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.

And here is a video of a puppy taking a bath in slow motion.

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”

Cat-Bird Banner: Irregular Creatures

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?


  • Tell you what, too — I’ll endeavor after this point to be more of a *fountain* and less of a *drain,* as the saying goes.

    I will continue to point out good DIY books as I come across them.


    I have not read this author as yet, but I was convinced to nab work of his by the quality of cover, description, and sample: David Dalgish. Saw him on the Kindle Boards, and his covers were by and large pretty sexy S&S fantasy artwork.


    I mean, shit, those look like books you’d find in a bookstore.

    That’s not a dirty word, right? “Bookstore?”

    — c.

  • A great article Chuck. I’m at a loss how people misunderstood your previous posts. You’re right, if self-publishing wants to be seen a winner, they need to promote books of quality. If you look at the film market, Indie is often seen as a badge of innovation and unique ideas.

    Why is it Self-Pub isn’t seen the same way? Probably cause there’s been a slew of a) crap b) ebooks on how to make money doing blah-blah-blah. A large amount of the public still see this industry that way and I don’t think the industry has done enough to convince them otherwise.

    Took a look at those covers by David Dalgish. Holy Crap, they are some awesome covers! I would have a hard time believing those books were self-pubbed based on the covers alone. If the writing matches, then this is a guy we should be supporting and using as an example of how to do it right.

    Thanks for the taste of realism. Sorry some peeps thought it tasted bitter.

  • IMO, it’s a losing battle to get self-pub drips to own up to the fact that many of them can’t write to save their lives. It’s just a sad fact. Some people are not blessed with a gift for words or story and that doesn’t reflect badly on them as a person, just as a writer. The trouble is, there is a feedback loop of one poor writer to another. On forums and blogs and social networking these people converge and plot to hoist the abominable fruits of their labor upon the uninitiated public expecting the same kind of praise they get from their similarly challenged peers. Smack down the latest “Twilight with Unicorns” book with a one star review and they all start squawking about self-pub haters.

    One other challenge to the cream rising theory; If these same enablers are the only ones reading this crap, they’re naturally going to over estimate it’s quality. It’s only when more seasoned readers take this shit on that they will drive it into the dirt. I, for one, am not willing and therefore I’m going to be suspicious of self-pub until there’s a better way to vet the material.

    • @TNT:

      No doubt, and you’ve hit upon one of those things that keeps coming back: audiences as a whole are suspicious of self-publishing due to the crap-stink pervaded by poorly written or poorly published DIY books.

      I see some self-pubbers say, “Well, what does it matter to me? Cream rises, etc.etc.” — and to them I respond, *if* you have written a good story and *if* you have self-published it you still have to contend with the stigma. That stigma potentially prevents you from selling more, from getting reviews, from getting better word-of-mouth.

      What they can do to respond to that is to elevate good work and at the very least ignore the bad stuff.

      Hey, I may be crazy. With this blog I am often squawking into the void. But I don’t think my ultimate message — “Get better, suck less” — is somehow unreasonable, and yet it is treated like I’m somehow slinging only condemnations.

      So it goes.

      — c.

  • Amen, Brother Chuck.

    I chose to self-publish. I weighed my options and figured that was the best path for me. But one thing I don’t understand, and was glad to see you address, is the almost blind support by some of anyone who self-publishes.

    Keep preachin’ and don’t let the fundamentalists get you down.

  • I don’t know that the original post made me change my mind, but it did solidify the opinion that if I’m not writing well enough to sell stories on a regular basis to regular markets, I may not be writing well enough judge whether I’m ready to self-publish.

    Fortunately, I seem to be edging closer to that direction.

    • Oh, let me also tackle a comment from the Kindle Boards (from JL Bryan, who popped in here yesterday and who was a nice enough chap, I suppose):

      In regards to me and my work:

      “Besides, I noticed this guy has no novels out, and he’s still waiting for his first novel to come out in NOVEMBER–I’ll have at least two more novels out by then.”

      I could have seven novels out by then if I really wanted to churn through my back catalog of trunk novels.

      My novel coming out in November isn’t even due to publishers until April. At which point I like to do something called, “Not assuming my first draft is golden.” It will go through editing, and layout, and cover design and all those things that make a professional book a book. Anybody who took one peek at my resume up top would see that I’m not some doe-eyed neophyte waiting for my One Book to come out.

      The comment is dismissive as it makes it seem like traditional writers are sitting on their hands. I mean, c’mon, really?



      — c.

  • Unfortunately a statement like that does add to the stigma – if you’re pumping out novels that quickly, how good can they be?


    If you’re going to make an argument for quantity over quality, I’d be interested. Otherwise it looks like publishing everything from a laundry list to a half-edited tome is acceptable as long as you Get It Out There As Quickly As Possible.


  • Makes sense to me. Back in the old days, when an author had to pony up significant expense, self-publishing (as opposed to vanity publishing) was pretty respectable. In the current let’s-all-support-everyone-no-matter-what environment the best self-published writers cannot help but be injured by being categorized with the worst. To be fair, this happens as well in mainstream publishing within genres; Vonnegut used to bemoan being placed on the same level as, say, Piper just because they both used SF to tell a story.

    If you want to write for a living, if you want to write for posterity, then you should always try to improve. If people never tell you what you’re doing wrong, you might never learn to do it correctly. My aunt will always think I’m wonderful, but that does not impress anybody at Knopf. Writing is one of the few things we can do where only the work matters. That should be our focus. If your first reaction to rejection is to self-publish, then maybe you are a little bit like the lumberjack who, having failed to cut the tree down, argues with it instead of looking at his axe.

  • Truly Chuck, if you read through the posts over at Kindleboards–no one there supports publishing crap. There are endless posts about editing, covers, grammar, etc.

    Concerning Lee Goldberg’s thread: I agree, some of the posters seem overly defensive, but Lee tends to pontificate rather than engage in discussion. He makes valid points, and I appreciate his experience, but he comes off as combative and even condescending–especially on a friendly forum (one of the few friendly forums for writers/readers on the web) like Kindleboards.

    Thanks for posting on the board. The way I see it: we’re all members of the same tribe, and we can learn from each others experience.


