Follow-Up On Self-Publishing: Readers Are Not Good Gatekeepers

Yesterday, I wrote a post, blah blah blah — self-publishing is not the minor leagues. Basically: we can all do better, be your own gatekeeper, stop celebrating half-ass efforts, etc.

Shorter still: a rising tide lifts all boats.

The resultant response continued a bit across a few forums and blogs — which is good! I like this conversation, and I understand that what I said is controversial to some and I recognize that pushback is inevitable and important. Some of that conversation carried on at kboards, where — maybe unsurprisingly — it got a little hostile (anybody wonders why I find kboards not very welcoming, well, there you go).

I want to use that conversation to zero in on something, though, to maybe shine a light on maybe a core attitude that represents the culture I’m talking about.

Here’s a kboards comment from author Emily Cantore (excerpted):

In the end, more linkbait from Chuck Wendig, as per usual. His arguments aren’t supported by evidence. He builds strawmen and then argues against them (such as these supposed self-publishers who openly say they don’t care about the reader. Where are they Chuck? Are they actual authors or just halfwit idiots out there who you are picking to support your straw?).

He says this:

“Don’t celebrate mediocrity. Don’t encourage half-assing this thing for a couple of bucks.”

And my answer is: I celebrate mediocrity. I celebrate half-assing things. I celebrate someone writing a book that objectively is terrible and going through the steps to make a terrible cover and a terrible blurb and publishing it and then they keep on going and write something a little better, with a better cover and a better blurb and then they keep going some more.

I celebrate the massive tsunami of creativity that has been unleashed and unlike Chuck, I recognize there are entrants at every level. There are terrible books being put out there but those authors will iterate and get better and one day will be making a lot of money.

No one will argue that you shouldn’t try as hard as possible but it is also not true that you need a professionally designed cover and x, y, z that someone else says you need that happen to cost more money than you have.

Self-publishing tore down many many barriers (we’re down to: are literate, have a computer that can make a word document and an image and have internet access and a bank account) and here we have Chuck trying to put up more barriers. It must be professional! It must be better than traditional publishing has to offer.

No. Do your best and iterate. Go again and do your best. Soon your best will be better than their best.

Ah, but again I don’t know why I’ve spent so much effort refuting Chuck’s unsupported posts. As I’ve said before, it’s mostly low-effort link-bait and gulp, we all swallow it.

Okay, so. Casting aside for a moment I don’t think we’re going to agree on the definition of “link-bait” and “straw-man,” let’s talk about, drum roll please, the reader.

The reader is held up as a gatekeeper here, right? The idea being that all barriers have been removed from the author-audience relationship. All those kept gates of old-school publishing have been blown open and now only one portcullis remains: the one manned by the reader.

Now, let’s cue up a commercial. From darkness come the sounds of a sad Sarah McLachlan song. And soon we’re treated to a slideshow of images — images of readers staring in utter bewilderment at their WUNDERBAR KINDLEMASCHINES. Some of them are crying. Some of them look bemused, others horrified. One looks into his empty wallet and pouts. Another has broken open her e-reader and is guzzling all the e-ink just to wipe her memory of what she just read.

At the end: who will think of the poor reader?

See, I’m with Emily in that I celebrate the tide of creativity. I think this is great. The Internet has given us all a voice, and we’re all part of a beautifully discordant chorus. It’s powerful, wonderful, weird stuff where we all kind of blur together as author and audience. I love it. I roll around in it like a dog in stink, covering myself with it.

But that, to me, is writing.

That, to me, is storytelling.

And for that we have a wealth of places to put our writing. We have blogs. We have Tumblr and Twitter and FB and Circlesquare and Crowdzone and SexyFistingFinder-dot-com and whatever other social media outlets will pop up. We have places like Wattpad and Book Country. We still have the remnants of Livejournal, where you can post your fiction and then get digitally shanked by some sentient Russian spam-bot who steals your credit card and your dreams.

Point is, we can write, write, write.

We can iterate our writing. In public! We can find an audience there.

You have permission to suck.

For free.

Free, there, is key.

Because the moment you go somewhere — Amazon, Smashwords, B&N, wherever — and you start charging money, that changes the equation. By a strict reading, that’s no longer Hobbytown, Jake. You’ve entered pro grade territory. You’re asking readers to take a chance on your work for one buck, three bucks, five bucks, etc. You’re not hosting a party. You’re running a lemonade stand.

So stop pissing in the lemonade and asking people to give you cash to drink it.

When an author says — I celebrate mediocrity. I celebrate half-assing things. I celebrate someone writing a book that objectively is terrible and going through the steps to make a terrible cover and a terrible blurb and publishing it and then they keep on going and write something a little better, with a better cover and a better blurb and then they keep going some more.

That’s the culture I’m talking about.

It’s a culture that scares me a little. It’s a culture that cares more about itself and its personal freedom to publish than it does about the result of that publishing. It’s a culture of me-me-me, a culture of wagon-circling, a culture that refuses to look at itself and take responsibility for what it’s putting out. It feels exploitative. It feels careless.

And it’s is not an uncommon attitude amongst author-publishers, and what it tells me is, you care about yourself as a writer but not your readers.

It tells me that you’re comfortable asking readers to pay you so that you can get better.

It tells me you have no interest in being your own gatekeeper — and, very plainly spoken, it literally says you’re not going to give this your best effort and investment.

Readers are a resource. A living, breathing resource. They’re how authors get to do what they wanna do, and the more we pile on the audience’s shoulders, the more garbage we rain on their heads, the more turned off they’re going to be. You know how many readers will tell you, “I tried a self-published book and now I won’t give them a shot?” This is true in traditional publishing, too. A reader reads a bad book by a publisher — not bad as in, I didn’t like it, but bad as in, Doesn’t meet basic standards, they’re potentially going to stop reading books by that publisher.

Asking readers to be your gatekeepers is putting a lot of responsibility on the people who are paying you. Stop saying you’re going to let the readers figure it out when it comes to sorting through what’s crap and what’s not. You need to figure that out. That’s on you.

Eventually, readers will grow tired of having to be your gatekeepers.

And they’ll ask someone else to do it for them.

I’m not advocating new gatekeepers or new barriers.

I’m advocating you as your own gatekeeper. A critic of your own work. Be an example for others. Help lift the other boats. Help other authors be great, not mediocre.

This is true in all forms of publishing.

Said it before, will say it again:

Writing is a craft, storytelling is an art, publishing is a business.

If you’re charging money for your work, you owe it to the reader to give them your best. Not your most mediocre. Not your half-assiest. Is this really that controversial?

[UPDATE: I don’t intend to be hovering around here too much today — too much to do, I’m afraid — but I will ask that folks keep it civil in the comments, or I’ll punt you into the Spam Oubliette. While I don’t agree with Emily’s post in its entirety, her points deserve fair consideration and commentary.]

251 comments

  • I’m sorry you got lashed for your views, Chuck. I think the points you made were perfectly reasonable and made total sense. What’s so wrong with wanting to maintain standards when it comes to writing books people are actually going to be buying with their own, real money?

    “I celebrate mediocrity. I celebrate half-assing things. I celebrate someone writing a book that objectively is terrible and going through the steps to make a terrible cover and a terrible blurb and publishing it and then they keep on going and write something a little better, with a better cover and a better blurb and then they keep going some more.”

    Good for you, Emily, and cheers for championing creativity. But I personally do not want to be that kind of author.

    Yes, I’ve posted a lot of my work on the internet over the years – and hell yeah, it’s a learning-curved mixed bag of embarrassing crud and stuff that’s got a lot of positive feedback. But that’s all been FOR FREE, so that I don’t have to deal with the guilt of parting people from their money under false pretenses (even if it’s only 99p.) I’ll happily give away crap for free, but I don’t want to SELL crap to people.

