Who Do We Have To _____ To Get a Little Respect Around Here?

Self-pub meme

The cheers of indie authors who’ve FINALLY found outlets for their books — whether Amazon, Smashwords, Lulu, indie bookstores; wherever — can be heard far and wide from every corner of the globe. It’s been loudly exclaimed by everyone in the know that it’s the dawn of a new day for writers everywhere. After years of dismissal and disrespect from traditional publishers and their gatekeepers across every element of the literary landscape — from query letter browbeating, ice-cold rejections, overly possessive editors, and blasé publishers with no marketing budgets — independent authors have now taken control of their destinies and ventured forth, filters, limitations and grumpy gatekeepers be damned.

Good, right?

Yes, in some ways. In others, we indies are still very much the ugly stepsisters to our more vaunted and valued legacy colleagues. Don’t think so? Just today I clicked on the website of a “recommended book blogger” (whose name I will leave out for the sake of decorum) who seemed hell-bent on insulting those self-published writers who’d had the audacity to contact him for reviews. His FAQ page not only went out of its way to discuss how unreadable he found most self-pubbed books, but his hissing condescension about “amateurish” writers incapable of even understanding the word “no” led to a sneering pronouncement that he didn’t want to read, hear about, or otherwise experience the books of said authors and, therefore, please don’t waste his time by contacting him.

Sheesh. The fumes of disdain emanating from his page practically choked me.

And he’s not the only one. Media sources abound with snitty-toned announcements that they DO NOT TAKE SUBMISSIONS FROM SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS (caps are theirs). Review sites that cover legacy authors free-of-charge gouge self-pubbers in the hundreds of dollars. Feature writers who ooze admiration for the latest debut novelist from the Big 5 have actually figured out how to roll their eyes on Twitter over the pathetic shenanigans of indie writers trying to get their attention.

We’re definitely the “not cool” kids on the playground and this persistent — and, in many cases, undeserved — marginalization makes launching an indie book all the more difficult. When the overriding presumption is that your book is — to put it bluntly — a piece of shit (a presumption with which I personally take umbrage), you’re not only starting from zero in the world of marketing and promotion, you’re climbing from less-than-zero.

Fair? No. But let’s face it; we kinda dug our own hole, we self-published writers. Despite the fact that the industry is changing and evolving on a daily basis, with increasing numbers of options and outlets available, and more and more authors — even some from the traditional world — opting to go the self-published route, the rickety stage set early-on was built largely by anxious amateurs eager to define themselves as “authors” before availing themselves of the various elements of true professionalism. There are still far too many self-pubbed books that are amateurishly written, with poorly edited copy and covers that fairly scream “I’m a self-published writer!!!” And, unfortunately, still too many authors who relegate those necessary tasks as negotiable rather than essential — a professional blunder akin to a restaurateur opening a bistro without a qualified chef, a decent waitstaff, or a well-designed room. The resulting customer and industry response (see above) is the sad and subsequent remnant of that miscalculation.

We are all, every one of us, tarnished to some extent by the mistakes of the early (and prevailing) corner-cutters, but those mistakes are, hopefully, being mitigated by the growing number of independent authors who do approach their work, their books, and their presentation with impeccable and unassailable standards. And that growing number (of which I count myself) deserve to NOT be automatically generalized into a category of “subpar” by media, reviewers, bloggers and the like. Just as many traditionally published books (to once again put it bluntly) suck, yes… so do many self-published books. Conversely, just as many traditionally published books are profound and not-to-be-missed works of literary wonder, so, too, are many self-published books.

That the aforementioned blogger and his snarky cohorts refuse to consider that is evidence of literary shortsightedness. Like geezers who discount useful technology as “newfangled” or antiquarians who bemoan penmanship while ignoring heartfelt emails, they’re missing out. Of a gem. A “stunning debut.” A “keenly executed character study.” A really good book.

Their loss. But the unwillingness of the wider media to explore indie authors with the same open-mindedness — and vetting and reviewing protocols — implemented for those traditionally published, is creating a literary ghettoization. And the resulting deficit is felt not only by the writers being dismissed simply by virtue of being self-published, but by readers who have less access to those authors and their work because of that ignorance.

