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The Friday Five - Five Reasons My Back Is Up Over One Interview

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.


  1. For someone who says she likes a challenge, Ms Grafton seemed pretty narrow minded. She doesn't know any local authors, doesn't belong to any clubs, and refuses to write anywhere but her office, not even on a lap top?

    I may not be the most social person (okay I'm a freaking hermit), but I believe we grow not only as writers, but as people when we share our work with others.

    Bad reviews hurt, but they do help us see where we need to improve our craft.

    As for my opinion of self publishing. For me at least, it was a business decison. I worked on queries and submitted my stories to publishers, and I had quite of bit of interest in them.

    But when I weighed the pros of being told my someone else I was good enough to be published, versus, having creative freedom, and making more money. The choise was obvious. Especially after I saw friends who did go the traditional route, and still had to do all their own advertising.

    1. I agree with you, Michelle. It is a business decision for a lot of self-published authors. The biggest reason I hear of in favor of it is control. I have control and I love it!

  2. I am so angry right now that I need to go cool down before I reply. But I promise, I will be back.

    1. Uh-oh. I've ignited the wrath of Brenda Dyer. This could get hairy. O_O

  3. I was disappointed in Grafton when I read her interview. I used to read her books, and liked them. Evidently, I like her character more than her creator.

    To me, an not just from looking at all that white hair, Grafton is old. I don't mean her age. I mean her attitude. She's of a former era, where all her opinions were true. Where self published, meant paying for a stack of books to sit in your garage as you give them out as Christmas presents every year.

    She has no idea how much work an indie does to get her book noticed. She has no idea, because she's probably never done it. She's a best seller. She has people do all that stuff.

    But don't be angry. She is the residual shadow of the past. If she was just trying to publish A is for Alibi now, she'd work her butt off from day one.

    1. I'm swear I'm on the verge of starting up a peace rally in defense of SP authors. Banners and signs and everything. Some chanting like "We're authors too!" and "Make books not bad attitudes!"

  4. Well I'm back and considerably more calmed down.

    I had this massive rant planned and then decided, why bother? I know how hard I have worked. I know I didn't just write some piece of crap story then toss it out into the world, thinking I would become famous. I know I took a VERY extensive writing course. I know I revised, edited, again and again.

    I agree 100% with Liza. People like Grafton are old school and they will soon become like the dinosaurs--extinct.

    The publishing world has changed A LOT since she got her agent and became published. The economy has changed. It isn't as easy to acquire an agent or to become traditionally published like it was back in her day. Yep, she may think this is untrue, but sorry it is.

    We have changed with the times.

    I know in my heart I didn't take the easy route--nope, I took the hard route. I know in my heart my story is worthy if being traditionally published. I know in my heart I did what is right for me.

    News flash, I DIDN'T want an agent--didn't even query one. Still don't want one.

    I better end this here because I can feel myself becoming madder and madder.

  5. Dear Sue Grafton,

    I have a few letters for you, my friend:

    ‘U’ is for Undignified
    ‘V’ is for Vindictive
    ‘W’ is for Wench
    ‘X’ is for eXtra Stupid
    ‘Y’ is for You Really Suck as a Person

    How dare you insult self published authors? You have absolutely no right to do that at all. Amateurish? Wannabe? B*tch, please! If anything, self published authors have to put in MORE work in order for their work to be fully recognized and I should know because I am a self published author myself. We not only write the book, but we have to market ourselves and trust me, it’s not easy. Some of us perform our own edits and create our own graphic design. We don’t have people doing the work for us unlike you. We study our craft and other works of literature (that’s what a master’s in English can do for certain people like me). Your attitude is by far the most disgusting, heartless attitudes of all time. Turning your back on writers because they are self published? My, you are certainly a class act! Instead of setting a positive and proper example, you have made yourself look like the jack@ss that you really are. Maybe you should really look at yourself and see what the issue really is and that’s jealous and fear. You are frightened that there could be a self published author out there that is better than you and jealous because you probably don’t have the guts to self publish. I’m going to leave you with another letter and that letter is ‘Z’ for GO BACK TO THE ZOO, YOU OLD, USELESS ANIMAL. And for the record, no, I haven’t bought any of your books and that won’t change anytime soon. C U Next Tuesday!

    Melissa R

  6. Liza and Brenda are right! Some traditionally published authors love to bash self-publishing for less than honest reasons. Yes, there's a lot of self-published works out there that should not see the light of day without a lot more work.

    But there are many other stories that are just as good, or even better, than mid-list authors'. I think traditionally published authors are starting to feel the heat, especially when their books aren't landing big movie deals and earning mega bucks.

    Oh, and yeah, publishing--of any type--is hard. It's much easier not to do it at all. And that's the truly lazy way.


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