    Indie Writer
    Vestal Virgin
    Dating My Vibrator (and other true fiction)

    • @Suzanne:

      I don’t think anybody is actually screaming out, “Let’s publish crap!” but I have seen a defense of publishing crap (“the cream will rise to the top so self-publish whatever you want”) and a prickly defense of self-publishing as a trend without acknowledgment that a lot of it is simply sub-par. Hell, not just sub-par, but downright bad.

      Regarding Lee, I have not been privy to all of his posts. What I will say is, maybe I’m somehow hardened, but nothing he’s saying in that thread is condescending or unrealistic. He’s calling out realities — hard realities, not necessarily kind realities, but realities just the same. And it seems to me that there exists a willful denial of reality amongst some — not all, but some — posters in that forum.

      I think it’s accurate to suggest that learning from others is a good thing. I’d hesitate to suggest that there exists some kind of tribe — such tribalism is, I think, part of what I perceive to be the problem.

      There seems to be cheerleading because something is self-published, which is just as hard-headed as cheering something on because it is traditionally-published.

      I say, cheer the good work. Cheer the great stories and excellent writing. Cheer those authors who took themselves and their craft seriously.

      But don’t cheer something just because it’s self-published. That is a meaningless metric in terms of determining quality.

      IMHO, YMMV, etc.

      — c.

  • I think this is a question more about society than writing itself. The high standards you are advocating may actually only appeal to a select minority while the crap out there more truly reflects what the majority actually want. Kind of sad, but perhaps the reason so much of it is crap is just that poor writers are the same folks who read poorly written books, and that there are more people out there like that than not. And calling it “crap” doesn’t make a difference simply because they will never know the difference.

    There is a reason Snooki can sell her book and why television and film, print media and self publishing can set such low standards at times. This is simply who we are as a culture. We don’t know any better and we are happy for it to stay this way. We have our opinions, our likes and dislikes. That’s just the way it is. And if there is a problem it is not that this stuff actually makes its way to market but that we expect it and even want it. If we have failed to embrace high standards as a society it is at a level much deeper than the purveyors of crap themselves. We can’t change them. That’s who they really are. And our opinion that things should be different is just one opinion of many. And it may just be the minority opinion.

    If no one liked to read or watch poorly written crap then no one would be doing so. Since this is obviously not the case it must fill a real need in consumers. And if this is true, from what privileged position are we heckling the masses? Are they not entitled to want what they want? Sad maybe, but are they wrong? Rally round, ye defenders of the faith. What can we do about it, other than name calling and throwing stones?

    • @Carter:

      I’m really not that cynical. Sure, I’m bagging on Snooki, but believe it or not, that book is of a higher quality than a lot of self-published fiction. I mean, it went through editing, it had a capable ghost-writer, it got a cover that nabs our attention, and clearly it’s getting the marketing.

      It’s trash fiction, sure. But it’s still trash fiction that passed through a kind of filter.

      Further, I don’t believe that people want badly-written books.

      If that’s the case, we’re pretty much fucked no matter how you publish.

      — c.

  • Good points, Carter. Sadly, I have to agree with you. However, there will always be a market for quality, thought provoking writing. It’s just a smaller market. And much of it may be outside of this country.

  • Thanks for responding.

    Lee makes many valid points. My comments pertain to his delivery, but perhaps stirring controversy is his style.

    As for the idea of tribe–I stole that from Dorothy Allison, a fine writer, a powerful speaker and an inspiring teacher. I’ve been fortunate to study with her on several occasions, and I like her notion of tribe.

  • A couple of quotes for members of the tribe:

    “Two or three things I know for sure, and one of them is that if we are not beautiful to each other, we cannot know beauty in any form.”
    — Dorothy Allison

    “Two or three things I know for sure, and one is that I would rather go naked than wear the coat the world has made for me.”
    — Dorothy Allison

  • I just found your blog, and read through half of your backlog last night, laughing out loud the entire time. I just want to tell you how wonderfully thought provoking and hilarious your blog is. You have the rare ability to poke fun at things without coming across as a condescending asshole. Well played, sir. Well played.

    I think self-publishing is always going to be a polarizing subject. Many people self publish because they received one or two rejections from Big Publishing. It’s sort of like when you tell your parents as a teenager that you’re going to eat french fries and cookie dough every night for dinner when you become an adult.

    In a lot of ways, self publishing is like your parents saying, “Okay, sure. Eat whatever you want.”

    Self publishing allows you to get your book out there RIGHT NOW. But some of those authors need more time. They need to get better at their craft, they need to hone their skills.

    On the other hand, self publishing is a wonderful way to find a market for niche books. Like your short story collection, or poetry, or anything else that’s not going to sell well in the traditional marketplace. As a writer in this age, I feel empowered. I want to pursue the route of tradition publication, but I also have the power to publish a book that might not fit the market.

    What sad to me is that a lot of writers tend to jump from one side to the other (All Self Published Books Are Crap vs. All Self Published Books are Wonderus Expressions of Art), when nothing is ever that black and white. Both sides of the fence could benefit from helpful criticism and an honest desire to hone the craft. Why get hung up on the method of delivery when we should really be caring about the book itself?

  • I don’t get it. To me whether you self pub or go traditional, it’s just common sense to make your story the best you can BEFORE showing it to the light of day. Are these people that pump out their books that deluded about their story? Refusing to admit their shortcomings? (Want to know mine, I suck and punctuation and grammar. My friend, who is good at that, played grammar nazi on my MS. She took a month reading line by line and emailed an old HS teacher to ask about a grammar rule. I couldn’t wait to see her suggestions because I knew it’d MAKE MY STORY BETTER. And I’m still considering looking into a professional editor.) It’s like they’re taking a shit and expecting to see gold floating in the water. And last time I checked even Jesus didn’t do that.
    Chuck, keep up the work, it reminds me why I need to keep working hard.

  • I’m an indie writer that never attempted the trad publishing system. My first book will be out in the next couple of months. I hope it’s good. I have a decent cover and hired a professional editor. So in theory, you’re not talking to me. Perhaps I didn’t write a trad publishable book, but hopefully I haven’t written dreck. So if I’m very lucky, this will sound like disagreement, and not defensiveness.

