Why People hate self-published authors

Right under the link about a realty company that blows dead goats over at Making Light this morning is this:


I wish I could write this cogently.
I may just memorize it and pretend it's original when I say it next time I'm asked about this topic. Copyright doesn't apply to like..speech, does it??


dink said...

Blogger as critic:


I was telling you all about how cogent you are and how you're like chocolate (endorphin-wise) and waxing sad about writers taking advantage of other writers.

Blogger hated my post.

It tore it up.

I feel like I should turn in all my pens.



p.s. If that post somehow did make it through you could delete this one. ha.

Pepper Smith said...

Hmm. There are bound to be desperate souls out there who will spend that kind of money for a writing course that isn't going to help them much.

And the 'magic formula' is actually free. Write, write, write some more. Read in your chosen genre to get a feel for what is expected. (This is something most writers do, and we manage to not plaigerize each other most of the time.) Write. Get people who are not related to you and have no stake in your emotional well-being to read your work, and be prepared to accept criticism that doesn't match your own opinions. Keep writing. Keep polishing.

Writing takes work. The magic formula is to view it as a rough gem that needs cutting and polishing. Skipping steps leaves you with a dull, leaking diamond. Writing, honest feedback, and putting aside the idea that every word on the page is sacred are absolutely essential if you're ever going to get that diamond to sparkle.

As to the self-publishing article, I thought the writer was very balanced about it. It's always the few with the axe to grind that end up causing an entire group to look bad. For those who write well and have the energy and push to publish and sell that way, go get 'em! I have neither the money nor the stamina for self-publishing.

Patrick J. Fitzgerald said...


kitty said...

From the article:
'In 1932, when Clark Gable famously asked Willliam Faulkner “Oh, do you write?” Faulkner responded with one of the best zingers in the history of literature. He did not respond with “yes, I am a published author!”'

Since Faulkner's answer was not included in the article, I googled.

You'll find the answer here :~)

Pepper Smith said...

LOL! Anyone who is confused by my earlier reply might want to read the article about the writing software that's at the first link in Miss Snark's original post. It caught my attention and got my ire up. $200 for "Magic formula" software is just indefensible as far as I'm concerned.

Never was a linear thinker.

lady t said...

That article was spot-on;I have too many horror stories about the delusional types of self published authors(a number of whom were able to have signings at my former book store due to being friends with the owner).

Once,a lady came in and asked me(along with another co-worker)about self publishing-I was honest,explained that a small store like ours would probaly have to price the book quite high if there wasn't a discount or if it wasn't returnable,how you would really have to do your own promotions for it,etc. I even cited Eric Jerome Dickey as an example of someone who started out the self publishing route and wound up getting picked up by a major publisher. She then said"Well,I don't want to do it if there's no guarantee."

Uh-huh....We decided to wrap it up at that point and I don't know if she ever did follow thru but my guess is that she's still looking for that guarantee.

I. Myte said...

The original piece on self-publishing was interesting, and if you overlook the lengthy, somewhat mean spirited diatribe about the author’s imagined archtype ‘Rejected Rob’, it was spot on.
The comments that the piece provoked were more tempered and informative. I’d particularly recommend the responses of Scott Pomfret, an author and entrepreneur, and Jeffrey J. Trester, a person with an impeccable educational pedigree who sees clearly that self-publishing can be much more than a refuge for imaginary boobs.
Pomfret points out, correctly, that that ‘Rejected Rob’ business is a “straw man argument”.
Pomfret and Trester and the original poster are all correct in saying this. That self-publishing could be a viable option for some people who are prepared to work their asses off, know their stuff when it comes to marketing and promoting, and will cross every T and dot every I. In short, it’s a real option for those who will do what it takes to succeed in any field of endeavor.
And oh yea, they gotta write real good too.
So yes, this means, like it always has, that most of the people with the aspiration are not going to make it. But Lord. That’s true of people that want to go to medical school or be a lawyer or be a great engineer. Nothing new there.
But aspiration is still a good thing. And high standards and tough competition are good things. That’s what makes it all go around.
I’m sure, Miss Snark, that you honestly do come close to pulling your hair out at times, seeing how many people want to do this thing, but are, effectively, ‘clueless’. So you probably have ingrained reactions to a lot of things you see and hear from aspiring writers because experience has taught you that if, at first glance, they seem ‘clueless’ they probably are ‘clueless’.
But while we need to have basic working assumptions about people and their behavior to negotiate our way in this world, it’s important to try and remain open to those we may overlook because of what their face value seems to be.
My late grandfather, God love him, was, oddly enough, named Robert. He went by ‘Bob’ rather than ‘Rob’, but once upon a time, when he was a young man, he actually dropped out of Purdue’s engineering school, because he felt and maybe was made to feel that he “couldn’t cut it”.
Now this ‘Rejected Bob’, the farm boy and preacher’s son went on to garner 39 patents including the first working electronic calculator. More than that, this self-taught engineer, by correspondence courses no less, worked with Alan Turing and others at designing and building the machines that deciphered Germany’s Enigma code.
Also, and I’m runnin’ on here I know, as the grandchild of immigrants I’m very proud of my father and uncle who had the sense to reject those ‘authorities’ who tried to label them as ‘Rejected Robs’ before they even got out of the gate. When they graduated from Georgetown and Michigan and then became a dentist and physician respectively, the egg was on the face of the experts.
Geez, sorry, Dudley DoRight rides again. What I’m saying is that while it’s very important and necessary to remind people of how incredibly difficult it is to succeed at writing, and how much harder still it would be to succeed at self-publishing, we can still look at other human beings in a way that acknowledges that their basic dignity and their aspirations are as precious as our own. Better this than resorting to ugly, cartoon cutout imagery that tends to insulate us from the sometimes brutal ebb and flow of life rather than connect us with it.