  • I absolutely agree with Chuck on this one. There’s no reason to purposely encourage or champion mediocrity in publishing. That would be absurd. However, just as in business, the best people ( or those who serve their markets’ needs best) will rise to the top of the heap anyway. Let’s make sure the heap is full of really good books so that the top of the heap is superb. I’d rather have to choose between awesome and really awesome books rather than mediocre and really mediocre ones.

  • Chuck, my thoughts about this post were deleted by the KBoards moderator. Since I won’t let a moderator prevent me from telling you what I want to tell you, I’ll re-post my thoughts here. (If you choose to delete it, that’s your choice, but at least you’ve read it.) ~~~ I wish you hadn’t posted this follow-up. You made strong, excellent points in your first post. This second post, however, just makes it look like your primary goal is to lash out at KBoards posters, That takes away from the power of your first post. ~~~ Say what you have to say, stand by it and be proud of it.

    • Jolie —

      Honestly, I wasn’t sure about posting this given that it serves as a direct response, but it stayed with me and I felt like it was an additional point I wanted to make. And you know, I have folks like Emily saying, “But where’s this culture you’re talking about?” when what she says is actually indicative of the culture I’m talking about.

      My point here ultimately stands in that I don’t feel like using readers as guinea pigs is fair to those readers. We have to earn our audience, not punish them.

      As with all things, YMMV.

      — c.

  • I can understand where the other author is coming from but I dont agree with her. I’m and author and a reader. From an author stand-point, I would be embarrassed and horrified to publish something mediocre or half-aased. That’s why I have friends, beta readers, and editors. I wouldn’t feel right about charging if my work wasn’t worth buying because it wasn’t the best it could be. As a reader, if an author is going to publish something and charge a fee that I decide to pay for, it better be their best otherwise I’m likely to not read their work ever again. I’ve been burned by mediocre self-pubbed work before and I won’t waste my time or money on someone’s half-assed attempt again UNLESS a friend recommends the book to me.. So they are acting like my gatekeeper. Lol

  • I agree with you, Chuck. Readers are not gatekeepers. They are arbiters of what they like though, which is nice. That helps open the market for things agents may like but don’t think they can sell to a publisher. This is of course not the same thing as readers being gatekeepers. Perhaps what the commentator was inarticulately trying to suggest is that you have to write a lot of crap before you start writing things that are good. That’s always been true, and Amazon now gives a broader forum for people to tell you to go back to the workshop for a few years. Amazon might think about having a workshop of sorts along with their other programs. Triggerstreet for scripts comes to mind.

    That would allow the reader to stay out of the equations and let writers learn how they most often do: via the input of other writers.

  • I agree with you 100%, Chuck. I reviewed self-pubbed and small press books for an ezine, and I had to stop, because I got seriously depressed ripping apart all of the terrible self-pubbed *crap* that came to me more often than not. Things that hadn’t even seen an editor, stories where even the *author* didn’t know how this or that fantasy place name should be spelled from one page, one paragraph, even one sentence to the next.

    If course all authors improve as they continue to work, but you do not charge readers good money for unpolished drafts and expect them to keep coming back for more. It is a disservice to self-publishing. It’s certainly scared me away from ever paying for a self-published work by an author I’ve never read before. You hear that, people? It’s already happening, even to people in the industry. I am fully aware there are good books out there, but I’ve been burned so many times in the course of reviewing, I’m no longer willing to take a chance when it comes to spending my money.

  • I will respectably disagree with you Chuck. It’s the first time I have, and I’m sure I’ll go back to agreeing with you again. I’m more on High Howey’s side of things. I defend the rights of anyone to publish anything they want and charge what they want for it, as long as its legal. I will defend my fellow writer’s this right, as I would defend any painter, documentary film maker, ceramic artist, cake maker, rug weaver, jewellery maker, wood carver, zines, clothing designer from making crap and selling it on Etsy.

    • January 28, 2014 at 2:46 PM // Reply

      There’s a big difference between right and responsibility, though. Sure, you have the right to publish what you want and charge what you want as long as it’s legal. But self publishing as a whole gets better if authors see themselves as having a responsibilty to their readers to provide something that meets certain standards, like a cohesive plot, competant proofreading, beta readers–and ideally, but not necessarily, a professional level of outside editing and layout.

      Can you? Sure. Should you? I think that’s the question Chuck is asking us to consider.

      • January 28, 2014 at 3:13 PM // Reply

        Yeah, exactly this. We should note that legal standards represent the *lowest* common denominator of accepted behavior.

    • I totally agree with your support of our rights to publish whatever we wish, however bad it may or may not be. But if I may pose a counter point, I didn’t get the vibe that ole Chuckles was saying they shouldn’t be allowed to publish drivel. He’s simply saying they should attempt to publish the best work they can do from all fronts. Not “take away the ability until you past the litmus test” but “hey, let’s publish the best thing we have to offer”.

      The difference to me, is some authors seem happy to publish their novels in whatever state of rough draftness it exists in. They don’t copy edit, they don’t try to make it as best as they can. They just…publish the minimal effort and want people to pay for that, assuming that as time goes on they’ll get better at writing.

      Worse still, there’s a lot of authors would will applaud that writer–who knowingly published something that wasn’t as good as they knew they could make it–simply because they published something.

      I personally don’t think that’s a healthy attitude to have. We need to at least set the bar to being the best we can be.

      The other thing that annoys me, and this isn’t directed at your comment but an in general statement while I’m up here on the ole soap box, is how downright hostile a lot of self published authors get. I’m not saying they should accept some of the shit that gets thrown their way, but could we at least all act like adults?

  • Speaking as a reader here, if I ever get the feeling that I am paying to be an author’s beta reader I will never read anything of said author again. I don’t care if you can buy all of their books for $1. My time is worth more than $1.

    I think I’m a pretty generous reader. When I like something, I share it. I have written negative reviews (not as many lately because I have so many books and have been finishing the ones that I like faster), but I try not to be nasty about it because I know what doesn’t work for me might work for someone else.

    I have read and enjoyed self published works, however, for the most part those have been from authors who have been doing this a while and employ editors. They did not get extra points from me because they published independently. They got points for putting out good work that stood up next to the other books on my favorites shelf.

    It is true – there is a lot of crap to wade through to find gold. Admitting that doesn’t mean that self publishing is bad. However, it is a big giant hurdle to overcome. Promoting mediocrity does not lower the hurdle or get anyone close to crossing it.

  • For me, it definitely comes down to: “Did I have to pay for this?” When I first got an e-reader, I dove into the self-published offerings. Free books! What’s not to love? Well, a lot. I read some really terrible stuff. I read a few really great things, things I would have happily paid for, but most of what I read was just awful. Not the kind of “doesn’t match my reading tastes” awful, but poorly written, with no sense of plot cohesiveness, no standards of spelling or grammar, and other big gaping issues.

    I didn’t really have a problem with that, because it was free. True, it wasn’t up to a certain “publish-quality” level, but it didn’t cost me anything but time, and I was free to decide exactly how much time I would give a poorly written story.

    So because I love the idea of self-publishing, and entrepreneurial endeavor in the writing fields, I started buying and reading s/p books. Yeah, they were only a few bucks, but the minute I exchanged money with them, in my mind, it created a contract that implied that the writer was saying: “Here, I’ve done everything I could do to make this worth of an exchange of money, including beta readers, editing and formatting.”

    I don’t really care that they are “only $1, what do you expect for $1 (or $3 or $5…)” What I expect is professionalism. If the writer expects to be published, an entrepreneur, a business owner, I expect that person to behave (by producing something that meets certain standards of quality,) as a professional.

    I’m a READER, therefore, I am your potential client pool, and putting out your practice stuff and asking me to pay for it, is disrespectful to your customer base, as well as disrespectful to the client pool of everyone in your profession. Let’s take that one step further, it’s disrespectful to your colleagues, because it taints the potential client pool, and reduces their ability to make money from the target market.

