American crime novellist Sue Grafton got indie and self-published authors’ blood boiling the other week by suggesting that they were too lazy to do the hard yards – they hadn’t paid their dues.
That copped a broadside from British indie writer Adam Croft, according to a report in The Guardian. Self-published authors, he was reported as arguing, aren’t lazy; they have to do everything themselves, including proofing, finding editors, getting covers designed and all the sales and marketing. But it seems to me they were debating different issues. One point is not the rebuttal of the other, and I think both of them are right and wrong, to some extent.
Grafton actually has a point about the quality of some self-published stuff. But it is also true that much self-published material is good – and the author has to work as publisher, promoter, writer and agent. Equally, while some mainstream publishers look for commercial returns – lowest common denominator tripe they can spit out in fifty different shades of grey – many also publish good material, and they don’t accept rubbish.
To some extent, Grafton’s point about dues being paid has merit. Being rejected by mainstream publishers forces authors to learn from mistakes. Experience counts. I’ve seen self-published material where the author is well aware of the theory of writing. But not to the point where it becomes unconscious – their material reads like a student exercise. Doing the publisher hard yards helps that transition from ‘conscious competence’ to ‘unconscious competence’. But self-publishers can do that, too. The trick is not to release early; and in this brave new world the single most important skill is self-critique.
Now, I’ve not just been a writer; I’ve also worked as a publisher. And I know what that involves. So in my experience of both sides of the coin, I think the self-publish road is the harder in terms of workload, because of all the things that go with publishing. There’s a lot of it. Authors with publishing contracts don’t have to do that. Self-published or indie authors do.
It is also the likely way that things are going to go, too – the difficulty now is not being published. It’s being discovered. And that’s true for established authors, too.
What are your thoughts on this one?
Copyright © Matthew Wright