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”
(Attriuted to Mark Twain)

Beth said...


Thank you! I was about to ask. :)

Miss Audrey said...

It's all a shame really. What say? The whole self-publishing arena. The stigma is terrible, but well founded, in my opinion.

"I just published my book." That's a comment that I have seen on the web in different writing sites. Then when you look to see who represented the 'proud' author it is "self-published" or POD, and in this day and age often both.

I once promised a fellow writer that I would read and review her three novels. She failed to mention the 'self-published' part. I honored my word, but boy, what a mistake I had made! My only review that I could offer up was, "They were interesting." Three novels later and that was the best I could do! She had used a copy-editor, thank God, but the books were bad, and I mean real bad!

I used Lulu.com to self-publish a collection of memoirs. (It was a freebie for my Nanowrimo accomplishment.) I took advantage of the book offer and when I got the finished product it was pretty nice. Then I read it! I found more typing mistakes in that thing than any other book I had read in my life!

I went back online and I corrected the mistakes and then I made my book available to the general public.

My purpose was not to have the recognition of being a published author. Quite the opposite. To have gone the route of having been self-published was an embarrassment to me, because of the stigma that is attached to the whole process. I didn't go that route for any other purpose but a means to an end. I wanted to have some of my work out there, and it only cost me a month of my time for what I wrote.

I pulled the book after I saw that it wasn't selling like I wanted it to and I decided to research marketing and distribution before continuing on with my venture. I am changing the title ( I feel the title hindered sales) and the cover (The cover-artist and I agreed to part ways) and the format as I wrote a sequel to the first book. (The sequel was written in nearly the same pace as my 30 day Nano project.) I plan to combine the two books into one and then put them back out there or out to pasture or whatever.

I may very well self-publish again, but in the future I will be more educated about my selling options.

I never once told anyone that I had a book out there without adding the disclaimer, "It's self-published."

I hope that one day after I 'have arrived' that I will have the grace of Faulkner and the quick wit to tell people, as he did to Clark Gable, when asked if he was a writer, "Yes, and what do you do?"

BuffySquirrel said...

That self-publishing could be a viable option for some people who are prepared to work their asses off, know their stuff when it comes to marketing and promoting, and will cross every T and dot every I. In short, it’s a real option for those who will do what it takes to succeed in any field of endeavor.
And oh yea, they gotta write real good too.

But...if you take all those qualities to a commercial publisher along with your real good book, your chances of success will be much higher than if you go it alone, because the publisher's expertise, profile and money will be behind the book as well. And you won't have to contend with the self-publishing stigma.

It can't be accidental that just about every tale of self-publishing success I hear ends with "and then the book got picked up by a commercial publisher and they all lived happily ever after..."

archer said...

Life is rife with this kind of thing. Moron parents pay thousands of dollars to enroll their kids in "White House Select Academic Honors Tours" in exchange for a trip to Washington, a night in the Silver Spring, Md. Mariott, and a medal; musicians pay thousands of dollars to rent Carnegie Hall (which is available to anyone by the hour) so they can impress other idiots; cretins without number put big checks in the mail because someone sent them a glossy piece of bullshit that said "Congratulations, you've been nominated as a Notable American Woman/Man/Driver/Armadillo and will appear in the 2007 Edition of Notable American Women/Men/Drivers/ Armadillos upon our receipt of your acceptance fee of $2,000.00 to cover the cost of striking your likeness in bronze."

The test of an honor is always the same. If you're getting money, someone is honoring you. If you're paying money, someone is screwing you. There are no exceptions.

Deb said...

The key to this whole conundrum, IMHO, is distribution. What did actors do (in the 1920s) when they were stiffed by the System? They started United Artists. 'Nuff said.

If small press (and/or self-pubbed, but I'm no expert on SP so I won't go out on this limb) authors ganged together and designed their OWN distribution system, and to The Pit with the two distributors who have everything else locked up, who knows what the industry might look like? I can sell all the books I want to small presses, but unless they get out there, I'm one slight, small, disrespected step up from the self-pubbed Rejection Rhondas out there. I'd like this to change and I've been thinking on ways and means...

More later (insert evil cackle here)


madukwriter said...

I found the article to be quite balanced. Personally I wouldn't consider self publishing. My writing tutor - who has a backlist of some 15 books, the majority of them in print still was talking about this just last week. She was saying that there isn't as much of a stigma attached to it as there was even five years ago and it is something to look at. She named one author who had been picked up with a bestsellar this way. She was also considering publisher her out of print backlist.

