I had a different blog post written for today. It was about mythical creatures and it featured horribly crude drawings by yours truly. But when I read an interview knocking self-publishing, I couldn't stop thinking about it. Here's the deets. New York Times Bestselling Author Sue Grafton had an interview published in her native state of Kentucky. Beautiful place, but I'm not sure what all the hype about blue grass is about. Maybe that's another TFF, things that are a “big deal”, but aren't really a big deal if you actually see them.
So today's TFF is about what Ms. Grafton said in her interview. You can read it here. Please return when you have finished, especially if you find yourself incensed by some of the answers to the interview questions.
Back? Great. Let's crack on.
1) I’m sure every writer suffers unkind reviews. What does that have to do with anything? I love my work and I’m happy being challenged.
Oh, likes challenges, does she? Good for her! No, really. Because discovering your dream and accomplishing your dream is nothing short of a miracle. It's the best feeling in the entire world. And she's right, there are a lot of people willing to crush your dreams. I was really inspired when I saw that quote. Until I read farther down the page. That’s as good as admitting you’re too lazy to do the hard work. Seriously? Right, I forgot that NYTBSAs are entitled to call everyone else lazy. I bet that's in the NYTBSA clause. Not that I'll ever find out because I'm just a lazy self-published author. I didn't take the time to write a decent novel, polish it until my fingers bled, query and pitch and query and pitch and query and pitch until my tongue and fingers were worn down to numbs. Oh, wait. I remember now. I did my share of querying and pitching. I even wrangled a contract. Just like a real author. But when that went south, already aware that The Treasure Hunter's Lady isn't everyone's cup of tea, I pulled up my big girl panties and made my choice. I didn't realize learning the ins and out of self-publishing was being lazy. Believe me, I've been lazy. After everything I've learned, I should have some kind of damn certificate of achievement hanging on my wall to show for it.
2) Self-published writers are amateurish.
Read them, has she? At least she's following one of the rules of writing—always read. She's setting an example for writers who don't believe they need to that. And she's right, there are amateurish authors who think they've got a world class novel on their hands. But she's wrong in implying that all self-published authors just jump into the pool. I know plenty of self-pubbers and writer who are still striving for the traditional route who take online classes to improve their craft. Who participate in writing groups to hone their skills. It's unfair to lump all self-published authors into one group.
3) The tone of the interview.
It might just be me, what with my back up and all, but it feels like Ms. Grafton is talking about self-pubbers like we're second class citizens. Wait, did I say second class? I meant lepers. Lepers with a dash of H1N1 thrown in for good measure. I do interviews with a lot of self-pubbed authors on my blog. And the more of them I talk to, the more I hear them say, we just wish everyone could get along. I think it must come down to “real” authors think we're competition. We can offer our wares cheaper, we can bring books to the readers faster. I harbor no ill will toward traditionally published authors. In fact, most of my favorite authors aren't self-published. But you know what I'm grateful for? People writing, people willing to tell stories that engage my imagination. Whether they're endorsed by Harlequin, Putnam, Knopf, or Jane Smith from down the road.
4) We're all in it to get rich.
Let's pretend I'm Jane Smith from down the road for a second. I've written a novel .I'll be the next E.L. James of fantasy romance. Let's say I super-freaking loved Thor (because we all know I did) and I was writing Thor fan fiction and I changed the names and the scenaro so it's a (mostly) original story. I hear good things about self-publishing because I watched E.L. James on Good Butt Crack of Dawn North America and Date Formation XYZ. She's famous and I know I can be too! Because fame is one of those things that anyone can get. It's soooo easy to become famous. Readers will be falling all over themselves to get a copy of my book, 99 Tinctures of Burnt Umber. I'll just write dozens of reviews myself so that everyone who sees my book will realize how great it is. Then, while the world is love/hating me just like Ms. James, I'll vacation in Fiji while writing the sequel 99 Tinctures Sulkier.
The reality is that yes, some self-published authors gain a following. They do make money at writing and readers love them and gush to them and can't wait for their next book. But do they gain NYTBSA status in a few months? No. It isn't realistic for an author to believe that'll happen right away, whether it's self-publishing or traditional publishing. We aren't stupid, Ms. Grafton. And there are plenty of established self-pubbed authors who will without hesitation clue newbies in on that.
5) I guess I'm supposed to be ashamed of my actions.
When I read interviews in which NYTBSAs bash self-published writers, it makes me feel like crap. It makes me feel like if I was at some big convention and I wanted to meet Jodi Picolt or Sue Grafton, I wouldn't have the courage to walk up to them and introduce myself. I can just imagine the kind of looks I'd get if I told them I'll have two novels published this year and another next year. Looks that would amount to the kind of look they'd give a rat king.
The interviewer asked Ms. Grafton what advice she'd give to a new writer. It was don't self-publish. She's right on some aspects. Don't come into this with high expectations. It's hard work, it's pain and tears and struggle to fight your way through the crowd, but if you're dedicated to it, it's worth the trouble.
I've been asked what advice I'd give to new writers. I usually say something inane like: don't quit, always work toward your goal, blah, blah, blah. This is my new answer:
People are cruel and petty and jealous. They'll tell you that you can't achieve your dreams. They'll stand in your face and go for the jugular if they can. Don't feel bad about wanting to be an author. Don't think you can't accomplish it. When someone, I don't if it's a critic, a reader, or a published author says, no, you can't, don't give up. Get mad! Get mad and get better and prove them wrong.