Revisiting The Fevered Egos Of Self-Publishing

First, go read this:

The Man Who Thought He Was King.” About a self-published author who gets kind of… well, crazy? Uppity? I don’t know. I’m not even sure what he’s pissed about, honestly.

Read it? Done? Cool.

One of the biggest things holding self-publishing back is the attitude of some — not all, not most and not even many — but some self-published authors. What you will find in the self-publishing (or DIY or “indie pub”) community is a handful of maggot-chewed bad-apples bobbing noisily in the barrel. They’re loud. They’re entitled. They’re oddly defensive (methinks thou doth protest too much). They often have books that look and read like they were written by a fourth grader on a high-test ADHD drug cocktail.

And they’re more than willing to get up in your face about it.

Don’t be that guy. Don’t be a cock-bag. A douche-nozzle. A righteous scum-topped cup of dickhead soup.

My message to the generic That Guy:

First, learn to write. Not just fiction but, say, forum posts. Tweets. Your own name. Whatever. UR JUST MADD COS I SELL TONSZ OF BOOKS AND YOURE SLAVE TO THE GATEKEPERS is not a compelling — or, frankly, cogent — message. Which leads me to:

Second, stop using your sales numbers as a bludgeon. BUT I SELL FOUR BILLION EVERY TEN MINUTES may or may not be true, but what it most certainly is is irrelevant. Is that how Neil Gaiman tries to end an argument? “WELL I’M A BESTSELLING AUTHOR SO EAT MY POOP.” I suspect he does not. (Though now I secretly kinda hope he does? I would give multiple pieces of my anatomy to have him on YouTube yelling that very thing — a boy can dream, can’t he?) Your sales numbers are not interesting. Nor do they represent a useful data point as the lever in whatever argument you happen to be in right now. Sales are not an indicator of quality. And it’s very difficult to establish if your sales numbers are even accurate. Take them off the table. Stop screaming them in people’s faces.

Third, please be advised that the number of books you write is also not an indicator of anything — certainly not quality. I could, if I chose, write a book a week. Each book would be a festering midden-heap, a clumsy orgy of misspelled words feeling up awkward sentences in the dark in order to give birth to a one-legged moaning monstrosity of a story, but I don’t. Yes, I do believe that authors in the 21st century will find increased productivity useful, but what that doesn’t mean is, “Vomit out as much poor-quality content as you can purge into the world.” Yelling, BUT I HAVE 137 BOOKS FOR SALE, leads people to suspect that you’re just another self-published whackaloon with poor impulse control.

Fourth, stop being mad at “gatekeepers.” Blah blah blah agents, publishers, editors. Every time you yell about traditional publishing it just looks like a dumptruck full of sour grapes. Which leads us all to what is likely the correct conclusion: you self-publish because you were rejected and your peen is in a twist about it, not because you have a great story you want people to read, not because you want the control that self-publishing affords you.

To the self-publishing DIY indie community at large:

Call these screeching moonbats what they are: screeching moonbats. I’ve long said that the self-publishing community needs fewer cheerleaders and more police — meaning, more folks willing to say, “That fruity nutball does not represent me, my work, my ethos, my nation, my planet, my species, or my very molecular structure.” Don’t let them be the loudest voices in your community.


  • As a writer who will one day be a heavily-edited self-published author, I’m glad for your message, Chuck, that the one does not represent all. Then again, I saw a comment from someone saying that it is due to the one that she won’t review any of the “all.” That’s unfortunate.

    On the policing note, I received an email from Amazon last week in regards to a self-published freebie I’d downloaded some time ago, and haven’t yet read. The email alerted me to an updated version of the book because “significant editorial errors were present” in the original version. Rest assured I’ll skim the original file before updating it.

  • “You are my hero. My foul-mouthed, articulate, wordtacular God of Fuckawesome. I bow down to you.”

    Excellent. NOW GO AND KILL IN MY NAME.

    Uhh, I mean, send me cookies.

    — c.

  • Several years ago I got paid to write reviews for a self-published new age author. His books desperately needed an editor. Though, guessing by the badly written reviews of his actual audience, they didn’t notice. I’d write 10 reviews a day for each site, all from different email addresses and in different styles. I’m not proud of it. I abruptly quit one morning, my hail of obscenities bouncing off his delusional head. You can’t be sure the reviews are real. I’ve reread my reviews years later and I can’t tell which ones I wrote. The job, however, did give me enough material for a short screenplay, soon to be a short story and an outline for a feature screenplay.

  • For the record, I am a self-published author. I just wanted to get that out there.
    I agree that the self-published author making those outrageous and offensive claims does not represent me, my opinions, etc. Also, Chuck, I agree wholeheartedly with everything you’ve said in this post.

