's some right smart math there.  Here's the thing, there are NO GUARANTEES in this industry period.  For every Stephen King, there will be thousands of people who sell nothing and it happens on both sides of the publishing coin.  Anyone jumping into this business for the sole purpose of getting rich is probably a deluded idiot at best.  However, if the author of this article is to be believed, she's already living in poverty with her writing. Thus, I'm not sure of the superior attitude to be gained on this point.  Congratulations, you're poor, just like so many other authors with a dream. At least you can use your contract as a blanket in the cardboard box you call a home.

I'm not saying self-publishing is the right road for everyone, but articles like these are laughable at best. Self-publishing isn't a drug, a boogeyman, or a mental condition. It's simply another path in this crazy industry.  And, as with all paths, one should consider what is right for them in an objective manner and not with mindless speculation as to how short of a time it is between when one hits the publish button in KDP and when one is digging up their dead grandmother to scream "BUY MY BOOK!" into her ashen face.


Cassandra said...

Seriously, her book covers are tragic.

Narcisse Navarre said...

Great post Rick. Your blog always makes me smile and gives me hope for my self-published books. -Narcisse