Friday, December 30, 2016

A response to Laurie Gough on self-pub vs. traditional

Let's unpack some faulty logic and bad journalism, shall we? And it's that tired old debate of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing, according to people who have absolutely no idea about what's actually happening in the industry.

Referring to this article over at Huffington Post by Laurie Gough, who clearly cannot tell op ed apart from authentic journalism. (But then again, since HP doesn't pay their writers, this level of subpar work is hardly a surprise, is it?)

I'd rather share a cabin on a Disney cruise with Donald Trump than self-publish.

Wow, lady, you really have no idea what self-publishing entails if this hyperbole is all you can resort to.

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.

Yes, and have you walked into a bookshop lately and seen the unrelenting piles of steaming shit that traditional publishers also bring out because Author! Big name!!! As a book reviewer I have seen some truly cringe-worthy gobshite that's barely been edited. Brought out by supposed gatekeepers that must've been high on crack at the time they okayed those contracts.

Good writers only become good because they’ve undertaken an apprenticeship. The craft of writing is a life’s work. It takes at least a decade to become a decent writer, tens of thousands of hours. Your favourite authors might have spent years writing works that were rejected. But if a writer is serious about her craft, she’ll keep working at it, year after year. At the end of her self-imposed apprenticeship, she’ll be relieved that her first works were rejected because only now can she see how bad they were.

I don't deny that becoming a good writer takes years of work but have you considered how many fucking amazing authors have successful careers now that they have gone hybrid? To wait for validation if you already have an objectively good idea of what makes good fiction will be the death knell to your writing.

The problem with self-publishing is that it requires zero gatekeepers. From what I’ve seen of it, self-publishing is an insult to the written word, the craft of writing, and the tradition of literature. As an editor, I’ve tackled trying to edit the very worst writing that people plan on self-publishing just because they can.

Have you *read* any self-published books? I will concede by saying that you may have to wade through a bit more dreck - but of late, some of the self-published works I've enjoyed have been as good (if not better) than some of their traditionally published brethren (where all the publisher appeared to care about was Big! Name author!! that would sell copies).

By the way, your ham-fisted examples were not even the slightest bit ridiculous or apt. Terry Pratchett has more humour in his little finger than you, darling. Compare apples to apples if you wish to be relevant. Oh wait, you were intending to fall back on humour to hide the fact that your piece was not even substantiated with more than a few vox pop opinions from people I've never heard of.

I have nothing against people who want to self-publish, especially if they’re elderly. Perhaps they want to write their life story and have no time to learn how to write well enough to be published traditionally. It makes a great gift for their grandchildren. But self-publishing needs to be labelled as such. The only similarity between published and self-published books is they each have words on pages inside a cover. The similarities end there. And every single self-published book I’ve tried to read has shown me exactly why the person had to resort to self-publishing. These people haven’t taken the decade, or in many cases even six months, to learn the very basics of writing, such as ‘show, don’t tell,’ or how to create a scene, or that clich├ęs not only kill writing but bludgeon it with a sledgehammer. Sometimes they don’t even know grammar.

Darling, I have edited some traditionally published authors and let me tell you, I have seen their prose in only its knickers, and if you think that being traditionally published automatically means that an author has ascended to lofty heights, you are quite delusional. And yet I've encountered self-published authors whose self-editing skills leave many in the dust. Your simplistic generalisations suggest that you have absolutely no idea about what you're attempting to write about.

Writing is hard work, but the act of writing can also be thrilling, enriching your life beyond reason when you know you’re finally nailing a certain feeling with the perfect verb. It might take a long time to find that perfect verb. But that’s how art works. Writing is an art deserving our esteem. It shouldn’t be something that you can take up as a hobby one afternoon and a month later, key in your credit card number to CreateSpace or Kindle Direct Publishing before sitting back waiting for a stack of books to arrive at your door.

Lastly, has it even occurred to you that people write for different reasons, and all are equally valid. Sometimes an elderly lady wants to merely write her memoirs. Sometimes that young man wants to write a novella where he explores his existential angst. Maybe that middle-aged woman wants to explore her fantasies in a time-travelling bodice ripper. Disdain all you want but no one is holding a gun to your head forcing you to read anything. We should be grateful we live in an era where any and all who are so inclined are able to express themselves.

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