Daily Discussion with BQB – Is Self-Publishing an Insult to the Written Word?

Ugh.  Publishing elitism.

Laurie Gough recently wrote in the Huffington Post:

“To get a book published in the traditional way, and for people to actually respect it and want to read it — you have to go through the gatekeepers of agents, publishers, editors, national and international reviewers. These gatekeepers are assessing whether or not your work is any good. Readers expect books to have passed through all the gates, to be vetted by professionals. This system doesn’t always work out perfectly, but it’s the best system we have.”

-Laurie Gough, “Self-Publishing: An Insult To the Written Word.” The Huffington Post.  December 29, 2016

I’ll let you read the article yourself but to sum it up, after claiming that she would rather “share a cabin on a Disney cruise with Donald Trump than self-publish” she goes on to explain that good writing takes years of rejection, that it is a self-imposed apprenticeship, that only by going through the gatekeepers is good writing achieved.

Ugh.  OK, on one hand she is correct.  Writing, like any other skill, takes time to develop.  The more you work on it, the better you’ll get.

However, let’s not pretend that “the gatekeepers” are really doing anything to actually help you get better at writing.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, when you submit a manuscript to an agent or a publisher, you’ll get a form letter stating something to the effect of, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

You won’t get a marked up manuscript showing all the mistakes you made so you can improve.

You won’t get a nice letter saying, “You got moxie, kid.  Just do this and this and that and you’re going places!”

You won’t get anyone offering to sit down with you and go over what you need to do to improve.

You’ll get a form rejection letter and that’s only if your submission doesn’t get lost in the zillions of other submissions the agents and publishers receive on a daily basis.

She’s not without a point.  If you do get into the traditional publishing system, there will editors, agents and pros that will help you improve yourself.

But that’s if you get into it.  And as I’ve always said, giving up on self-publishing in the hopes that a lucrative self-publishing contract is on the horizon is a lot like giving up a kiss from a woman that likes you because maybe, just maybe one day Scarlett Johansson might want to kiss you.

She’s correct about how good writing requires a lot of time and hard work.  And if traditional publishing is something you desire, then you should give it a try.

However, who has ten years to wait?  And let’s not pretend that they are a bevy of “gatekeepers” waiting in the wings to guide you.

The writing world sucks.  If you get into it at a young age, there are a handful of success stories where people hit it big early but for the rest, it’s a long, hard slog uphill where you make crap pay and work crap hours in the hopes that maybe, just maybe one of those gatekeepers will hook you up.

Self-publishing lets you make things happen on your own.

Yes, many people are lousy writers who have no filter or ability to comprehend they are crap writers.  They hit the publish button on a pile of crap and then drag down the whole self-publishing industry.

You can’t just whip something out in an afternoon, draw a cover with crayon, then slap it up there and expect to get anywhere.

It just seems like many critics of self-publishing, this author is painting all self-publishers with a broad brush.

And finally, can we just be honest and say that regardless of your personal politics, it would be fun to share a cabin with Donald Trump on a Disney cruise?  The man would probably buy you drinks and cigars and shit.  He’d fill the cabin with hot chicks.  It’d be a party every night.  Order whatever you want and the bill is on him.  He’d bring the family and Melania would wear a different supermodel outfit everyday and Ivanka would give you free fashion advice.  He’d write wacky tweets about Mickey Mouse.  You would surely walk away from the experience with some interesting stories to tell.

What say you, 3.5 readers?

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14 thoughts on “Daily Discussion with BQB – Is Self-Publishing an Insult to the Written Word?

  1. MBBlissett says:

    Articles like this seldom have any nuance to them, they’re well-worded clickbait that is designed to infuriate and agitate, rather than explore the issues in any way that illuminates the issue to a third party. You did a better job of summarising the arguments better than they did. Plus, with the Huffington Post, they don’t pay writers for articles, and yet they have the gall to post things like this when self publishing can be a vehicle of immediate expression and gratification but it also leaves people open to the temptation of publish or perish without an attendant haste in ensuring the quality of the work holds up. It is an approach as individual as the artist. It works for some and not for others, but it demands the same focus and control. Thank you for posting this.

    • These problems happen when people look at things with an “all or nothing” or “broad brush” approach.

      Yes, sometimes total schmucks self-publish gibberish. However, many people are also starting their own mini publishing companies. They hire editors and cover designers and test readers and put a lot of work into a finished product and are not the equivalent of a schmuck who rattled something off in an hour and hit publish.

      Further, so what if a random schmuck does self-publish? The schmuck has the freedom to do that. Maybe it made the schmuck happy. Who are we to judge the schmuck? I don’t think the entire English language is brought done if someone self-publishes something that isn’t up to snuff.

      • MBBlissett says:

        Whatever the hypothetical schmuck does to make them happy isn’t hurting anyone and if they’re happy, then that’s the point. Either they will keep doing it or they will get better at it, the same way we all do.

  2. A) Have you seen some of the crap that comes out of the publishing industry? I am offended every time I pick up a book from a traditional publisher, in a library no less, that is so poorly written I want to throw up. It is an offense to the written word.
    B) Hell yes, alcohol, cigars, and hotties on someone else’s dime, sounds like a good time to me.

    • In theory, if I had a publisher and an agent and so on (and assuming I felt they were giving me a good deal) I wouldn’t want to be a self-publisher. I just want to write. Let an editor spend hours on a picky question about a certain word choice. Let a designer worry about the cover. Let a formatter put it altogether. Just send me my copy and let me know when it comes out and do all of the promotion for me too.

      But this is also like saying, “In theory, I would like it if Megan Fox would make out with me.”

      I can’t get into publishing so I’ll try self-publishing. If they ever invent a Megan Fox robot, I’ll give the Megan Fox robot a try and not hold out for the real thing.

      I tried to figure out who would be the worst people I wouldn’t want to cruise with and landed on the ladies of the View. However, just to entertain my 3.5 readers, I would share a cabin with Whoopie and Joy Behar and listen to them drone on about nothing.

  3. I am perfectly content as an independently published author. The tools and technologies available make the quality of what we produce just as good as what publishers crank out. Should we discount a great singer that we hear because he or she doesn’t have a record contract? Gate keepers are wannabes that guess at what the market will want a year from now. Think traditionally published work is better? Read 50 Shades of Gray? Think indie published work sucks? Read The Martian or anything by Hugh Howie or Mark Dawson.

  4. Liz says:

    I consider the source first. She hasn’t sold a book in a while and this article is career suicide but she’s willing to take that bullet in the name of her craft. More power to her.

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