    So by all means, self-publish anything and everything you wish, on Amazon, on blogs, on tumblr, etc. But don’t charge for it until it meets certain professional criteria.

    All of this goes for traditionally published works too, but in that case, I (mostly) point my finger at the publishing house.

  • “There are terrible books being put out there but those authors will iterate and get better and one day will be making a lot of money.”

    Not being mean to Emily, here, but this seems a little naive, if not wilfully ignorant. The fact of the matter is, not everyone in self-publishing is going to make a lot of money. Yes, there are success stories, but they are such a small percentage of the books out there as to be almost irrelevant.

    More importantly, no matter how bad you are, there is a fair chance you will hit upon one or two people who don’t see the massive lack of quality, and will tell you that everything you do is gold. At which point you lose all motivation to get better, because That Person thinks you’re a god, so clearly the problem is just that others Don’t See Your Genius. It’s not actually a good environment for improvement.

    And I hate to be the one to bring up an author’s ‘brand’ here, but…. There are a lot of books out there. I read a lot, but I will never do more than scratch the tip of the Great Reading Iceberg. I have a finite amount of time and resources, we all do. So if I’ve already read one terrible book by an author, I’m not coming back to see if they improve next time. If you finally get good, and have no audience left, what’s the point?

  • January 28, 2014 at 2:28 PM // Reply

    I review middle grade books at reads4tweens.com and I’ve struggled with how to handle self-pub books. On one hand, I want to support indie authors, and I have discovered some really great books I would never have discovered otherwise. Also, self-pub and small press are more likely to provide me with review copies of the books, so that helps.

    However, even if I’m not paying for the books, I’ve grown wary of accepting self published books. When a book is poorly written and essentially unedited, I pay for it with my time and opportunity cost. I want to do right by an author who has taken the time to write a book and contact me about reviewing it, but I can’t in good conscience bring attention to a book that isn’t ready for public consumption. And I do feel disrespected. You think you’re doing me a favor by adding to the to-read pile that threatens to crush me under its weight? Not so much. I’m doing you a favor by reading your book and writing a review. Please have enough respect for me to send me a book that’s gone through multipe revisions, careful proofreading, and at least plenty of beta readers if you can’t afford a professional editor.

    I know a lot of reviewers have simply stopped accepting self pub books, and I can understand that. I’m not there yet, although I won’t *buy* self pub books unless they come highly recommended by someone I trust (no, somehow the seven glowing 5 star “BEST THING I EVER READ” reviews you got your friends, your writing group, and your mom to post don’t do much to convince me).

    The stuff I’ve read with typos, huge plot holes, major inconsistencies, cliched characters and situations is painful. And I get a good bit of it. I’m not a slush editor. No one pays me to slog through your attempt at writing looking for unpolished gems. I expect to get a book that’s ready for a reading audience. One that the parents who come to my site can recommend to their kids.

    The books that make me saddest are the ones with real potential. They need more work, but there’s a story worth working on there. But if you put your rough drafts out there and charge people for them or expect reviewers to spend their valuable reading time on them, you’re *losing* audience. I’m not reviewing your second book if your first was awful. I’m not buying your third and maybe much better attempt if I couldn’t read the first because it was such a mess.

    The slog wears down readers and reviewers alike. We value the time we have to read, and we feel cheated if you don’t value our time enough to give us something worth reading. It’s disrespectful to your audience, your reviewers, and your work.

  • Throughout this argument — on both sides — there seems to be a vast muddling of the disparity between Quality and Effort.

    A mediocre book can be produced at 100% effort. Which, if that’s the case, more power to you. Keep pumping stuff out at 100% steam, the quality will continue to improve.

    But the notion that it’s okay to willfully produce anything at a level below 100% and still expect money for it is pretty baffling. It’s even more absurd to expect your quality to ever rise.

  • I don’t want to be used as a guinea pig either. I’m ruthless with my reading now. I’m almost 53 and don’t have THAT much time left to waste it reading badly written books so as soon as I see mistakes or just loose writing I hit delete on my Kindle – no second chances.

    Quote for today “You only get one chance to make a first impression”

  • For Heidi. Have you read Hugh Howey’s latest? Sand. I’ve been a huge fan since I read Wool and have read all of the series so far. However, he was boasting on Facebook about how quickly he wrote Sand and I have to say, it shows. There are typos, not many but they’re there and I don’t expect them from a best selling author. I had other niggles throughout and if the book hadn’t been part of a series that I’ve been following, I may very well have hit delete. No writer is bigger than their audience.

    • Ouch.

      It does illustrate that faster is not necessarily better.

      However I suspect that if you were to bring it up you’d get the argument back that it’s only a little thing and you shouldn’t complain.

      After all, you’re only a reader. Why would you expect his best efforts when you’ve already paid for it?

      😛

  • Had to look up KBoards…. got it!
    Love the last line…Writing is a craft, storytelling is an art, publishing is a business.
    You have to publish your best. That means working that day job so you can hire the editor, book cover designer and marketing firm. And no, it’s not cheap but yeah, it’s worth it to me and my readers. You rule Chuck!

  • HOLY CRAP

    Both Points of View are trying to help new authors, new writers, new publishers. Chuck is saying that you can create anything you damn well please but if you charge money for a half-assed story you’re hurting yourself by alienating the few readers who gambled on your book and were burned AND you’re hurting all the other people who self-pub only after having taken the time to run it by “editors” or at least another warm body who can tell you to capitalize your god-damn sentences. Chuck wants to save the new writers from that alienation.”Have a friend, a mother, a coworker read that shit before you throw it into the wind” is essentially what he’s saying.

    Emily seems to want the readers to provide the feedback, put the burden on them. This is a waste of their time. The Amazon marketplace is not where you vomit your first draft, it’s not where you tweet your every waking thought, it’s not a place to post your Facebook status update. Amazon (and the others) is where you present the cleaned-up well-crafted version of your work. It’s no different than selling something at a craft fair. You present your best work, what you’re proud of. NOT a half-assed clay snowman figurine where the head is barely attached and there’s only the color yellow because ‘Oh I forgot to buy white clay and I didn’t really practice but please buy this, I tried my hardest.’

  • I can’t see how she can write “I support half-assing it” in one sentence and “do your best” in the next paragraph and not see the contradiction.

    • The difference is–

      Chuck: every player should be capable of playing in the major leagues and if they’re not, they should get off the field and leave it to those of us who are

      vs.

      Emily: play the game, have fun, do your best and it’s okay if your best is little league material.

      Not that I should be speaking for Emily, but the difference seemed pretty obvious to me.

  • Wow. I’ve got limited internet time today, too, so I’m not delving into the comments–and probably my comment on yesterday’s post details my feelings on how author-publishers should strive for excellence on two separate fronts. I mentioned there, too, how I clerk at a gift store that happens to offer my book. I recommend the experience to any writer who thinks to sell to the public. There is nothing like actually looking my prospective reader in the eyes as they hand over money for my book. Every single one of them deserves my best efforts.

  • Apply this idea to any other creative outlet and I don’t think she’d be expressing the same opinion. Take food for example. You own your own restaurant but this is your first time cooking. Someone comes in and orders a simple burger, and you cook it to the best of your know-how, but you can clearly see that it looks more like a brick of charcoal than anything else. Should you give that to your customer? No! Yes, you tried the best you could, but that doesn’t mean you should make someone pay for it and then when they don’t like it beg them to come back because you’ll get it better next time. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Would you honestly come back, try that person’s food again? Chances are no, so why are you asking others to do something you wouldn’t do yourself? Instead realize what your limits are and evaluate yourself honestly. This doesn’t mean never publishing your work, but knowing when something you make needs a bit more time before it’s ready to be sold for money. Write more, and more, and more. That’s how you get better. If you want feedback from readers then put your stuff out there for free. You can always take it down later, fix whatever needs fixing, and then when it’s ready submit it to be published. But don’t make them pay for it. Not when you know what you have isn’t a finely cooked steak, but a charred brick of meat. Your readers deserve better than that. You deserve better than that.