    As a matter of fact, this is the first time I’ve ever glimpsed your blog (I was brought here via another blog link). Consider me a follower from now one. Not only are you are a funny motherf&$%er, Chuck, but you make a whole lot of sense!

  • It certainly is a shame that some independent authors have yet to appreciate the value of what they have – independence. When that penny drops, one quickly realizes that they don’t have time to waste pushing back at the establishment or wallowing in negativity and angst with other like-minded souls in community forums (save it for your therapist). Instead, you get on with the job of writing and promoting your books (it’s an endless task) AND you do so in a professional, business-like manner that garners respect.

  • I am reminded of a quote from horror writer Garth Marenghi, the central character in UK cult comedy ‘Darkplace’.

    ‘ I’m one of the few people you’ll meet who’s written more books than they’ve read.’

  • Hmm. I had a brief run in with the ‘King’ last night.
    A very insulting tweet that the ‘King’ had retweeted, floated by. It piqued my curiosity so I went to the Amazon site of his book.
    Then I noticed the price was $3.33 .
    I’ve read some pretty bad self pub books that I got for free. Many of them have 4 stars, so I don’t trust reviews.
    (In fact I’ve been horrendously disappointed and appalled by a book that is being flouted as great, has great reviews and COMMUNITY SUPPORT, and that I actually paid $.99 for. When this guys smiling face floats by on twitter, and I see all the retweets of his book, and all the positive comments, I wonder WTH is going on. His sales are good too. And his book sucks. I don’t think it’s just me. So this makes me wonder how the hell he’s doing this. And makes me wonder WTH do I bother working on my craft when I could shizzle this shit out through my left ear overnight. but I digress. End Rant.)
    I do not review book I think sucked. If a book doesn’t deserve at least a 4, I don’t review it. Partly out of fear of repercussions, and therefore cowardice, I guess. Meh.
    IMO the only way to get a good sense of the book is to read the sample pages.
    If I can’t read the sample pages, I’m not laying out a penny for a book.
    Because I was on my tablet and can’t access sample pages from it, I didn’t buy the ‘book’.
    I went on to have some great convos with actual writers and editors about editing last night. One of the things I’ve noticed lately is the huge list of people on the acknowledgements pages of successful authors. Who write good books. Or even with the ones I don’t like but are well written.
    A good writer I was tweeting with last night put it as “You can’t climb Everest alone.”
    I hope to self publish at some point.
    Although the trad publishers were good gatekeepers in the past, and I’m seeing the good in that with everyone and their uncle Mary selfpublishing these days, they still let quite a few dogs through the gate.
    So I will work at my craft, and when I have a novel, or a collection of short stories that I really believe in, I will get them edited, and go the self pub route.
    I don’t see anything degrading about self publishing. I think it’s coming, and gates and filters will eventually evolve.
    Great blog, Chuck. As usual, thought provoking.
    The comments section wonderful as well.
    Being a writer> if it wasn’t challenging, who would bother?

  • After reading that…I don’t know whether to laugh at him or cry. :/ Idiots. This is why, especially when it comes to self-pubbed books, I trust word-of-mouth and friends over reviews, statistics, etc.


    -Thos actually was a message someine senit me.

  • Great post, Chuck.

    When I decided to consider a (very slow) transition from leisure writer to “something else TBD,” the sheer fact that I had double digits in a world where numbers seemed to reign supreme was incredibly disheartening. I follow the author-in-question on Twitter and spent about six days trying to follow what I thought was the blueprint of success for a would-be independent author…

    …I stopped writing, and just tweeted links to my boring, underdeveloped crap. Over and over, around the clock, tweeting links to stuff nobody had any real reason to read.

    Stumbling across has not only renewed my confidence in my abilities as a writer (which hadn’t been questioned in nearly a decade), but it helped me stop being so curmudgeony about my self-promotion and see that it was possible to be successful and influential in the field while still having fun with your content.

    Every field can be cutthroat and ruthless, but cream rises, crap sinks…. unless crap is tirelessly promoted, then it also floats, just not with the dignity of cream… not that cream is ever really that dignified.


  • You’ve got to see through the garbage smoke and mirrors, straight to the truth – like anything else, those who create the real-deal professionally edited, designed and marketed books will sell the best. Period. Traditional publishing is hogwash, and I (for one) am not willing to wait years to get a deal when I can do it with a team of pros like myself, and market the hell out of it all over the world.

    I write about this all the time on my own blog.

  • As a bookseller, I thank you so much for writing this. Pushy, blowhard self-published authors are the bane of my existence. Thank you, sir. Thank you.

  • “Don’t let them be the loudest voices in your community.”