The thing I think she was failing to take into consideration when she was talking about this is that she is in a different position to us. She has an established fan base and connections, she won't need to do anywhere near as much work as an author just starting out. I found it interesting she wasn't talking about self publishing new work.

Even though there is one author who has been successful there are thousands who haven't. At least with a publishing house you get an advance however paltry, you don't have to spend anything upfront.

I. Myte said...

Well said, Buffy Squirrel. Thanks.

MTV said...

Being one of the people who asked Miss Snark for input on the kiss of death offered by self-publishing, I really appreciate this blog entry. That was a great reference and really puts the self-publishing in an interesting light. I can tell you for sure that the system as practiced has certain pitfalls, not unlike Hollywood's review process for scripts. It was once noted that in the Hollywood review machine - a "no" was way safer than a "yes" for the particular reviewer. So, readers were looking for the first sign to reject your script. Three bad "yeses" and your career was over. An editor also told me that about publishing. His comment? "Three stikes and you are definitely out!"

I once had a conversation with a different editor from a major house just after she reviewed my manuscript.

She said, as two others had, I really like it, but I think it's ahead of the curve. My reply - "So you are unwilling to take it into the editorial board?"

"I'm afraid so," she replied. Then at my silence, continued, "You know, M, you're a nobody."

My reply - "So, if I can get to Oprah you'd do it?"


Bottom line - she just couldn't take the chance. Unhappily, I understood where she was coming from. I didn't like it, but I did understand.

So ... sometimes there just are some things that are very good - but either too experimental in terms of genre or off from the norm. So, financially, it represents a risk. What is even more interesing than rejection rates is the success rate for published books. The last I had heard was that about one in ten of the accepted and published ones makes any kind of real money as an industry norm. Think about that and rejection will take on a whole new meaning.

So ... as I've said before ... Miss Snark you're quite a lady ... pointed language and all. I really appreciate the way you tend your flock!!

That answer gives me much to think about.

Thanks - M

I. Myte said...

Duh. Yes there is a difference between, legitimate honor and some sad sack making his own plaque or diploma.
And if someone would turn to POD solely to say, "Hey, look, I've got a book". Well, hell. They might as well just take a rough draft out of their printer put it all between two crudely cut pieces of construction paper, do the cover art in crayon with some glued-on sparkles, and then bind it with thick yarn tied in a bow.
Gosh, paper tigers and 'straw men' sure are fun.
But the useful discussion here could be about the potential and opportunity that the Internet and evolving technology may present to writers.
This said with one eye on the remarkable and positive changes that have occurred and are occurring in the music business.
Nothing wrong with craftspeople and artists having more opportunity to direct their own destinies.

Bella Stander said...

United Artists wasn't started by just any actors. The founders were Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford--3 wildly successful and enormously popular movie stars--and DW Griffith, an equally famous & successful director. At the time (1919), the head of Metro Pictures commented, "The inmates are taking over the asylum." UA ultimately didn't fare well & was all but dead after WWII. Hardly a success story to emulate in the publishing world. (See details here.)

Richard said...

"But...if you take all those qualities to a commercial publisher along with your real good book, your chances of success will be much higher than if you go it alone, because the publisher's expertise, profile and money will be behind the book as well. And you won't have to contend with the self-publishing stigma." -- buffysquirrel

that's actually a pretty good point, buffy, which is rare around here when the subject is self-publishing. but you're forgetting about one major factor: MONEY! i've had four books published in my life: two from a major nyc house; one from a medium-sized independent house, and one self-published. one made me $12,500 ... one made $8,000 ... one made $2,500 ... and one made EIGHTY THOUSAND. guess which one was self-published. the thing you gotta remember is that these six-figure advances we all hear about (and dream about) are extremely rare. there are 200,000 books published in america every year. my guess is (maybe miss snark can help me out here) that only about 100 of them get six-figure advances. (and in most cases, the publishing company made a huge mistake by advancing that much ... but that's another story.) if you have all the qualities you mention above, buffy, chances are you will make more money self-publishing than you will with a conventional contract.

MTV said...

Richard thanks for the comment.

Seems like it all hinges around -
1)A quality work 2)Distribution 3)PR 4)Contacts

This is exactly why I posed the question to begin with and was glad to see Miss Snark bring up a discussion about it.

So Richard's response here for me IS a case in point. Since I've been reviewed by publishing house editiors, I know at least there is interest in my work. However, the issue seems to be the risk in doing it. I'd be willing to take that on. I truly believe in what I have and the editors who reviewed it seemed genuinely interested. I'd have to use "Celestine Prophecy" as the model. Self-publish like Redfield did with Satori Press (his imprint) then sell it to a big publisher - Warner, in his case.

I'd want to sell a minimum of 20 or 30 thousand copies to make it work. Anything less to me isn't even worthwhile.

By the way, Richard's site and his book look very interesting. Sounds like a fun book. I may just buy one. Glad to see it's doing well!