    • We went for different takes on the same restaurant analogy. 🙂 I do have to say, though, I think the weakness in your version is where you say “you can clearly see that it looks more like a brick of charcoal.” Most authors who are selling charcoaled bricks don’t realize that’s what they’re doing. But then, the opinion of what constitutes a charcoaled brick varies enormously by reader, too. Personally, 50 Shades of Gray–burned all the way through. Plenty of people enjoyed the reading experience anyway.

  • I like the lemonade stand analogy. But I sort of suspect the fact that most authors treat their work like gourmet cooking in a fancy restaurant instead of lemonade is why authors traditionally make so little money. You cook four-course gourmet meals with love and passion and years of training and then charge lemonade stand prices for them. The actual value of a $2.99 book is less than a Starbucks latte. Less than a McDonald’s extra value meal. A lot less than a movie at a movie theater, enormously less than an hour-long massage. Better than that — there’s a Look Inside feature so it’s like you’re giving the first course of the meal away for free. It’s a restaurant where you invite people in, feed them their appetizers, then ask anxiously if that’s good enough and if they’re willing to pay now! It’s great that you’re willing to do that, really. As a consumer, I appreciate the effort.

    But as a writer, I like to imagine that Amazon is a bake sake. I do my best to make my brownies as awesome as possible, to make them the kind of brownies that will leave you feeling completely satisfied and happy, but they’re just brownies. For $20 (hard-cover prices) the reader maybe has a right to expect movie theater level satisfaction (and how many times have you left the movie theater, thinking, god, that sucked?), but for $3, it’s a cup of coffee. Or like I said, a brownie. Sure, maybe I could make my brownies a lot more awesome by investing in fabulous chocolate or organic sugar, experimenting with gluten-free flour or salted pecans, loads of possibilities. But at the end of the day, it’s still just a brownie.

    • Okay, but is it a good brownie? Sell short stories and novellas if you like, but make them good short stories and novellas. A badly crafted novel isn’t a brownie, it’s a badly cooked four course meal. I’m not going to be happy with that even if it did only cost me $3.

      • My brownies are great, thanks. A good many people have enjoyed them and told me so. But here’s the thing: assuming minimum wage, $3 is worth about half an hour of your time, probably less. Invest the half hour and if the book’s not working for you, move on. So what? You’ve lost what you would have lost if you bought a bad coffee. And sure, you don’t go to that coffee shop anymore but you also don’t need to get all melodramatic about quality and effort and the failure of a culture that thinks playing is good enough and doesn’t understand that these are sacred words, literary precious darlings, worthy of every bit of expense and investment and soul-sacrificing hours. Because honestly, it’s just a book. It’s just a brownie.

        I do agonize over my brownies–I’m the kind of person who looked at every single hyphen in her book to decide whether they were right or not, not to mention ever single use of “then” and “than” because I had one wrong–but it doesn’t stop me from knowing that it’s just a brownie. Not every book needs to be a sacred literary endeavor, some of them can just be a few hours of fun entertainment for the audience who feels like enjoying them.

  • This woman’s comment pisses me off to no end. Sorry, honey, but ain’t no one gonna buy more books from you if you try to pass off your half-assed shlock as something worth paying for. It sounds like some type of scam. Hey, guys, let’s all sell our shitty NaNoWriMo books on Amazon for five bucks a pop! Those dumbasses will buy anything with a leather-clad vampire on the cover! YAY US!.

  • Hi everyone, Emily Cantore here, the quoted author who celebrates mediocrity and half-assing it. I wrote a bit more on kboards yesterday and I think it might highlight the essential problem I have with what Chuck is proposing. To quote myself:

    “It’s like Chuck is pretending that samples don’t exist. Or reviews. Or the famously lenient return policy of Amazon and others. Goodreads doesn’t exist. Nor Facebook. Nor a thousand-and-one book review blogs focussing on every genre. Nor reader groups for every genre that read and recommend to each other.

    Apparently in Chuck’s world, readers plunk down their money and then take great risk at getting something terrible. A low-quality book that they had absolutely no way of assessing if it was low quality before they bought it. The reader then suffers great harm – they lose their time reading and their money.

    It’s like Chuck is pretending the biggest and greatest recommendation engine the world has ever seen, the one on which he publishes his blog, doesn’t exist.

    Writers can’t iterate in public because that shows great disdain to the readers.

    The “culture” of self-publishing can’t say “yes, you’ll get better over time”.

    Chuck himself is iterating in public. His work is getting better over time. It would be extremely foolish to say he has disdain for his readers simply because he has become a better writer over time.

    Yet he appears he wants to discourage others from iterating in public. There is some grave risk here to readers. He must have access to some secret facts about the financial harm that comes to the reading public from wasting money on poor-quality books.

    Or… the internet does actually exist. On it we have Goodreads. Facebook. Reviews. We can sample. We can have friends read the entire book and recommend it to us.

    The good goes to the top. The bad stays at the bottom. The middle stays in the middle.

    Encouraging people to join a creative pursuit and iterate is a wonderful thing. It happens in all other facets of creative life. The musician starts out at highschool and trying to busk on a street corner. Just because money is involved we don’t say that the street-corner busker should be attempting to be better than a rock-star on a stadium tour. That street-corner busker may one day become the stadium touring superstar but it is outright wrong to tell that musician that their “c+” effort shows great disdain to those who might hear them.

    I could go on. Painting. Dancing. Acting.

    Iterating in public. All getting money at various levels. All improving in public and encouraged to do so.

    Oh, but not writing books. No, not that. You must become better in private and not dare try to sell your work for a single penny until you can compete on a professional level.

    Don’t you dare put out your book without a $400 cover. What? You used a $300 cover designer? Why not $500 or $1000? Why do you have such disdain for your readers? Are you seriously telling me you only spent $280 on editing? How dare you put out something so mediocre into the market.

    We can make up all kinds of artificial standards of what is acceptable to enter the “selling words for money”. In the past, Chuck would have never been published for the content of his own work. Yet here he is, constructing standards for people attempting to enter the market.”

    ****
    End quote.

    Chuck has said: “It tells me that you’re comfortable asking readers to pay you so that you can get better. It tells me you have no interest in being your own gatekeeper — and, very plainly spoken, it literally says you’re not going to give this your best effort and investment.”

    — Well, I guess on the weekend when I gave fifty cents to those two kids who were at the market playing violins (and honestly they were mediocre) that what I should have done was told them to go home and iterate in private before they dare to stain my eardrums with their discordant music.

    I guess when I went to that craft market and bought a cup that is a bit wonky but I find the pattern on it interesting that I shouldn’t have done that but rather told them to go home and iterate in private.

    I guess when I look at *every single creative profession* and see that they all iterate in public and all charge money at every level that I should join Chuck and say that they obviously and literally are not giving their music, painting, writing, coffee mug, woven basket, et al their very best effort and investment.

    But I can’t do that. The reality of this world is that people get out there and try to make a bit of money at every level and simply asking for money does not mean you must be competing at the top of your game. That rock band in a bar that I paid $4 to see had one good song in my opinion – perhaps they should go home and iterate in private some more. Perhaps we should extinguish entirely any creative effort that does not compete at the top level? Man, I paid $2 to see a play put on by five year olds! It was terrible! Can you believe those kids screwed me out of my money? They really needed to go home and iterate in private some more. How dare they ask for $2.

    Artists iterate and get better over time. Their initial efforts are not as good as their later efforts but it does not mean some grave crime has been committed because they put out a book where the ending flopped or a song that isn’t that awesome or a painting that has some perspective problems.

