Once More Into The Breach: Further Response To The Self-Publishing Hoo-Ha
Some quick reading material, should you feel like following the bouncing ball and singing along:
My original post (“Why Your Self-Published Book May Suck A Bag Of Dicks“). Peruse comments.
The Kindle Boards topic (scroll down a few messages). Thanks to Lee Goldberg for mentioning me there and also at his own site — in fact, Lee has his own post (“Knee-Jerk Defensiveness“) worth looking at.
I was also interviewed yesterday about self-publishing. Spinetingler Magazine has the juice.
We all caught up?
I figure instead of hopping around the forums and comment threads and pollinating them with my opinion-dust, I’d just hunker down here and rattle off some further thoughts and responses. The blog post is generating a lot of discussion — some interesting, some curious, some downright mystifying. Seems then that the blog is a good place to hash it out. Plus, I need a blog post for today. The blog, it hungers. It hungers. If I don’t feed it fresh content daily, it gets bitey. I already lost a ring-finger when I missed a day of posting. I shall not sacrifice any more of my digits — with this beast, it’s a total policy of appeasement.
Let’s slap on some hip waders and ease into the swamp.
Your Rabid Badger Hate Will Not Be Televised
An up-front warning: I am Fonzie cool with you disagreeing with me on any point. I am not cool, however, with anybody leaving hateful (and occasionally violent) “fuck you” comments on this blog. Those will be deleted. You can’t bring anything valuable to the table, then I flush you. Whoosh. I will not “die in a fire.” I will not choke on a bag of dicks and die. Your comment will die in a fire as I delete your madman ravings.
I’m sure someone out there is thinking that I shouldn’t delete stuff like that and should respond to it. Well, that is my response: deletion. As the movie says, this is not a Cheerocracy. If you’re a raging froth-mouthed dick-for-brains that brings nothing to the table, then I have zero interest in letting your comments lurk.
I Am Not Whizzing In The Mouth And Eyes Of “Indie Publishing”
If you seriously believe I oppose indie DIY self-publishing endeavors, you either a) have poor reading comprehension, b) have possibly been kicked by a mule and as a result are hemorrhaging in your brain or c) are just a jerk who thinks what he wants no matter the evidence to the contrary.
Newsflash: See the banner? I self-published a short story collection, IRREGULAR CREATURES. (For the record, I’m pleased with its sales. It’s doing nicely and I enjoy the experiment.)
Newsflash: I have colleagues who have self-published. They seem to be doing nicely. Their work is also exemplary. Have you seen 8 POUNDS by Chris Holm? Gaze upon its wondrous cover. Then crack it open like a nut and feast on its sweet meats.
Newsflash: I also have colleagues who represent independent film, independent game design, independent music. I do not believe “independent” is a dirty word.
Newsflash: If you continue to claim that I am somehow against all of self-publishing, you are woefully ignorant and willfully misrepresenting my position.
The only thing in the crosshairs of my Crap Cannon are those who self-publish their little dumpster babies.
Which leads me to…
If You Feel Defensive, Then I’m Probably Talking About You
As Lee puts it, there exists a degree of “knee-jerk defensiveness” going on about self-publishing. Now, to be clear, I do not equate disagreement with defensiveness. You’re obviously free to disagree. I am not the arbiter of the self-publishing community. Hell, I agree that I picked an easy target.
But that’s what amuses me. My initial feeling was, “Well, I’ve picked so easy a target that surely it won’t have any supporters. Who could possibly defend self-publishing badly?”
You find this with willful teenagers. I remember because I was one of them.
Your mother might say, “Someone broke the toilet when someone flushed someone’s old underpants down the pipes. Do you happen to know who that someone might be?”
And you, as Willful Teenager, stammer and gesticulate and feign persecution. “God. It’s like, whatever. It’s like, I can’t not get blamed for stuff. God. God!“
Except, of course, you were still the one who flushed your underpants down the toilet on a dare made by your friend, Bad Influence Buddy. But that doesn’t stop your loud protestations.
This is like that.
Thou doth protest too much, methinks.
Badges And Sirens: What “Self-Policing” Means
I see some took issue with my notion that the community should self-police. You’re right, to a point. While a cruel little part of my heart would be eminently satisfied if we dragged all the rot-suck self-publishers into the light of scrutiny where they all burst into flames, their ashes caught in whorls on the wind, I do agree that such a thing is probably too mean and ultimately not that helpful.
It was, in part, a joke, but a joke born of some seriousness. Like most of my “bag of dicks” post, actually.