    My problem is that many of the comments on this blog post, and your previous one, don’t even allow for the possibility that some indie books are good (words like “all” get tossed around a lot). You want indie books to get better, but you wrote two posts now that have inflamed a lot of extremism on two sides – and you appear to judge only the indies for that. Yes, the stigma of self pubbed could be helped a lot by improving quality. It could also be helped a lot if authors, including those who choose to join our ranks, wouldn’t offer fodder for the fires of “yeah, yeah, all self pubbed books totally suck and their authors are deranged, delusional children”.

    You wrote a funny, funny blog post yesterday. It entertained, but the reason I sighed when I read it is that I don’t think it did ANY indie authors, including the good ones, any favors.

    • @ModWitch:

      A few things in response.

      First, I don’t judge only indies for that. I say it clearly that a good book is a good book regardless of how it is put out there.

      Second, you have to realize that self-publishing is the unproven commodity. For better or for worse, traditional publishing remains the status quo. If self-pubbers want to change that dynamic, then they have to work to do so. That puts the onus of proof on them to convince readers to come and sample their wares. The way to not convince readers of that, by the way, is by putting out inferior quality works and then acting defensive when called to the mat. I’m not citing you for being defensive, mind, but I do think you (and other writers) have to view posts like these as opportunity to respond with proof of why people should check out indie pub endeavors.

      Third and finally, I judge indies harsher because indies have a lot more work to do. It’s a made up number, but I’d say at least 3/4 of indies just aren’t up to snuff. Traditional publishing has the quality. I go pick up a book in the bookstore randomly, I consider it far likelier that I’ll pick up a quality book there than if I attempted the same amidst the lot of self-published books. Quality control just isn’t there for the self-pubbed selection. And it needs to be if anybody is ever going take it seriously.

      — c.

  • I must make a confession, and please don’t hate me. I’m one of those who is prejudiced against a lot of self-published writing. I know, that’s soooo 20th century, right. I try to overcome my bigotry, I really do, but when I read self-pubs I usually find lazy, impatient writers. WAIT! Let me finish! I said “usually”, and the “lazy, impatient” parts can be fixed. The biggest offenses I’ve seen include errors in spelling, grammar and sentence structure, poor story-telling (undeveloped characters, schizophrenic writing voice, etc.), poor and misused vocabulary, and just plain bad writing. I’ve read several good *ideas* that just need to be proofread, edited and revised. They could become a great publication on any platform. I’ve also read a doozy (by a very good friend *ouch*) that rambled on and on and made no sense whatsoever to anyone but him. If authors weren’t in such a hurry to have their works “read” (by friends, family and other “wannabes”), and took the time (years, even?) to develop a polished project, their books, self-pubs or not, would be widely read and loved, and recognized by more than those in your social network. I may self-pub, I may not, but you can bet that I put that piece through the gauntlet before anyone sees it publicly. AND the minute any reputable, skilled author tells me something needs to be fixed or plain old excised – I’ll seriously consider it, and probably find they were right. I’d rather be unpublished than be embarrassed by what I hawk to the world before it’s ripe.
    (oh man, did I really hit ‘submit’ on this? oh boy…)

    • @Stephen:

      Sometimes you poke the crazy bear.

      Sometimes the crazy bear holds you down and defecates in your mouth before hollowing out your innards and having baby crazy bear cubs in your gutted corpse.

      That’s what my Grandpappy used to tell me.

      — c.

  • Kristen Lamb blogged about self-publishing today too. I really liked her analogy about self-pubbing and American Idol.


    I also liked your comparison of some self-publishers to fundamentalists. In fact, I’d go so far as to say The Holy and Forthright Church of Self-Publishers Bringing Dawn to Mankind is becoming a well-established religion.

    Like all religions, there are the liberal types. (“Dude, you believe in traditional publishing karma? Rock on. I don’t, but we’re cool, bro.”)

    There are the average attendees. (“Lovely to see you again, Brother Wendig! Have some pie. We’re talking about righteous grammar today!)

    There are the vocal devout. (“Self-pubbing is the way to Life Eternal! Many don’t see the Truth, but they will. Preach it! Hallelujah!)

    And then there’s the Westboro Baptist Church. (“God hates traditional publishing! And I’m a’comin’ to your blog to scream you into submission!!! Aaaaaahhhhhh! *throws picket signs*)

    Sorry you attracted a few WBC types. My advice is to offer hugs and not bother arguing with them. It has the dual benefit of making you look smart and really ticking them off.

  • “traditional publishing remains the status quo. If self-pubbers want to change that dynamic, then they have to work to do so”

    That would be the crux of our disagreement. I think the status quo has already moved :). And all indie authors have to do is provide the books. There are some very big fish, like amazon, who are working hard to define the new world. We’re just the minnows.

    I don’t think I have to prove anything in response to posts like yours. Readers already do come sample our wares. There are plenty of indie books in the top 5000 kindle books at amazon, which is about the level at which amazon appears to choose to promote a book to their customers.

    And most indie authors reaching those kinds of sales don’t have that many facebook friends :). Strangers buy their book and read it, and recommend it to friends. They send fan mail. Some of those books have grammar issues. Some wouldn’t have been trad pubbed. But they are read and enjoyed, and successful enough that many of those authors are on their way to making a living from their writing.

    • @Modwitch:

      I don’t think I have to prove anything in response to posts like yours. Readers already do come sample our wares. There are plenty of indie books in the top 5000 kindle books at amazon, which is about the level at which amazon appears to choose to promote a book to their customers.”

      No, you don’t have anything to prove to me specifically. But DIY indie authors would be wise to recognize that the stigma against the overall practice remains in place and in some cases for a reason. To ignore that — and to not try to overcome it — is myopic and suggests a lack of interest in moving beyond one’s own little niche. In case you’ve missed the comments, a number of readers simply won’t touch self-published works with a crap-covered stick.

      — c.

  • I was nodding my head the entire time I was reading this post. Just to let you know where I’m coming from, I’m on the self-publishing side of life, getting together with a few other authors and self publishing our work through our own small press company.