    Essentially, I believe Chuck’s central thesis is: if you charge money for art, there must be a minimum standard. His reason for this is that there is apparently some great harm occurring that must be stopped. Some financial harm perhaps or maybe (in the case of books) people read a terrible book and stop reading or maybe they see an average play and never see a play again? I’m not really sure what harm it is that Chuck is trying to prevent here.

    My central thesis is this: all artists iterate in public. If you produce poor quality art then it will sink like a stone and that’s the extent of it. There aren’t thousands of people being fooled and taken advantage of and somehow duped into handing over bundles of cash for poor quality art.

    But artists do iterate and they get better and charging money as you iterate is not a crime. Chuck is charging money right now for his work – and yet, he’s getting better over time. Should we say that he has caused some great harm because his earlier work that we paid for isn’t as good as his later work? Or do we recognize that he is iterating in public and no one should stand in the way of that?

    Publishing is not some holy act. Readers are not fools or little lambs to be protected. We have a thousand ways to filter out the bad and promote the good.

    Show me the harm that comes from people writing and publishing mediocre books. Or making mediocre art.

    I bought a mediocre book once. It was terrible so I clicked return and got back my ninety-nine cents. I guess if Chuck was in charge I’d have been saved that absolutely horrific experience that I still suffer PTSD over to this day…

    • Emily, I’ve got a lot of problems with your argument here.

      1. If you pay 50 cents to some bad street musicians after hearing them that is nothing like paying for a book ahead of reading it. You had the full experience of the art and no obligation to pay.

      2. If you pay for a wonky cup that you like the design of you again are making a choice based on full knowledge of the product you are buying. This is never the case with a book unless you get to read the whole thing and then pay.

      3. Paying things like $4 to see a band at a bar is almost surely not taking the same time commitment as reading a book. Also, most people are probably sharing that experience with others (and alcohol or food) and thus have all kinds of other things going into the experience other than just the band.

      4. A play by five year olds? Come on. I think everyone knows damn well the quality they’re going to get with that and I don’t think anyone is paying to see such a thing without some kind of family connection to at least one of the kids involved.

      My point here is none of your comparisons stand up because all of those examples (excepting the bar band, where there is more involved in the experience than the band anyway and, now that I think of it, a bar band is more like traditionally publishing anyway because there is a gatekeeper – who ever books for the bar – that is the first line of defense between the cover charge paying customer and the artists) are completely different sort of experience than buying a book.

      You say samples and excerpts and other people spending their money to read and tell you if it’s any good, but none of those things is the same as knowing for sure what you are getting before paying. You say Amazon has a return policy, but I’m pretty sure most authors rightly loath the idea of readers being able to return a digital book. (Man is that ever open to abuse) Further, the fact is that even when they are dissatisfied most customers don’t return things. That’s why so many companies provide money back guarantees. They know very few customers will ever take them up on it.

      And then we come to the culture problem I think Chuck was trying to get at. You bought a mediocre book once and returned it. If that books author showed up on Kboards or somewhere else you frequent talking about having put out said book would you congratulate them, say good job! Great for you! Or would you say: “Hey, that’s great. You know, a lot of supposed writers never even finish a book. But I’ve got to be honest with you.I think this book is not doing you any favors by being out for sale. You should definitely keep writing and put out more books, but you might want to consider taking this one back out of the public eye.”

      It’s also telling author-publishers “Hey, before you click publish you should really get yourself some good beta-readers (the kind who will be honest!) and look into some editing services (affordable, sure, but something) before you click publish.” Instead of Just write and publish and then write and publish more! Don’t worry if it’s not that good, you’ll get better!

      • Hey Jeff, this will be a quick answer as I’m hungry and need some foods.

        The examples I gave were all of artists iterating in public for money. Not for free, as Chuck suggests writers do (he gave the examples of blogs, Wattpad, etc).

        My position is that all artists iterate in public at some point and they do ask for money and this is fine. His position is that it is not.

        In regard to my returning the poor-quality book and what if that author turned up to KBoards – the policy over there is unless someone asks for a critique, you don’t give it to them. If someone says “my book isn’t selling – why not?” then go for it.

        I have done so many times (not just on kboards and not just under this name).

        I invite you to visit kboards and have a look at the topics there: http://www.kboards.com/index.php/board,60.0.html

        In addition to the post discussing Chuck’s blog post that started this discussion, there are thirty-five other threads on the front page.

        I see someone asking for American English phrase help, a new author who just published asking what to do next, a cover image question, someone asking about senior citizen specific genres, a January sales thread, someone asking where to cash Amazon cheques, someone posting about quitting indie publishing, someone talking marketing, an erotica author talking about their 100 titles and results, someone talking pricing…

        Do you know what I don’t see? I don’t see a single person saying “don’t try hard. Just publish crap and who cares about the reader”. I invite you and everyone else on this thread to take a read of kboards. It’s certainly not the source of Chuck’s assertions (unless he’s visiting threads I’m unaware of).

        I go to pretty much all the places self-publishers hang out and I don’t see the attitudes that supposedly exist. This is why I ask for proof. I just want a link or three.

        • “Do you know what I don’t see? I don’t see a single person saying “don’t try hard. Just publish crap and who cares about the reader”. I invite you and everyone else on this thread to take a read of kboards. It’s certainly not the source of Chuck’s assertions (unless he’s visiting threads I’m unaware of). I go to pretty much all the places self-publishers hang out and I don’t see the attitudes that supposedly exist. This is why I ask for proof. I just want a link or three.”

          My first visit to kboards, and I saw this quote:

          “I celebrate half-assing things.”

          Half-assing, by definition, is not trying hard. It is not trying your best. It is not being professional.

          But I understand there are probably a lot of people on kboards, so you probably have never seen this person on there before. So to help you out, here’s the link: http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,176716.msg2493617.html#msg2493617

          And as further help, this person posts under the username “emilycantore.”

          Wow…that name sounds awfully familiar…

        • Emily,

          I pursued (quickly, I admit!) kboards a little and what I saw a lot of was the encouragement (admonishment even!) to write and publish as fast as possible. Just as you and others seem to have interpreted Chuck’s comments as the sort that might put up barriers and scare people away from self-pub, whether he intended to or not, so do I interpret that kind of advice as supporting the idea that people should care more about getting their work out then getting their work to a high quality before getting it out. Sure, people may not be saying that explicitly (just as Chuck has not explicitly told anyone not to self-pub) it does encourage people to publish what may not be (and probably wouldn’t be) their best work.

          The advice is probably good from a business point of view. Undoubtedly having more books out and putting them out with a high frequency will produce more income in most cases. But aiming for the best income generating practice is not the same as aiming for the best quality of work. I doubt most authors can put out 3-6 good books a year and certainly almost none at the beginning of their careers. But when a new writer goes to kboards and sees everyone telling them that quantity, quantity, quantity is the road to success it surely encourages them to think less about the quality of their books than they maybe should. The message seems clear to me: filling up your shelves with product is far more important than making a good product.

          Other places I see the attitude (not explicitly stated of course) is in the twitter accounts and tumblrs that provide free promotion for any self-published work. It’s in the self-published authors who follow every self-pub author they can find on twitter, but only if those author’s follow them back, and then never talk about craft – they just tweet and retweet links to their books at each other.

    • try saying that to a professional busker. all artists, all craftsmen, all creators practice their art in private before presenting their work in public. most take classes, study masters, and take many years to hone their skills. one does not don a tu-tu after watching a performance of Swan Lake and instantly expect to make a living as a dancer. one does not lace up a pair of skates for the first time and immediately join an NHL hockey team.
      when a kindergarden class charges a $2 admission to their play they are raising money for a cause, not being paid as actors. as a life-long crafter and frequent attendee of craft shows and festivals, i can state decisively that poor workmanship does not sell. amateurs of any stripe are not paid for their work, publicly displayed or not.
      expecting to be paid for your work implies that you are a professional, and thereby demands professionalism. by all means practice your art in public if you wish. just don’t expect me to pay for it.
      chuck charges for his books because he has spent many years learning and practicing his craft. his fiction is well worth the price paid. he puts work and time and effort into making his work the best it can be, in private, with the aid of other professionals, before presenting it to the public and expecting to be paid, whether self-published or traditional. and of course he is still improving. everyone is. otherwise, what is the point of anything?