Here’s what I really mean by self-policing: you should stop acting like some entrenched fundamentalist community. Fundamentalists are never useful, never helpful. Stop being rabid cheerleaders for one another when it isn’t deserved. You claim that cream rises to the top? Alternate theory: shit floats. If you think the good stuff will eventually be recognized for its quality, then laud it, sing its praises — but don’t do the same for the sub-par low-quality nonsense. You don’t have to drag them kicking and screaming into the city square where we all pelt them with ice balls. But you also don’t have to pretend that you’re comrades. You don’t have to link arms. Youi don’t have to pretend that bad is actually good.
Don’t be the noisy minority that loudly cheers for any self-published tripe just because it’s self-published. “Indie” is not an adjective for “quality.” Neither, for the record, is “traditional.” The only trick to traditional is, those gatekeepers you love to hate so much are at the very least ensuring that what goes out into the world isn’t the artistic equivalent of a dead seagull duct taped to a brick and heaved through your living room window. Self-publishing may not utilize or even require gatekeepers, but it could damn sure use some taste-makers, some prime-movers, some exemplars.
Be that. Elevate good works, not crap. Be part of the reason why cream rises. Don’t let the shit float.
Do You Hate Books?
You have chosen to self-publish. Good for you. That’s a choice you have made. It may not be a choice others have made. Just as you are not an idiot or an asshole for self-publishing, others are not idiots or assholes for going the other way. Don’t hate the player. Hate the game.
Why all the anger toward traditional publishing? If you’re not choosing that path, then what’s with the pissing and moaning? Did traditional publishing come and spit in your Cheerios? Are you stung because of a rejection? Tough titty. Even the best writers have received tough rejections. Some deserved, some not. Get shut of it. Harden up. Stop casting aspersions at those who have nothing to do with your failure or your success. Learn a lesson and move on.
I mean, how did you come to love reading, exactly? At bedtime did your mother go and download an independent children’s book onto her Kindle to read to you? Was your mother a time traveler?
No. She read you a book. From a bookshelf. Found in a library or a bookstore. And that book was traditionally published by a traditional author and a traditional publishing company.
That system still produces a metric butt-ton of truly excellent reading material. Sure, it also is the system that pooped out a Snooki book. And yes, the Snooki book creates other Snooki books when you splash self-tanner on it, and when the Snooki book drinks vodka-and-Red-Bull after midnight it releases Snooki — like the Krampus! — into the world. But holding up examples of authors you don’t like doesn’t mean the entire traditional system is somehow corrupt or devoid of quality in much the same way that holding up examples of shitty self-publishing was not my way of saying that all indie publishing is bereft of value.
Preaching To The Choir
I’ll cop to the fact that, by and large, I was preaching to the choir. Again, I picked an easy target.
Still. I have a tiny glimmer of hope that someone out there felt the scales fall from their eyes and they were able to realize, “Hey, you know what? Maybe I shouldn’t just foist this unedited story into the world. Maybe it wouldn’t be the best idea if I designed the cover myself in MS Paint. Maybe I should actually take myself and my craft seriously and see that my story has potential but that to achieve that potential actually takes work and thought and effort — and that the best way of me proving myself and proving that self-publishing is viable is not by sloppily belching my undigested meal into the marketplace but rather by exhibiting a little bit of patience and care.”
Further, maybe if you spent less time railing against the establishment and took more time becoming a better writer (and a better publisher), you wouldn’t feel so blindly defensive.
Standards And Best Practices
You want everybody to take self-publishing seriously.
They do not. Not yet.
Self-publishing and its proponents and practitioners will never get the respect it reportedly deserves while the vocal fundamentalist who-gives-a-shit-about-quality community is there championing the half-rotting deer carcass work of Scoots McCoy with the same triumphant horn-blows that they use to tout the works of Konrath or Goldberg (or Insert Your Favorite Self-Published Author Here).
Stop treating the Kindle marketplace or any other distribution system like it’s your own personal White Elephant sale. You want self-publishing to work, it needs to look like a bookstore, not a flea market.
Stop high-fiving shitty authors for being shitty.
Stop assuming that any critique is there to tear you down. Make hay of it. If you cover sucks, get a better cover. If your description reads like ass, write a better description. And for God’s sakes, always improve your craft. You want to be a pro, then act like a pro. Not like a mewling kitten who didn’t get a taste of milk.
Get better. Be better. Prove your way works or be saddled with the stigma.
Good authors and good books are out there no matter how they got published. Why wouldn’t you want to be among them? Why would you want to be the enemy of quality work?
Why would you want your book to suck a bag of dicks?