    With that said, I completely agree with you. When you are producing a product without the backing of a major name, like a traditional publishing company, or the street cred that comes with an established brand, you have to realize you are the underdog and with the way things are going now in publishing, there are a lot of other underdogs with you trying to climb to the top. Why wouldn’t you want to make sure you book is the tightest and most professional looking it can be?? Why wouldn’t you want to make sure your book is edited and you have a slamming cover? No one knows who you are! Give them a reason to pick up your book!

    Many writers fail to realize that they have to humble themselves in order to improve and when you’re going at it alone, you have to put in even more work because you’re doing the work of a team at Random House would be doing. You have to have that humbleness to realize that you have to put in more work, put in that extra effort, and get yourself out there into the community to have a hint of success. And even then, you have to realize that the success may not even come until book 2 or 3 even.

    Instead of moaning and groaning and getting all defensive, a self pub author should put that energy into putting out the best book he/she can.

  • Quoting Chuck, “…I do think you (and other writers) have to view posts like these as opportunity to respond with proof of why people should check out indie pub endeavors.”

    This is why I’ve chosen to self-publish:

    I’ve had two agents, several of my short stories have been traditionally published, I’ve written numerous articles and press releases, and I’ve won a few awards. Most of the novels I’ve written are historical (suspense), set in ancient times. This, I’ve discovered, is a “tough-sell.”

    For example, a few years ago I attended a conference for historical fiction writers. An agent I encountered there refused to discuss my book because, (her words), “No one cares about Rome.” I found her comment strange. At that time, HBO had just released the series, Rome.

    Eventually I found another agent and my novel was shopped around. It received a lot of interest, and came close to being published by Tor–but they were cutting back on historic novels. Another senior editor at Random House expressed interest, but Random House was letting go of senior editors at that time–he was one of them.

    Then I went through a divorce. Finding time to write novels became a challenge. I began writing short stories–sharp and contemporary, very different from my novels.

    This past summer, my friend, Blake Crouch, suggested I publish on Kindle. In August, I published nine short stories as a collection, Dating My Vibrator (and other true fiction). Getting the stories out there has been wonderful. So wonderful, that (with Blake’s encouragement) I decided to do a rewrite on my novel, Vestal Virgin, and I self-published it in December. Now both of my books are selling well.

    Would I like to be traditionally published? Sure. But getting my work out, being read, has been a great experience. And I enjoy the writing community, the direct communication with writers and readers on forums like Kindleboards.

    I have great respect for traditionally published writers. I was one of those, until recently, who never considered self-publishing. But, these days, self-publishing has opened up a whole new world and has put writing back into the hands of writers rather than a few publishers’ marketing departments.

    Please check out my books.

    Indie Writer

    Dating My Vibrator (and other true fiction) — 9 nine short stories based (unfortunately) on my own experience: dating, divorce, desperation–all that good stuff. 5 stars from Joe Konrath, who says, “Sheer comedic brilliance.”

    Vestal Virgin–suspense in ancient Rome. Tess Gerritsen says, “Her writing is pure magic.” Terry Brooks says, “A writer of real talent.”

  • I understand where you’re coming from Chuck. I vaguely flirted with the idea of self-publishing, but meeting some of them in a conference discouraged me from even thinking about it. Here’s how it went.

    Roundtable Writer: Yeah, so, we’re going to take questions from the crowd. Yeah, you.

    Self-Published Writer: I wrote my memoir last year. I made it read to everybody I know. They all told me it’s super good. But no publisher wants it. I don’t get it, why?

    RW: Huh? I’m not sure exactly…

    SPW: So I self-publised, but it cost so much money. I only had 150 copies. Is there any publisher in the crowd.

    Host: Next ques-

    SPW: See, that’s the kind of response I get from traditional publishing…

    And then the security escorts here out. It went on for a complete hour. I can get why certain people self-publish. It’s a good way to make your teeth on the market and it’s a valuable marketing tool. But most of the time it’s inherited with losers that want instant glorification and refuse to play the rules of the game. It’s harsh to write 300 pages and to be left in the middle of the curb. But it means it’s just not good enough.

    I think it’s Confuscius or another mustached Oriental philosopher that said: “The weak seeks answers in the other, while the strong seeks answers in himself”

    If it’s not good enough, work harder.

  • I’ll admit that I’m more likely to look at and consider self-pub authors who at least seem to know *something* about the publishing world.

    I see too many “I got rejected three time! Screw them!” tales of woe told by self-pub authors who don’t understand or want to understand how publishing works. They get a single rejection for their novella and race off to Amazon to “show them” by putting out a book that might, just might, not be ready.

    Publishing, despite some comments to the contrary, is a hard business. People work hard to create good artwork, editors work hard to make a good book better, line editors work hard to catch every grammar error, salespeople work hard to get the book into catalogues and on shelves. All of these are jobs that require hard work, intelligence and people train fulltime for these positions.

    Nothing puts me off faster than a diatribe by an author, selfpub or trad, who belittles those who work in the industry, shrugging off their talent. And I see a lot of self-pub authors who not only insult the industry but those who choose to go trad, calling them mentally ill for needing the “approval” of the NYC publishers.

    Not getting my money with that rant.

  • Bravo, sir! Bravo!

    As someone who’s jumped feet-first into the self-publishing world (three books to date, two of which I wrote, and one I just edited), I can’t say enough how spot-on your analysis of the stigma associated with that publishing route is. It’s obviously not all self-publishers who produce big, steaming piles of “literary” excrement, but it gets frustrating to those among us who do believe that we’ve put out a decent book when, in the eyes of some, we all get lumped in together.

    I’ve tried to promote my books to local bookstores, and I’ve seen it happen firsthand. Some stores, when you say “self-published,” they immediately tune you out, and don’t want to be bothered giving your work a shot. It’s typically, although not completely, older bookstore owners who want nothing to do with self-published work. It is a generational thing. The store owners who have been willing to take a shot with my books are generally happy with the results.

    Late last year, I was doing an appearance at one of the bookstores that carries my books, and was talking with the staff about the self-published world. They showed me some of the drek that passes for books that comes through their doors… I almost wanted to pull out my red pen and go into copy-edit mode right then and there. I was saying to them that in the world of self-publishing, you generally have two types of people — those who are pathologically afraid of rejection, and thus went the DIY route (I lump myself into this category; the end-result of growing up a chubby kid with no self-esteem); and those who are delusional enough to believe they wrote the next War and Peace while surrounded by their three dozen cats in their parents’ basement. There’s also the occassional tourist (yourself, Mr. Wendig), but generally, that’s who self-publishes.