  • Oh the Internet. The place where no matter how innocuous your comment, you’ll still manage to piss people off. You could say “I like puppies” and people will come back with “FUCK PUPPIES AND FUCK YOU, YOU NAZI PIECE OF SHIT!”

    I’m self-published and proud of it. But I work hard at my craft. I have my work checked by editors and I put my all into either designing quality covers or hiring someone to do it for me, and that’s how it should be. Is my work perfect? Hell no, no one’s is. But it’s the best that I can make it, and that’s how it should be.

    Plus, how does Emily reconcile these two contradictory points?

    “I celebrate half-assing things.”

    “No one will argue that you shouldn’t try as hard as possible…”

    Well, actually someone IS arguing that you shouldn’t try as hard as possible, and that person is Emily Cantore. You should probably debate her in a mirror.

    It’s one thing if you’ve wrote and rewrote your book, then sent it off to beta-readers and editors and then rewrote it again, then put it out there. If you do that and it’s still terrible, I’ve got no problem, because you’re putting out your best effort. But when you finish your first draft and upload it to Kindle or Kobo without even a second glance, then slap a 99¢ price-tag on it, then I’ve got a problem.

    If you bought a chair from a carpenter and it fell apart the moment you sat on it because the carpenter didn’t put the legs on properly, would you just shrug and say, “well it’s a first effort, he’ll get there some day”? Hell no. Why should it be any different with books? And again, that’s not the same as the quality of the story, because that can be very subjective. But if you’ve got a character named John for the first half of the book and in the second his name suddenly changes to Mike without any explanation, if you’ve got typos and punctuation errors, if you’ve got crappy formatting, then you are asking your readers to pay for an inferior product.

    That’s what half-assing it means. Half-assing is for the first draft, when you’re just word-vomiting the story up. But when you publish that book for readers, when you ask people to pay money for it, then you have a responsibility to put out the best product possible. Now, I hate to put words in Chuck’s mouth, but I’m pretty sure that’s what he was saying in both this post and the previous one.

    Sure, you CAN publish your half-assed version. You can also go up to random strangers and politely tell them to go fuck themselves then ask them for a dollar (because that’s basically what you’re doing when you publish half-assed books). But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. When you do that, then you’re not doing anybody any favors—you’re telling your readers that you don’t give a crap about them, but what’s worse is that you’re also perpetuating the idea that self-published authors are inept and unprofessional. If you want to sabotage your own career, that’s your business—but don’t poison the well for the rest of us.

  • It’s true that every artist “iterates in public” if she’s worth her salt, because she’s always trying to improve and will likely do so with each work. But that doesn’t mean she should start by publishing crap and move up. Self-pubbed authors owe it to themselves and readers – and, especially, other self-pubbed authors – to present the most professional book possible to the public. Will any of us look back and wish we’d done more with that first book or two? Probably. But if the titles are professionally published, there should be no regrets. I have selfish reasons to want other folks to have good writing, pro editing and quality covers. I want to be considered a professional, and if most of the self-pubbed stuff is garbage, we all start to stink a little.

    I have seen a lot of indie authors who may be decent writers but settle for “good enough” when it comes to editing and covers, and the books scream “amateur.” There are so many great places online to learn – not to mention conventional classes, conferences and books – that there’s really no excuse for half-assing it, to use the phrase of the day. I encourage writers to take pride in their work, take their time, spend a little money for expert help if needed (a cover, by the way, doesn’t have to cost $400) and do it right. If we want to be compared favorably with traditional publishing, and reap comparable rewards, it’s the only way.

  • I don’t celebrate mediocrity. I do celebrate effort and guts. There are valid points on all sides of this debate. How can anyone not come across as trying to stifle creativity if they argue for some kind of standards and gatekeeping in self publishing?

    I want to support indie authors but I don’t want to be their gatekeeper.

    If there were a place readers could find the best self published books, with quality (far) beyond “spell checked”, books that could confidently stand beside good, traditionally published books, I think that would help. With a *reliable* source for high quality self-published books, readers looking for excellence would have a place to do so and those who wanted to take a chance on new indie authors still honing their craft could continue to do so, as well. Win win?

    • Where is this reliable source you speak of? I’ve visited several sites that attempt to do this but there’s always something a bit off about it. A bit… snooty? So I’m still looking. The indie scene needs this. And whoever can figure out how to do it right is going to be rich.

      • Exactly. I have found no reliable source. In fact, I purchased an indie book recently from a “best of” list on a site that is supposed to highlight the best of indies. So, the best of the best, how could I go wrong?

        Despite the lack of egregious spelling and grammatical errors, the book clearly needed a good substantive editor. It wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t even as good as a mediocre trad pubbed book.

        • There’s a site that does this based on cover alone. I advertised with them not long ago and noticed they only seem to feature indie books with high quality covers.Traditionally published books are mixed in. Indies are on equal footing because the indies featured look just as good as the big pub ones. I felt proud to have my book up there. It’s hard to know if the content of the other books was professional without checking each one out on Amazon, but the covers certainly were. The site is freediscountedbooks.com if anyone’s interested. (This is not a plug–I have no connection to this site other than advertising with them once.)

          • The covers do look professional. No idea what the content is like. Also, this site looks as if it is only for ebooks that are .99 cents or less, which leaves out anyone who wants to charge more than a dollar for their work.

  • It is nice of Emily to comment here, but she doesn’t appear to have read any of the comments, or is completely disregarding all of the people saying, “yes, this has put me off self-published books,” because it doesn’t support her thesis.

    It also appears she is dissatisfied with what Chuck has written. Maybe he should have charged her $1 so she could just return it and go on her merry way.

  • I’m a self-published author. I love self-publishing. I believe in self-publishing. The creative control it offers is priceless, and I think self-publishing is a huge chance for authors to get some truly innovative stuff out there (although this would be truer if more authors were willing to move beyond the same bestseller-chasing mentality that limits the Big Six/Five/Whatever).

    But I read fewer and fewer self-published books these days.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read some amazing self-published books. Not “good for a self-published book” (a phrase I think should be abolished – it’s either a good book or it’s not), but genuinely, astoundingly good. (And some of them have had some god-awful covers. In my experience, cover quality has zero correlation with book quality, which I probably should have expected – shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, after all – but didn’t.) But I’m tired of the gamble. I’m tired of reading trunk novels. I’m tired of being somebody’s guinea pig. I’ll happily beta-read for an author friend, but I don’t want to pay to beta-read a book that’s been advertised as a professional product.

    Don’t get me wrong, traditionally-published books are a gamble, too – I’ve read some traditionally-published books that are every bit as bad as the worst self-published books I’ve read (and paid a lot more for the privilege). But traditional publishing has a larger ratio of good books to bad ones, and more and more often I find myself more willing to lose the money than the time.

    I know a lot of self-published authors who are committed to putting out their best work. I’m friends with them. I work with them. I cross-promote with them. But I’ve learned the hard way (and not just by reading less-than-professional books, but by listening to what some of their authors have to say about publishing) that not every self-published author is like this.

    (I don’t think it necessarily has much to do with how much an author pays for editing, either. I’ve read good self-published books that have never been touched by an outside editor, and awful self-published books whose authors thank two or three different editors in the acknowledgements.)