    Hard to do when people are very happy to write blog posts about self-pubbed authors behaving badly – and so very few write about those of us who are quietly, professionally making a good living keeping readers happy :).

    “Indie authors” aren’t a community any more than “guys with beard avatars” are. It’s a description, nothing more. I don’t have time to police either group – I have scenes to write.

  • “One of the biggest things holding self-publishing back is the attitude of some — not all, not most and not even many — but some self-published authors. What you will find in the self-publishing (or DIY or “indie pub”) community is a handful of maggot-chewed bad-apples bobbing noisily in the barrel. They’re loud. ”

    And that varies from other industries and professions how, exactly? They all seem to survive such people so it’s clearly not as much of a problem as you think.

    As much as I agree that this guy is a douchnozzle, I do not see how he negatively affect self-pub as a whole. Readers don’t look at it that way. The only people who do are inside the publishing industry.

    And if you think it’s okay to smear an entire group based on the nutty actions of one person then your opinion doesn’t matter to me.

    Nate Hoffelder
    editor, The Digital Reader

    • “And that varies from other industries and professions how, exactly? They all seem to survive such people so it’s clearly not as much of a problem as you think.

      As much as I agree that this guy is a douchnozzle, I do not see how he negatively affect self-pub as a whole. Readers don’t look at it that way. The only people who do are inside the publishing industry.”

      I don’t know of many industries or professions that mimic publishing at present.

      If I go to Target, I don’t have to worry about an “indie” clothing manufacturer yelling at the employees — or at me — because his work is shelved somewhere he doesn’t like.

      So. You want to know how it negatively affects self-publishing? Here’s how: this particular self-publisher decided to go off against a fairly popular book blog. A book blog that is, in fact, dedicated toward readers, not toward the publishing industry. And yet it’s also a book blog with ties to “the industry,” as seen by the ripples spreading out from this incident — agents and other blogs and other review blogs all coming out and having an opinion.

      Now, what do you think the outcome of that is? Do you think it’s positive? Do you think that review blogs are likelier to favor self-published work or be likelier instead to dismiss it? Because from the talk I hear? It’s all about dismissing it. Now, you may say, “Well, fuck them for being judgmental and blah blah blah,” but that’s missing the point. It’s yelling at the tides. It’s expecting life to be fair and tidy when it is no such thing. It’s not on a book review blog to take a chance on self-publishers. It’s on self-publishers to prove that their work has merit, that they’re putting out professional work with a professional attitude, and that they’re not embodied by a few very loud, very silly people.

      Further, do you think that readers — upon witnessing an outcry like this — are going to be MORE or LESS interested in checking out self-published books? Given that Fantasy Faction is for readers — and given that sites like mine also talk to readers, not just “inside baseball” aficionados — do you think anything is gained by indie authors acting out?

      “And if you think it’s okay to smear an entire group based on the nutty actions of one person then your opinion doesn’t matter to me.”

      And if you think that I’m smearing an entire group based on the nutty actions of one person I might suggest you attempt to improve your reading comprehension, as I did no such thing. I am pro-self-publishing. I am a *fan* of the act and have read many “indie” books that are as good as anything traditional publishing has ever done. I am *myself* a self-publisher. So where, exactly, am I smearing an entire group?

      (Now, if you’re not suggesting I said that, no harm, no foul. But I want it very clear that I’m not smearing the entire indie community by pointing a finger at a bushel of bad apples.)

      — c.

  • “Do you think that review blogs are likelier to favor self-published work or be likelier instead to dismiss it? Because from the talk I hear? It’s all about dismissing it. ”

    If they wish to repeat the mistake you made in your post above (letting the actions of an individual reflect on a group), that’s their business. It’s also human, which is why I will bear them no ill will. I don’t care if some inside publishing choose to ignore self-pub because of this incident; eventually it will come back to bite them in the ass. Choosing to ignore a market segment won’t make it shrink or go away.

    As I see it, you’re taking the responses of others and making them the fault of the original douchnozzle. He’s not responsible for how others respond, nor can he control it. What’s more, self-pubs as a whole cannot control this douchnozzle so there’s little point in a

    As for me. I only care what the readers think. Only the tiniest fraction will ever hear about this incident and I doubt that they will assign such a label to self-pub authors because of this incident. It would make as much sense for them to attach the label to (say) fantasy authors. I have no evidence that readers do that. In fact, I’m not sure you can readily tell self-pubbed authors from traditional when you encounter them in the Kindle Store. From what I can tell, readers for the most part aren’t aware of publishers-as-brands and that would only add to the difficulty of creating s dichotomy to divide self-pub and traditional.

    My apologies for using the word smear, but I do think your premise is mistaken. This:

    “One of the biggest things holding self-publishing back is the attitude of some — not all, not most and not even many — but some self-published authors.”