    And then you have the cliques. The self-publishing world, like the real world, devolves into the opening minutes of the Breakfast Club, and these little “good ol’ boy” networks prop up the weakest books because, hey, they were written by one of us. They’re not doing anyone any favors.

    I’m not laying the blame for the dismal perception of self-publishing at the feet of the people prejudiced against self-publishing… let’s face it, most of them have plenty of reasons to be prejudiced against the self-published field. I think part of changing the perception about self-published books is to marginalize the crap — be they self-published or traditionally published, clique or truly independent — and promote the books that are worth checking out. The problem is that it’s too easy to publish these days, and you get unedited, lunatic ravings and run-on manifestos. You’re never going to be able to stop that abuse of the written word. But like you wrote, just because it’s out there, doesn’t mean we have to promote it. Promote quality, and you’ll see the perception of self-publishing change.

    Thanks for the thoughtful commentary!


  • t.n. tobias said:
    > If these same enablers are the only ones reading this crap,
    > they’re naturally going to over estimate it’s quality.

    “overestimate” is one word, not two.

    and you meant to say “its quality”, not “it’s quality”.

    but, as you say, this “doesn’t reflect badly on you as a person,
    just as a writer.”


    p.s. chuck, some people hate the traditional publishing industry
    because it is composed almost entirely of corporate bureaucrats,
    and it treats many (most?) authors like worthless scum, while
    at the same time taking more than its fair share of the proceeds
    which are built on the backs of those authors. i’d tend to agree.
    i don’t have personal experience, mind you, or an axe to grind,
    and i am the first to admit that this might weaken my authority,
    but i’ve also never been held up at gunpoint, and i think i can
    safely say that i don’t think that would be very pleasant either…
    i also hate the recording business, which, by the way, is never
    referred to as “the traditional recording business”, i wonder why.
    and chuck, when you gonna lay off of the easy targets? when?

    • @Bowerbird:

      It is not polite to pick apart the grammar or spelling of other commenters. It does nothing to make you or your position more endearing. Please don’t do that.

      Regarding traditional publishing: yes, I am aware some authors have suffered horror stories at the hands of big publishers. I also know other authors who have had excellent experiences with their publishers and editors and agents.

      Regarding self-publishing as worth cheering because it is “active,” I would suggest that its practitioners are no more active than those authors who seek traditional publication. It takes a lot of effort to become traditionally published. Trying to get your work published is most certainly not a passive endeavor.

      Further, I don’t know that “active” anything is worth rewarding. Serial killers are active. I’m not out cheerleading them.

      — c.

  • For the most part, I’ve been avoiding the “Hoo-Ha” (as you so eloquently call it). I see it as just the usual and expected tribalism that crops up any time humans are offered identifiable groups with which to associate. Even better if those tribes are supposedly diametrically opposed.

    Indie vs Trad. Mac vs PC. My Team vs Your Team.

    It’s all bullshit.

    Lauding books that are “Indie” because they’re “Indie” is a bit like lauding a a book because it’s a book. It’s a factor of what it is, not a factor of its quality… and the same goes for traditional publishing.

    …and here’s the big, nasty, 800-lb gorilla: Nobody, aside from the tribal cheerleaders on both sides, gives a shit. The readers don’t care if it’s “indie” or “traditional” — all they’re looking for is a good story, and to be entertained.

    The tribal dick-waving is tiresome, and meaningless. Write your best stuff, present it to the public in the best way possible, and fucking entertain. Other than that? Who cares?

    Yes, there is a lot of unfiltered crap coming out from indie publishing. I don’t really see this as markedly different from the *filtered* crap coming from the big houses. Crap is crap, whether it has a cover like this or a cover like these. Organizing into tribes and rah-rah-ing based on whether the shit sammich is going to be filtered or unfiltered is… odd.

    • @Gareth:

      “Yes, there is a lot of unfiltered crap coming out from indie publishing. I don’t really see this as markedly different from the *filtered* crap coming from the big houses. Crap is crap, whether it has a cover like this or a cover like these. Organizing into tribes and rah-rah-ing based on whether the shit sammich is going to be filtered or unfiltered is… odd.”

      I agree with you, overall. My only comment would be that some of the covers you linked to are by some quality authors. LA Banks in particular is not in my estimation a shit author.

      — c.

  • @ModWitch

    Do you have any numbers on that?

    Everything I’ve seen thus far is that ebooks are still only accounting for a relatively low number of book sales. About 7-10%. Nothing to sneeze at by any means. Especially considering that they’ve shot up to that number from 1.5 – 3% in the last year alone. That’s a ridiculously rapid ascent.

    That also includes, as far as I’ve been able to find, self/indie/small press published books.

    Also, just to stave off any misunderstandings, I’m a supporter of self/indie publishing, though I haven’t done it myself, yet. At the same time I completely agree with Chuck’s points. If self-publishing is going to be taken seriously by mainstream readers, which is where the money is, I think authors need to make a greater effort to ensure that their work goes out with as much quality as possible.

    Incidentally, something that I think many people here might find interesting is this recent report from Sisters In Crime on mystery book buying habits. Warning it’s a .PDF.


    The report is a survey of 75,000 mystery book buyers, though if I’m reading it correctly they only got 1056 responses.

    Their numbers reflect books bought in general, both print and e-books, and though there is mention of self-publishing I’m not seeing any numbers specifically called out for self-published titles.

    Of particular interest for this discussion would be the bottom of Page 39. “How Should E-books Be Priced For Mystery Readers?”

  • Gareth, if you’re referring to my posts concerning “tribe,” please let me clarify, my use of tribe has nothing to do with opposition. I used the concept of tribe to point out, to fellow writers, that we’re all on the same side. We are not enemies.

  • @StephenBlackmoore

    Very interesting survey. When books were priced *too* cheaply, there was a lack of quality assumed.

