So I read this post from Terrible Minds when someone in my Twitter feed or blog list linked it–I’ve read and enjoyed several of Chuck’s posts on writing and tangential topics before, also when someone has linked them–and the point he was making is a good one: all writers are in this storytelling thing together.
What really struck me, however, and what I wanted to post about today, is simply that his list of publishing vs. self-publishing blogs is not at all the same as mine. I am guilty to some extent of creating an echo chamber for myself of bloggers whose opinions and honesty I respect, who I see presenting various sides of various issues or who have a very strong point of view which seems valuable to me to consider. I am sure that I gravitate to the people whose opinions dovetail most closely with my own. But I also do read articles that I disagree with, or that make me think or reconsider. Probably at a 1-1 ratio, or close to it. 3-2 maybe, slightly weighted in favor of my point of view but not heavily so.
Anyway, what gets me about some of the rants I see like this about the so-called strident self-pubbers, or the alleged “indie or die!!!” (yes with three exclamation points, always) set, is that the people described always strike me as being…well…hypothetical. I don’t know who these people are. I do not read their blogs or follow them on Twitter.
The self-publishers I am familiar with, whom I interact with (or lurk behind) do not have this attitude that Chuck (and a couple other people) describe. The discussion I am familiar with is about why self-publishing is better right now, while we’re waiting for the publishing landscape to shift and reconfigure in the wake of the digital revolution. The discussion is about how important quality is, and how unnecessary (and unappealing) hard-sell marketing is.
I’ve said before that I have a long view with my self-publishing trajectory. I don’t really care if my work is selling a handful of copies a month right now instead of hundreds or thousands. I believe that my work is quality, and that eventually word will get around that it is. I believe that if I keep putting new work up, and keep having a web presence that is, essentially, my only real marketing push, then more and more people who would like and respond to my work will find it and discover that they like it and respond to it. I have never seen the point of playing the “I’ll fake review you if you fake review me” game; all the reviews I have were generated either from a reader motivated on their own to talk about my work or from a reviewer whom I approached for a review or who approached me without any expectation (or even discussion) of an incestuous reciprocity of reviews.
Basically, I am approaching my self-publishing in exactly the same way I would if it were traditionally published work: professionally.
I expect to be paid for my work (hence why my ebooks aren’t free, even if they are priced with considerations of their length and my lack of publishing history in mind).
I expect to be judged on the merits of my work. If I have a substandard, unprofessional product that is poorly formatted and unattractive, then I expect that to be pointed out, and rightfully so. I don’t think that being self-published excuses me from the need to create a professional product–a reader isn’t going to know just from a glance at my book on a website who published it, and in my opinion they should not have to think about it once they start reading.
I take my writing seriously, and I expect to be judged on the quality of my writing. Perhaps my stories would end up more polished under a “producer” type editor like trad publishing (supposedly) utilizes, or perhaps they would be no different from the products I ended up with after my team of first readers and copyeditor had gone through the manuscripts.
All of the self-publishers I listen to have this same approach, and are taking it because they believe they can create a product on par with what comes from a traditional publisher, and that right now it is in their best interests as career-oriented writers to publish themselves some or all of the time. I haven’t heard anyone talking more about marketing than about writing or editing or formatting; I haven’t heard more than a couple easily ignored peeps on Twitter about solidarity pacts. I am not trying to publish alone, with no community–I feel I’m establishing connections to other writers, both traditionally and self-published, out there, as well as to other bloggers and reviewers. I am simply trying to handle myself as I would if I were writing with the same “legitimacy” and “professional status” as someone who sold a novel for an advance to people who were going to take care of the rest of it.
So who are these other self-publishing people I keep hearing about? And how long before they are no longer the face of self-publishing? If the digital revolution is the new frontier, the Wild West of the book world, then I am the adventurous but genteel lady who is brave enough to go west from St. Louis, but who refuses to abandon her manners, her morals, or her decorum along the journey. And I am not the only one. So sing a song for the six-shooters; civilization is on its way.
For the record, my self-publishing blog list is fairly short. I’m not linking because I’m feeling lazy and these are all very Google-able people if you are so minded.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Dean Wesley Smith
AmWriting.org community blog (NOT a single-author blog nor even a small enough group blog to consider homogeneous; has a mix of self- and traditional-published writers, including small-press authors)
Some or all of the above have outlooks I take with a grain of salt. But none of them are advocating anything less than professionalism.
Neither is the community on The Passive Voice, which is kind of a watering hole for interesting links and the only place where I comment regularly enough to have a sense of the general attitude of its readership.