Just as self-published writers are obligated to evolve and demand of themselves the highest levels of professionalism, so, too, must accompanying media evolve away from their myopia and literary bigotry. If they do not, what is being wasted is far more than their time; also lost is the cultural embrace of much talent and many good books being written by courageously independent authors who deserve at least a look.

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

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9 thoughts on “Who Do We Have To _____ To Get a Little Respect Around Here?

  1. Brenda Perlin

    Great article Lorraine! It’s really a mixed bag. There are so many books out there. So many bad indie books that don’t help the cause. I guess you can say the same thing about traditionally published books though most of them are not as sloppy. Indie authors need to have more respect for the content they are putting out. Now that we can all call ourselves “authors” we can hit that publish button even if our work is junk.

    That being said, I have read some very good indie books. You are one of those writers who has perfected her craft and puts out top notch reads. There are plenty of amazing indie books that don’t even get a chance because of their label. As if indie was a bad thing? I don’t think so. Being an independent is an awesome thing and I feel privileged to be among these people.

    We all have to strive to put the highest quality out there and then we have to fight with the best of them. Maybe a little harder.

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    1. Agree, Brenda. If everyone felt the same responsibility as you or I or others who are vigilant about their work, we’d be able to turn this around. I believe we will, but it will take everyone getting on board with the zeitgeist! But I also think the media needs to differentiate; stop brushing every indie author with the same cloth. That is where the myopia exists. Both sides need to evolve.

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  2. I think more and more indies are realizing that they can’t just write something, have their mother read it, slap a patchwork cover on it click “publish,” and still expect to succeed. There’s a lot of bad writing out there because folks thought they didn’t have to have the fundamental elements of a decent book. People won’t read garbage and the cream will always rise to the top.

    Personally, I know I’ve taken greater care with my latest book and given it the treatment it deserved than some of my earlier novels. Part of the problem is this insistence that quantity can often outweigh quality. I disagree.

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    1. To be honest, Scott, I’m not sure why any writers thought it was wise or acceptable to skip the most common practices of professional writing, but I agree that many have. It’s going to take the vigilance of thoughtful authors from here on out to turn this around and I’m glad you’re one of those! Thanks for the comment. LDW

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  3. Reblogged this on Robin L. Martinez and commented:
    I personally have read several VERY good indie writers in the past few months. This industry is growing by leaps and bounds and many indie authors are not self-published because they couldn’t get a deal somewhere else. It’s because they decided to forgo the arbitrary roadblocks that keep many authors from reaching their audiences. Great article! Read on…

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    1. Thanks, Robin, and I so agree. This media attitude seems a little behind-the-curve to me, one that needs some updating as the self-publishing industry does its own (i.e., improving product quality). Frankly, I think it’s profoundly counterproductive for those in the business of “helping authors,” noting good books, and keeping the reading public abreast of the best that’s out there, to ignore self-published books as a matter of practice. Keeping such a large and growing contingent of writer at the card table in the “other room” can’t and shouldn’t last… we’re just getting too “big” for that sort of thing! 🙂

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  4. I am in synch with everything you’ve commented on. For many, self-publishing is a spin-off, a watered down version of the “vanity publishing” without the high price tag. I’m not liked on many writing forums because I say it like it is. “You want me to comment on your poor writing? OK, I’ll will. You asked for it and BTW this is your grandmother speaking to you, so show respect. When you’ve earned as much as I have for my writing skill (in the business world) then, and only then, can you be snarky.” That’s my response to some rude person who gives me the finger via cyber-social media space.

    But, in spite of all this, I have hope. There will always be young writers who will be willing to learn, develop and hone their writing craft. When we stumble across them, we have a responsibility to pass on what we’ve learned and encourage them to keep refining their skills. We need to sing their praises to people and in places where it counts.

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    1. Wonderfully put, G.T., both the candor and the hope! The democratization of the arts via technology has brought us many wonderful things, but it’s also left many to be the filters of their own work… and that’s where candor has too often been lost. I hope, like you, that those who understand the necessary trajectory of becoming a master of their own craft ultimately outnumber the misguided masses who don’t. The future of independent publishing depends on that and I, too, will encourage that very essential philosophy. Thanks so much for making your points. LDW

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