    Considering the current trend is to whore your work out for less than three dollars for full-length novels, it’s very interesting.

    Of course Amazon’s model is to try and dominate the ebook market while taking a loss on their ebook division – and encouraging, via their proxy employees, authors to sell their works for pennies.

    Cheap doesn’t always mean good. And if I’ve put time and work into a novel I’m sure as heck not going to whore it out for a pittance – not after supposedly putting out money for art, etc.

  • chuck said:
    > But don’t cheer something just because it’s self-published.
    > That is a meaningless metric in terms of determining quality.

    i don’t think you understand, chuck, so i will explain.

    from my own perspective, i “cheer” stuff that’s self-published.

    but my “cheering” is _not_ a stamp of quality. far from it.
    as you say, some self-published stuff is “downright bad.”
    i would go even farther, and label it as “absolutely dreadful.”

    but i even “cheer” for that stuff, chuck, and i’ll tell you why.

    because every person who self-publishes something —
    anything! — has made an active choice to _be_ active,
    to be something more than a mere passive “consumer”.
    and in this day and age, that is a _terrific_victory_, chuck.
    it’s a triumph against forces that want to beat us down and
    turn us into obedient robotic sheep who behave as instructed.
    it is the small cog that says “no” to the machine grinding it…

    we _need_ to cheer that, because we have far too little of it.

    and i’m not afraid of the awful stuff. or the “downright bad”.
    none of it garners any attention, whatsoever, so who cares?

    now let me tell you what i _am_ afraid of: glenn beck, rush,
    the koch brothers, sarah palin, religious fundamentalists, and
    all of the other forces like these, which seem — to me — to be
    demonstrating the population’s inability to analyze critically…

    this is the “crap” that scares me, chuck, the kind that _does_
    get attention — _lots_ of attention — and creates a bad world.

    when are you gonna take on _that_, chuck?

    you’ve got some chops, dude. so go put them to good use.


  • @bowerbird

    I respect your opinion that the crap book, usually published through the traditional mode, which finds a large audience and spurs ignorance and division among the population is probably more harmful than the crap book, usually published through the self-published mode, that has no audience and therefore has less of an impact. But you’re arguing apples to oranges here. Crap is crap, no matter how it’s published or how big the audience.

    This post happens to be about self-published books that are crap.

    And while you don’t see the harm in a trashy self-published book, it’s still harmful to the larger perception of self-publishing as a legitimate way of getting your ideas out in the public eye.

    Think of it this way: a single zombie (we’re talking Romero zombies), on its own, isn’t necessarily that harmful. It’s slow. It’s dimwitted. It’s a rotting corpse, so the muscles and sinews and reflexes are weakened. The only thing it’s got going for it is the fact that it won’t stop, but come one… if you ran into a single zombie on the road, double tap to the head, and move on with your life.

    The problem is that the crap books in the self-published world aren’t single zombies. They’re a zombie horde. They block out the sun with undead flailing limbs. They overrun any protections that your halfway decent book may have put up to protect itself and the few decent self-published books that have banded together with you. The self-published world isn’t the world of decent, quality published books. It’s Zombieland.

    And active isn’t always positive. Just because you can put words on paper doesn’t mean you should. Particularly if you lower the bell curve for the rest of us.

    I know that there’s a little bit of targetting the fat kid in a schoolyard game of dodgeball in Chuck’s original post. But hopefully, this will toughen him up. And I know you recognize when crap books are actually God-awful. So rather than cheering them on for doing something, give them a little bit of thoughtful criticism, and move on to the books that are worth a damn. Hopefully, that will help lift the entire self-publishing market, rather than just encourage zombies to keep on being zombies.


  • And I already spotted my typos and copy-editing mistakes in that last post. Hopefully that doesn’t speak to my ability as a writer. Unfortunately, my copy editor is on break.


  • I hate when that happens, Jay. I noticed one after posting on the bag of dicks blog yesterday. “Feel” instead of “fill.” Freudian.

    Whoops! (Maybe I didn’t mean that.)

  • Great stuff, Chuck. Thanks for posting it. You wrote:

    “You want everybody to take self-publishing seriously.

    They do not. Not yet.”

    Too true. When self-publishers don’t take themselves or their work seriously, why would anyone else? Slap a shit cover on a book, throw together some passive voice cover copy, and sell it for .99 cents? WHY YOU DO THAT?

    If more self-pubbers would stop to think about what they’re doing, maybe, just maybe, the stigma could be reduced.

    FWIW, I’m pursuing both traditional and epubbing, but I’m approaching epubbing like any business venture, carefully and with a plan.

  • Your bag o’dicks post was simply a rant that added nothing to the indie publishing debate. The books you talk about do exist, but they are so easy to spot that no one buys them. If the cover doesn’t give it away, then the sample will. Do you really think that mocking and patronising those who produce amateur works will make them change their ways? Why the spew of negativity?

    Nor would the responce have been anywhere near as strong had you offered solutions along with your negativity. You are obviously a well connected individual. Why didn’t you offer contact details of people who could help indie authors prouce good work? A list of cover artists who charge reasonable prices, for example, or freelance editors/proofreaders?

    As for those who took offence to the dicks blog, it’s fair enough, isn’t it? You took offence at people who produce amateur books, why can’t people take offence at your attack on soft targets?

    The debate at Kindleboards that formed part of the responce to your bag o’dicks post is part of an ongoing debate between those who think amateurish books are hurting indie publishing and those who don’t. The number of indies in the best seller list would indicate that amateur efforts really don’t hurt sales of well written and presented efforts.

    Finally, there is nothing wrong with debate and the more people that express their opinions in a public forum, the stronger the debate will be, but debates are two sided and people will disagree with you and express their disagreements forcefully. It may be better to engage them in debate rather than label them as defensive reactionaries and dismissing what they have to say.

  • I’m really not a big fan of ebooks. However, with my book review blog, I think maybe I need to consider reviewing them just so ya’ll will know which of the books are good and which are crap. Of course that means i’ll waste a lot of time wading through crap. *sigh*

  • First I want to say that I’m not against traditional publishing. However, I don’t think traditional publishing is right for everyone (just like self-publishing isn’t right for everyone) and I wish some authors were better informed before making the decision to go either way. Unfortunately, most authors only have an agent advising them and an agent is never going to suggest self-publishing because that would be free advice and people aren’t in the habit of working for free. On the flip side, visiting self-publishing forums where everyone paints the world in gold, rainbows, and butterflies isn’t giving a very realistic view either.