  • Chuck, one last point before I have to get back to my work.

    By profession I am a blogger, which has a lot in common with self-publishing. If some high profile blogger made as much of an ass of himself as MR Mathias did I wouldn’t think that he reflected negatively on blogging as either an industry or a profession. He is just a douchnozzle.

    Now, journalism and blogging have much the same issues as self-pub and traditional, including the legitimacy issues. While some journalists might react negatively towards that hypothetical douchnozzle blogger, most of those people wouldn’t have given bloggers any respect anyway. Tthey are simply using the actions of one blogger to reinforce their prejudices.

  • It’s funny–I agree with some of what you’ve said here (and particularly that the incident in question was unfortunate), but I’ve often read you say that writers need to focus on writing and stories rather than discuss some of the finer nuances of publishing and business, and I honestly think that might be more worthwhile here. Do we all really need to be proactive to ensure that we are well-distanced from other writers we’ve never really heard of? I’ll be honest: I think I’ve heard of Mathias before (though not read his work), but of course his work doesn’t represent any other authors’ (and vice versa).

    That’s what independent means.

    By your final paragraph, do you think that authors who sign contracts with corporations should distance themselves with either the practices of that corporation or other authors of that corporation they don’t agree with? Like, do you think someone who’s published by Harper Collins (the mentioned Neil Gaiman, for example) needs to proactively state that he doesn’t agree with Bill O’Reilly, or make a statement about the News Corp phone hacking scandals?

  • I do love it when a fool acts like a fool so you don’t really need to point out that he’s a fool. My first experience with MRR was when I got a Twitter account around the same time I finished my first book. I started following him and immediately learned the obnoxiousness of an auto-tweeter. Constant blah-blah about his sales and how his first book was written in a Texas prison. I mentioned once that I wish I was unemployed and incarcerated because I’d have more time to write.

    I read some samples of his work to find out what all the fuss was about. It reminded me of the sort of stuff an elementary school kid would write about his D&D character. (In no way knocking D&D of course.) Not a creative word. Definitely thrown together. I stopped feeling insecure about my sales and promptly stopped following him. Not sure how to play the game so you get good reviews and big sales with 3rd grade writing, but I’ll continue to be proud of everything I publish and know I’m appreciated by all my readers.

  • I’m a first time author still working on my first book. I haven’t decided if I will self publish or seek an agent, but I’m leaning toward self publishing. But, one thing I will do is write the best book I can, hire an editor, hire a copy editor, hire a cover designer, and seek feedback from beta readers before I publish. When my book is done, I will not self publish until it is at least of the quality I would submit to an agent.

  • Speaking as a reader who refuses to read slush* — the problem is that, right now, there is NO legitimate venue, anywhere where I would run into a self-published writer’s work. Amazon and similar reviews are worse than worthless due to all the liars and sleazy sock puppets. A handful of honorable bloggers are reviewing selfies, but they’re interwoven with the pay-for-praise folks, and therefore take too much time to ferret out, especially for anything other than S.F. or fantasy fiction. I’ve bought one (1 ct.) non-fiction selfie that I happened to find as part of an online search, and then only because it was about something I was actively researching and because the author offered a good-sized sample of the work for free, and which proved he was a pretty good writer (i.e. not a semi-literate psycho). If the same author pushing the same book had randomly stumbled upon me somewhere and tried to sell me the book, I would have tuned him out 100% — I refuse to waste time listening to anyone’s random sales pitches, for anything, specifically because the odds of my finding something worthwhile by doing so are far, far too low to justfy the time lost from my life. I do actively get to know small presses (through Duotrope, Writer’s Market, reviews…) not only for potentially selling my own stuff, but also because I’m looking for items I might want to read. I know very well the reputations of the publishers, big and miniscule, that I buy from, but selfies have no one, anywhere, speaking up for them who is not somehow compromised. I just don’t have the time to research every Amazon review or blog post to see whether or not it’s legitimate. Selfies have to find some way to recreate those very gatekeepers they’re trying to avoid if they want to get my attention. I don’t follow selfie “culture” on the internet — it has nothing whatsoever to do with me or with most other readers. How people “behave” is meaningless to most readers. We just don’t care, guys. And, therefore, my question is, why bother self publishing at all**? Even for pro writers with established careers, it’s risky — some selfies from these sorts of writers only serve to make it all too clear how crucial input from editors over the years has helped build their careers. If there’s no way to legitimately, honorably reach readers, why bother?

    *Unless I’m either being paid to as a editor, or am a volunteer working for a small/tiny/miniscule-but-damn-well-vetted-and-edited pub. **Unless you’re in a niche market, i.e. regional history, poetry, writing about obscure hobbies…

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