Well, there’s us told!
A recent website post by Laurie Gough, who describes herself as a journalist and travel writer, details why she believes self-publishing is ‘an insult to the written word’. And, judging by the number of comments at the end of the post, she’s insulted – not the written word – but several writers who are making something of a success out of self-publishing.
Ms Gough would ‘rather share a cabin on a Disney cruise with Donald Trump’ than self-publish. (I reckon Trump got off lightly.)
Her premise is that to be published the traditional way – and for people to read and respect the work – a writer needs to go through a series of gatekeepers, that is, agents, publishers, editors and reviewers.
‘These gatekeepers are assessing whether or not your work is any good,’ says Ms Gough.
Ah yes. But what if the writer doesn’t get to the first post of gatekeeping?
It’s relatively straightforward to find an agent who deals in the genre of book you’ve written…
It can be tricky writing the pitch and a synopsis, but we’re writers, so we get on with it…
But there’s no guarantee that the agent (or the agent’s assistant) will even read your application as it comes amidst dozens, if not hundreds of other emails from other would-be novelists.
My co-author, Sue Featherstone, and I are experienced journalists. We can write fact and have had two journalism text books published by a reputable academic publisher.
We believe, we can write good women’s literary fiction too. With our first novel, A Falling Friend, we knew we had a good story and that it was well written. But could we get an agent to read it? Could we hell.
Ms Gough, however, reckons this gatekeeping system is the best.
She quotes an author who believes traditional publishers ‘separate the wheat from the chaff’. OK, but what if the publishers never get to see the bulk of the wheat? And isn’t it insulting to professional writers for her to dismiss us because some agent’s assistant couldn’t be bothered to open the attachment on our email?
What options are there for those of us who feel so passionately about being published that we go down the un-gated route?
I agree with Ms Gough when she says that writing is a craft and that it has to be learned over many years. And I am as insulted as she is when someone says to me: ‘Oh, you’re a writer? I’ve always fancied doing a bit of scribbling…’
But there are some authors out there who are published simply because of their name and who might not have spent quite so long on their ‘apprenticeship’. I’m not naming names but I can think of some who owe their book sales to clichéd writing or a ghost writer.
Ms Gough believes that the problem with self-publishing is that it requires zero gatekeeping.
I would suggest that she’s thinking about those who scribble and click on Amazon and, hey presto, have a paperback book. She’s not thinking of those serious writers (who have been rejected – or not even considered – by her gatekeepers) and who will go down a well-considered and professional route albeit to be self-published.
After several months of bog-standard rejection emails from agents, Sue and I researched the self-publishing route. We met some highly professional and talented people who gave us great advice – the best of which was, find a good editor.
We were lucky, we found an editor, Kate Foster, who just happened to be launching an independent publishing company Lakewater Press. She liked our novel, we liked her style – and we were published by her last year.
Had it not been for Kate, though, we would have self-published. It works for author, Jane Steen who self-published her first novel in 2012 and has since published two more and a short story.
Jane loves the flexibility and freedom self-publishing gives her and relishes the control she has over rights and decision-making.
She agrees that you need to be a good writer and be interested in the process of producing a quality book in various formats. You also need to learn about marketing, legal issues and the business of books.
‘I honestly don’t care if the traditional publishing industry isn’t welcoming us indies with open arms,’ she says. ‘Like all indies, I would like to see a more accepting book world, but I accept that change is going to happen very slowly. In the meanwhile, I’m going to enjoy all that the traditional industry has to offer me, and I rejoice at every positive item of publishing news.’
And there are positive items. Responses to Laurie Gough’s blog included references to writers who’d won ‘traditional’ publishing deals after self-publishing, others who’d achieved sales of up to 50,000, and many who were deeply fulfilled to have written and connected with their readers.
For Laurie Gough article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laurie-gough/selfpublishing-an-insult-_b_13606682.html
For Jane Steen article: http://www.10minutenovelists.com/self-published/
Jessica Norrie said:
Thank you for dealing with this nasty article in a balanced and rational way. I disagree with the article, but some of the reaction I’ve seen to it makes me despair even more. Will be posting a blog article referencing it this on Friday…
Susan Pape said:
Thank you Jessica. I look forward to reading your blog too.
Jane Steen said:
I can’t help feeling that HuffPo posts like that are mere clickbait. They know they’ll get scads of pageviews and comments from annoyed self-publishers, and thus lots of search engine juice and advertising dollars. That whole “self-publishing = rubbish books” argument has been so thoroughly disproved that articles like Gough’s make the author look like a complete newbie who’s had their head buried in the sand since 2009. Yes, we’ll always have hobbyist self-published books, but we’ll also always have badly-written celeb books and third-rate pulp on the traditional side too. Publishing of all stripes is a deep, wide river that contains all of human experience and every shade of quality that exists–and that’s why we love it. Bring on the books and let’s polish up our reading glasses.
And I don’t think that link to my article’s working. Try http://www.10minutenovelists.com/self-published/
Susan Pape said:
Thanks Jane…I’ve updated the link…should be working now. Thanks again for your help and comments.