    Second, cream does not rise to the top, at least not in self-publishing. I try to support indie authors but I also don’t want to read crap. So I make my buying decisions based on reviews and Amazon sales rank. After all, if so many people are buying a book it can’t be bad, right? It has all these glowing reviews so it has to be good, right? Wrong. Some of the best selling indie books are riddled with typos and grammar mistakes to the point of distraction. Not to mention that the storytelling itself isn’t good. In a word, it’s crap. Yet it still has good reviews and sells well. I don’t get it. It baffles me. I think I will go crazy trying to figure it out.

    I have read books by authors who are making a living off of self-publishing. Their story is always the same (at least the ones I’ve read personally), I tried to get traditionally published for years and it didn’t happen. Yeah, well there’s a reason, your book sucks. Thanks for putting it out there for the rest of us though. On the other hand, I’ve read authors who are struggling and would be happy if their books just paid for their Kindle habit and they’re writing really good stuff. I don’t understand it.

    So I guess what bothers me is not so much the cheering from within the indie community, I can understand it. Although it is annoying seeing people telling other indies that they deserve so much success when I know from reading their work that they didn’t take the time to run spell check, so in my book no, they don’t deserve success. My real problem is with people who keep buying crap and elevating it above all the good books that are being written by independent authors. The worst part about it is that people are going to look at the best selling indies and automatically assume that they all represent the best and they don’t, not by a long shot.

  • @Stephen – couple of recent links:


    What do I take from these? 1) Many industry insiders expect ebooks to be 1/2 of book sales in the next 3-4 years. Given the lead time on getting a trad book to market, that means ebooks are already a pretty big player in the decisions made by trad publishers. I remember reading a VP from Random House saying ebooks had already hit 50% in some categories. So when indies can get into the top 100 list on the kindle (or even the top 5000), I think that’s pretty relevant.

    2) In an environment like Amazon, where ebooks and paper co-exist, the change is coming sooner. And given the impending demise of some of the big box bookstores, there won’t be too many other places left to buy books. If you can write something that will get you into target stores, paper will probably outsell your ebook for a long time. For the rest of us, ebooks are rapidly becoming the new world.

    @Chuck – I’m not myopic. I can see the stigma – it’s exceedingly obvious in the comments here. You think we ought to go fix how we interact with each other, to decrease the dreck published, and that will fix the stigma. I’m hoping that part of how we fix things is speaking up when a blog piece like this one does more to reinforce the stigma than to take it down.

    But really, I think we fix the stigma by selling good books to lots of readers. There are indie authors already doing that. They share their advice in places like the kindleboards forums so others will follow in their footsteps. If you do more than tiptoe in as an experiment, you might join us :).

  • Quoting Caethes, “I have read books by authors who are making a living off of self-publishing. Their story is always the same (at least the ones I’ve read personally), I tried to get traditionally published for years and it didn’t happen. Yeah, well there’s a reason, your book sucks.”

    It’s probably a good idea to stay away from words like always and never. Also sweeping pronouncements.

    The industry has been bogged down for years, afraid to take risks. Speak to HP Mallory–she tried to traditionally publish, but got nowhere. A few months ago, she self-published. She was recently approached by Trident Media, and yesterday she signed a three book deal with Random House. Or speak to Amanda Hocking–she tried the trad publishing route and faced rejection, nearly gave up writing. She began self-publishing last April. This past December she sold 99,000 plus books.

    I’d like to suck like that.

  • The truth hurts. 99.5% of people self-publishing would be better off playing the lottery. It’s a lot cheaper, saves you time, and the odds are the same.
    I teach in Warrior Writer than anger is an indicator of a truth being heard. When I taught for Writers Digest, back in snail mail dinosaur days, when men were men and goats ran scared, I had thousands of students over the years. I can count on one hand the number who actually every changed anything substantial in their books. They were great. The rest wanted validation. I’ve had 45 books published, hit all the bestseller lists and you know how much validation that is? I look at income. That’s my entire focus now, especially as I’ve launched Who Dares Wins Publishing. I learned a hard lesson– pricing. We just cut our fiction prices 50%, to $2.99. Because number of readers is more important than profit per book. You live, you learn.
    And my agent is the same– she’ll take my current WIP out to the Big 6 soon. Let’s see what happens. But what’s cool is if they don’t want it, I’ll sell the hell out of it on my own. Because it’s good.

  • @ModWitch

    Agreed. To both those points. The rapid rise of ebooks shows no signs of slowing. It’s an exciting time.

    I think the question is less will ebooks dominate and more can self/indie publishing get its collective act together to show that it can be taken seriously. If the overall quality of self published books is sub-par then mainstream readers won’t read them.


    I think for the most part you’re probably right about agents not wanting to support self-publishing for exactly the reason you’re talking about. But then if you’re self-publishing you don’t necessarily need an agent.

    If they’re forward thinking I would hope they would consider the possibility, though. Self-publishing success can lead to other successes elsewhere. I think a lot of it comes down to supporting the author for the long haul.

    But yes, Chuck’s right about Al. I’m with him and before my book sold he and I had more than a few conversations about self-publishing. Still do, in fact.

  • @Suzanne That’s why I made a point of saying “the ones I’ve read personally”. I haven’t read any self-published books by people who have been traditionally published and I haven’t read any self-published books by people who couldn’t get an agent that I thought were good enough to get an agent. The good stuff that I’ve read has been from people who either didn’t try to go traditional or got an agent and then their agent couldn’t sell their work.

    There are a myriad of reasons why someone doesn’t get traditionally published that have nothing to do with their writing skill. The publisher could have just bought another novel that is too similar, the sales department could think that the trends are going in a different direction, a book could be cross genre and a publisher may not feel confident backing it for that reason, etc.