    I still actively hunt for good self-published books. All things considered, I would rather read a good self-published book than a good traditionally-published book, because I believe in what self-publishing can do. But it takes a lot to get me to try one. I’m as ruthless as a literary agent sifting through the slush pile when I’m trying to decide whether to buy a book these days. And I’ve probably passed up some good books because the bad ones have left me so cautious.

  • Hi everyone,

    Yes, I have read all the comments here. Wonderful debate! Great stuff.

    Yes, I see that some people say they have been turned off self-publishing books by having bad experiences.

    I draw from that point that they want or wish there were some kind of minimum standard or a gate or a barrier or *something* that could have prevented that bad experience. Maybe an editor or a fee to publish or perhaps having it pounded into the brains of every self-pubber out there that they needed to try harder.

    What form would such a barrier take? Should it be money to upload a book? Or should there be an editor at Amazon who has to click “approve”?

    If you have had that terrible experience that turned you off self-published books forever, what has been the outcome? Indie eBooks are still eating the market. I guess you’re just reading tradpub books now and not having poor quality experiences. Or perhaps you are – I know I’ve had many a poor quality experience thanks to tradpub.

    What great harm is it that you wish to prevent? If we look at the sales figures, the indie market is growing rapidly. It really is eating the market wholesale and there are millions of readers out there who love their indie authors who are writing things tradpub wouldn’t allow or couldn’t sell.

    The big question I want to pose is this: what way do you think it should be? Right now anyone who is literate and has a bank account, a computer, something to produce a word doc and an image can write and publish a book. I think this is wonderful and right and no one should attempt to smash down anyone who wants to try.

    What way do you think it should be if it is not this way? Should people have to pay $100 to upload a book? Should there be editors?

    Given we have reviews, easy return policies, sales rankings, Goodreads, Facebook and other social media, recommendations from friends and our brains (very useful for determining if something is, in fact, shit) do we not have enough to allow us to assess quality?

    So tell me – what way should it be?

    • Emily,

      I don’t think anyone is proposing there be more barriers to self-publishing. What is being proposed (as I understand it anyway) is that the author-publish community consider being more critical of itself.

      Writing is awesome and writing a book is something deserving of congratulations. It’s a great accomplishment. Self-Publishing is not. As you yourself keep saying the bar to publishing a book is very, very low. It seems like too many in the the author-publisher community have placed all the focus (worship almost) on the act of publishing, when it should perhaps be the act of writing that gets the praise.

      Writing is art. Publishing is not.

      Publishing is business and no one deserves accolades for making bad business decisions. As others have said, just because someone is allowed to publish crap doesn’t mean they should. Nor should they be encouraged to.

      So that’s the thing I think is being asked here. Don’t promote and congratulate and cheer on every self-published book. Don’t encourage people to publish anything and everything they’ve written. Encourage them to publish after they’ve taken at least some basic steps to ensure they’re publishing their work at the best quality it can be. I think that should mean they’ve had other people (who can be trusted to give fair criticism) read it and someone has at least done a copy edit on it for them. And never, never celebrate or encourage someone to publish a half-ass effort.

    • At no point have I suggested barriers. Or new gatekeepers. Or me with a baton cracking skulls.

      When I worked at the library, I worked in part with marketing and outreach to under-served communities. Elderly, blind, disabled, transgender, what-have-you. And one of the documents that my department prepared year after year was a document called “Best Practices.”

      This document was in no way a regulatory document. It wasn’t something you’d uphold. No court. No rules. Not like someone passed a law and we were the mechanism for delivering it. We were simply curators across multiple library systems local and nationwide for compiling, in essence, a document of Good Ideas.

      Again, Best Practices. “Do this, Don’t do this, Try this. Here are the challenges in the 21st century, here are the solutions to these old problems,” etc. etc.

      I don’t see a lot of Best Practices on display with self-publishing.

      I don’t see a lot of inward-looking. Maybe I’m just not looking hard enough, but I’ll say that so far what I see right now on the kboards forum devoted to this post is pretty spot-on to the concerns I’d have regarding not the practice as much as the culture surrounding the practice.

      What I’m advocating is not a critical look at individual authors by other authors. Nor am I advocating some new goblin to serve as gatekeeper. I’m advocating dialing up the critical eye with which we approach the overall culture of self-publishing and, more to the point, pointing that critical eye toward ourselves as creators and curators.

      Self-publishing culture does not take well to criticism. As evidenced by this entire conversation. That’s a problem. That suggests that things aren’t going to change and, over time, market share will decrease, not increase. The point is that we can all do better for ourselves, our culture, and most of all, our readers. It’s not about saying how bad things are, but asking: how can we make them better?

      I’ve said elsewhere, but I’ll repeat it now:

      I think we’re approaching or are in a Third Wave of publishing. First Wave would be when you had to use a vanity press or had to get a printer to print your books. Second Wave emerged with the digital explosion. Third Wave is proof-of-concept, but it’s also a wave that’s going to be subject to more scrutiny and criticism. Criticism from within as well as without.

      And criticism is not gatekeeping.

      Criticism is not anybody putting up barriers.

      Criticism isn’t just bad reviews, by the way. It’s a big long look at the way things are done and how they can be done better.

      If self-publishing really is in a place where it’s equal to traditional publishing, then it’s going to need to put on its Adult Pants and stop circling wagons anytime it perceives the tiniest offense. Your mileage may vary, and I can guess that you disagree, and that is, of course, your right. I’m just spouting off and you can choose to use or discard the ideas I’m laying down.

      — c.

      • Maybe this is the shortest way to understanding your points: what forums, blogs, websites, conventions, etc, are you spending your time to form your opinions of self-publishing. Reddit? Absolute Write? Do you have some links I can check out?

        Because when I read “Publish your first effort — it’s okay that it has errors, as long as people buy it! Who cares about readers as long as I’m satisfying myself?” as your description of some part of self-publishing culture I don’t know where you get that from.

        Is it a direct quote? Or have you read varieties of this idea and this is just your summary? If it’s the first then link away. If it’s the latter then even better – you have multiple places to direct me to.

        So this is really what I’m talking about. I outright dispute your description of self-publishing culture. I don’t see it on kboards or AW or Reddit or any other place. This is why I say “strawman”.

        I’d love to know where you gathered all those points (prior to the thread that people are now claiming is proof).

        • Emily, I’m only a single data point, but I am a real, and avid reader, who left kboards, and no longer reads s/p books, due to the atmosphere on kboards of “just get it out there and don’t worry about readers, you can always upload an edited copy later.” I had many discussions on kboards about how disrespectful this is to the potential customer pool and other writers who take professionalism seriously.

          I read a lot of s/p books, dozens. Some of the people who said, “just publish, don’t worry about the readers,” well, I’ve not only read their books, and found some of them to be just awful, but I see they are still on kboards, some in the referenced thread, screaming that standards are irrelevant those nasty gatekeeperses.

          I don’t want to read the amateur “iterations.” Don’t “iterate” on me. I want the finished product. I want you to care enough about me as a reader, to not only spellcheck and format your novel, but also to expend the time and energy (and maybe money if that’s what it takes,) to find qualified beta readers and editors before you CHARGE me for your product.

          If these standards are too high, and you just want to iterate on me, then iterate for free until you’ve iterated yourself into some level of professionalism.

          When I was a heavy user of kboards, I also did quite a bit of beta reading. Some people were delightful to work with, open to my suggestions regarding plot holes, problematic character development, and flow. Others were indignant when I read their books and made suggestions that were any more critical than “it was ah-may-zing! Publish now! Don’t wait, you’re a genius!” Guess which ones are still on kboards saying “just get it out there! *cheer*cheer*cheer*” (paraphrased.)

          Because of that “iterating,” I will not read s/p. Yes, I am a single reader who is not buying what you’re selling, but how many like me are out there? Can you say for sure that all of the unexamined (unedited) self-publishers have had zero impact on YOUR earning potential? Because from where I’m standing, I can see where you are facing tangible financial loss due to all the people who now say “I will never read another s/p book.”