    I know there are people who have done well with self-publishing. I’m a strong advocate for self-publishing. I’m going to be self-publishing my first three novels this year. I’ve never tried to go the traditional route and don’t have any desire to. You don’t need to sell me on the successes in indie publishing :). I’m just saying that selling well does not indicate good writing. For some reason indies have a bad habit of pointing out all the traditionally published books that sell well but are still crap, but when you say the same about an indie book they get really defensive and try to say that good sales proves that the book is good. I don’t understand why good sales prove good writing in indie books but mean absolutely nothing when it comes to traditionally published books in some people’s minds. You can’t have it both ways.

    I also don’t buy into the myth that if you self-publish you’re killing your chances of a traditional deal. I’ve seen far too many authors get traditional deals from self-publishing or even just posting their fiction for free online. Self-publishing only hurts your chances with a traditional publisher if it proves that people don’t like your writing.

    Of course a traditional publisher will take on a success like HP Mallory, why wouldn’t they? She’s handing them a bunch of money, she’s already done all the hard work of getting started and building a fan base. I believe that Random House got the better end of that deal. I’m thrilled for HP Mallory and I hope you can tell how much I admire her and I think she deserves a much bigger advance than what they gave her. If Stephanie Meyer could get a $750,000 advance with no proof of success and nothing going for her other than a finished manuscript and an idea for the next books in the series, then I think someone like HP Mallory who has proven that she can be successful on her own deserves a lot more than what she got. What she has accomplished on her own is nothing short of amazing. Random House was lucky to snag her. Given the advance they did give her I’m assuming they’re going to be putting a good bit of money behind her which should really explode her sales numbers which I think were going to continue to snowball anyway. She was also fortunate to be able to negotiate from a position of power and retain the rights to the first two books in the series.

    @Chuck I believe there are good agents out there who can be supportive of self-publishing (especially when they’re already making money on your traditionally published titles). However, I have a hard time believing that if an agent has put in 6 months pimping a new author’s stuff, negotiates a contract and brings it to this new author that so far they haven’t made a dime off of, that they’re going to be supportive if that author decides to turn down the contract to self-publish instead. After six months of work I don’t think an agent in that situation is an unbiased party. They want to be paid for the work they’ve done. It would be human nature to want to pressure the author to take the deal and get your payday (whether or no it’s the best move for the author) and I’m not so naive to believe that all agents wouldn’t cave to that pressure.

    So the scenario I was thinking in my head was a little different than what I probably conveyed in my comment. I do think that an agent will tell you to self-publish up front if they think it’s the best thing for whatever reason. I just think that if they’ve put work into pimping your stuff and get you a deal, they’re going to want you to take it so they get paid. This is their livelihood after all, unless there’s come non-profit charity agency out there I don’t know about :). I didn’t mean to paint all agents as being anti self-publishing, although that’s probably how it came out.

    • “@Chuck I believe there are good agents out there who can be supportive of self-publishing (especially when they’re already making money on your traditionally published titles). However, I have a hard time believing that if an agent has put in 6 months pimping a new author’s stuff, negotiates a contract and brings it to this new author that so far they haven’t made a dime off of, that they’re going to be supportive if that author decides to turn down the contract to self-publish instead.”

      Caethes —

      Oh, I don’t disagree. Of course at this point I’d wonder if the author isn’t being a wee bit dickish. “Hey, thanks for pimping my work and working hard to get it out there. Great that it sold! I’m now ditching you to have a go at it by myself. I also took a dump in your birdbath because, y’know, fuck it.”

      — c.

  • @Stephen

    “I think the question is less will ebooks dominate and more can self/indie publishing get its collective act together to show that it can be taken seriously. If the overall quality of self published books is sub-par then mainstream readers won’t read them.”

    I don’t understand why we need to show it collectively. I think we can show it one book at a time. If an indie book is in the top 5000 kindle books sold, I’m arguing it has already shown it can be taken seriously.

    Go look at the books on the top 100 in epic fantasy, for example. Big mix of indie and trad pubbed. I don’t think most readers care (and I suspect most of them don’t know, either).

    Will some readers avoid all indie books because some are bad? Sure. But there’s a LOT of people out there with ereaders. And I’d say that the number of indie books in that top 5000 is decent evidence that there are plenty of readers who don’t know or care about how a book got published.

  • @ModWitch

    You bring up a good point. I don’t think most people know whether a book is self-published or not now that I think about it. The only way they might think it is would be from a bad cover which is the first telltale sign. If they read a book and it’s really bad with obvious errors then they might check to see who the publisher is, but I doubt most would.

    I like your one book at a time mentality and attitude.

  • @ModWitch:

    I agree to a point that readers aren’t savvy the way writers are about how a book is published.

    Problem is, if I stick to the “Top Books” at Amazon, I’m in good shape.

    If I wander a little more aimlessly, I suddenly start to see books that any reader will see are fresh from Amateur Hour. Which again is like finding someone’s home-made sweater in JC Penney.

    That said, I think your point is valid. I’d just argue that self-publishers do best when they strive to create a product that is of a quality level that equals (or exceeds) traditional publishing. Why not aim high?

    — c.

  • @Chuck – don’t wonder aimlessly :). Seriously, I think you need to dig fairly far to find the bulk of the real dreck on amazon – it doesn’t sell, doesn’t get cross-promoted, doesn’t make any lists. I think that eliminates the routes most more casual readers use to find books.

    Anyone who swims more widely than that should be using the sample feature (or taking the obvious conclusion from a lousy cover or poorly written blurb). But I don’t think the average reader says to themselves – wow, this book is really awful, so I assume all indie books are awful, even the ones that have made it into the ‘robust mid-list’ of kindle sales. We’re just not that much of a single entity for most readers. I think they tend to decide book by book – and in my world, crap sinks.

    I agree completely that self publishers should aim to create a high quality product. I’m putting my money behind that and hiring three separate professional sets of eyes for my book (story edit, line edit, proofing). What I wrote could still be dreck – it will be the readers that decide that, in the end. That works for me. I don’t think I’m torturing small animals by putting my book out there and seeing what happens.

  • Wow.

    This is just WEIRD. I’m glad you’re getting all this traffic, but wow.

    Dear Indies: get a grip. The world is your oyster; you don’t need to rise up in protest that the world must be your oyster, because it already is. Being professional =/= indignant comments on blogs.

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