        • No, nobody said that exact quote — I would’ve assumed it safe to call what I said hyperbolic, particularly for those who read my blog. That said, the sentiment is one I’ve seen plenty, whether it’s at Reddit or kboards or in the forums of Passive Voice (a blog I love, though the commenters sometimes drive me batty).

          DWS said:

          ‘My early covers sucked, and we had some formatting issues. Some of those early ones have been changed, some haven’t. Who cares? I’ll get to them eventually. Or someone at WMG will get them fixed. But if I had worried about every detail, about the covers being perfect, about every word spelled exactly right, and so on, WMG Publishing might only have twenty-five books up and be years from making a living. Get the title published. Fix problems that arise later.’

          More from DWS:

          ‘Of course, for the beginning writer, the first book just isn’t very good most of the time. Duh, it’s a first novel. It might be great, but it also might be crap. (Let me refer you back to Algis Budrys’ comment.) More than likely the first book is flawed beyond rescue, but the writer won’t know that, and the first reader won’t be able to help “fix” anything besides typos and grammar.

          So, what is the new writer to do at this point with a finished novel????

          Simple. Mail it to editors or indie publish it yourself.

          That’s right, I said, “Mail it or publish it.”’

          Seen at: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?page_id=860

          (I see his posts referenced sometimes at kboards with folks who are doing things like releasing a cavalcade of books or stories in X period of time.)

          Then a kboards forum from when I referenced the other week how I’m glad I didn’t have the chance to self-publish my early novels:

          ‘Besides, so what if your story sucks and you self-publish it? Who is going to come to your house and beat you up? No one. If it sucks, no one will even read it besides your friends and family (and maybe not even them). Eventually you’ll have another book and another. You can always take it down later. I don’t buy the “tsunami of crap” meme. So don’t sweat it.’

          ‘There’s too many indie authors success stories that I’ve read who didn’t have the “right” covers, who had plenty of typos and who broke every one of the “rules.” They just did…instead of didn’t. A lot of what becomes popular is about the trends and luck. But another good portion of it is marketing.’

          And of course what I’ll do is click through a lot of the covers at kboards and I find a mixed bag — not preferentially mixed like, “Oh, this isn’t for me,” but, “Wow, this has a lot of errors.” Really amateurish stuff. Sometimes that stuff is selling okay, sometimes well, sometimes not at all.

          Though right now the easiest example of the kind of culture I’m talking about is in the forum thread about these two posts. I started out feeling very positive about indie publishing, and actually, I think my two posts are ultimately positive and encouraging. I did not leave that forum thread feeling encouraged. I felt beaten down and disturbed by the ugliness there. I remain believing that self-publishing has changed the face things and is increasingly an interesting and compelling option for authors. But like with a lot of things, while I’m enamored with the practice, I’m less enamored with the practitioners.

          That said, folks like Brenna Aubrey give me a lot of hope when she says things like:

          “Self publishing is a business and it should be treated as such. It is not a hobby. And most of all, it is NOT for everybody. And it shouldn’t be for everybody. Some people just want to write and hand over the rest of the work to someone else. More power to them. We all have our different paths to reach our readers. It’s an exciting time to be an author (and, for that matter, a reader!)

          And I agree that we shouldn’t wish for traditional publishing to go away. We need the traditional publishers. We just need them to adapt to the changing publishing climate quicker than they are currently doing. I sincerely hope they do adapt.”

          That tells me some folks get it and see the real potential here. It brings me back to center and reminds me that the stuff I’m saying isn’t that off-base.

          Good luck, Emily, and thanks for coming by to talk about this.

          — Chuck

  • For many self pub authors I believe the finished book itself is the goal. Like running a marathon, they just want to prove to themselves that they can do it, and good for them, but nobody should pay money to see my tubby ass cross that finish line.

  • Employees in other fields get paid while they suck – apprentice tradies, for instance, get a pittance while they work their way up to being a hairdresser or sparkie. I love that you want to have high standards, but why do writers have to selflessly starve in an attic while they hone their craft?

    • Well yes… but if they keep on sucking they don’t get promoted, do they? And if they do something that MAJORLY sucks (i.e. could get the boss slapped with a lawsuit) they tend to get fired.

  • I’m having to be wrong. Yes, I’m strange like that.

    What I, personally, would like to see, is people encouraged to make use of as many beta readers as they can find, as well as experienced, professional editors. This doesn’t have to mean top-dollar, big city people no one can afford. Just some sort of attempt at polishing out the rough edges, some fresh eyes to see the incomplete paragraphs that resulted when the author deleted something and never filled it back in. These things are generally given things, things readers have come to expect from published works, particularly if they’re paying for them. I think to not do these things is highly unprofessional, and I think that’s what Chuck has been saying, as well.

  • Chuck (and everyone else in this hot debate),

    I totally heard you, and I simply hate it for those that missed your point regarding professionalism.

    Stand by your readers and give them the best book possible – regardless of your choice of publication.

    For me, the goal is a quality product that entertains, holds interest, and maybe makes somebody smile, or even cheer at the character arc. I am my own Gatekeeper and I intend to get this craft right!!

  • January 28, 2014 at 7:04 PM // Reply

    So, I can’t help but feel that this statement:

    “You should apply standards of professionalism, for what you value that to mean, to any work which you seek to publish and ask for money, even if you publish it yourself.”

    is being confused for this statement:

    “Writers should starve themselves until they can afford to play for keeps.”

    and/or for this statement:

    “Writers should not publish until they’ve jumped through a series of delineated hoops.”

    I’m not sure the discussion can continue in good faith until that confusion ends, despite the valiant efforts being made here.

  • While I mostly agreed with both these posts (and 110% agree with the premise “it can be better” about anything, always)… Playing a very narrow devil’s advocate, & giving more benefit of the doubt than I think is due, lets assume that no one kboard comments etc. is *actually* advocating half-assing their work because as a creator that would be a ridiculous thing to do — It sounds to me like what a lot of self publishing writers are saying, is that they’d prefer self publishing to be the “minor leagues.” And honestly I do sometimes love me a good minor league in art.

    YMMV of course, but things like zines & sample tapes back in the Land Before (my)Time and Deviant Art/YouTube/Blogs today are creative spaces that can solidly tolerate a range of professionalism & still help “float all boats”. For the right audience (patient as get out, usually tiny) and right creator (good with criticism, not wanting to make money), I personally think “creative minor leagues” can actually kind of rock. And honestly, it might be easier for people to get readers for their novel if publish them and charge $0.99 than if they offered the book out for free.

    That said. Novels are really their own animal in terms of distribution strategy. They have a relatively low bar of entry for a writer and a relatively high one for the audience — Which makes placing the audience as “gatekeeper” a fundamentally different dynamic than, say, YouTube.

    I think where this is so contentious is that there non-professional creators wanting engagement on their work, and *highly* professional creators who have mortgages to meet distributing content on platforms where the former mode actively undercuts the latter.

    And also in *what universe* is saying that if you are charging real money for a product, you should at least TRY to put out something that is fairly professional a controversial idea. COME ON! 😉

    TLDR : It would be cool if self publishing ACTUALLY had a “minor” and “major” league, then everyone could be happy and fart sunshine bubbles… But also, dude, value your freaking work.

  • Emily, the point is that if one is taking up art, one ought to do good work before asking for money for it. it’s an ideal to be sure, but one that I think the self-publishing world doesn’t always adhere to. There is too much of the quick buck mentality and speed mentality going on for novice authors to reliably improve. It isn’t about typos and errors, it is about prose, narrative and character.

    It’s nice that everyone gets a shot. I will be self-publishing my own novel soon, but I wouldn’t ask money for it, or expect to get money for it, if I hadn’t been developing my craft for the last ten years in various venues that I was not paid for.

    The problem, as I see it, is that too many people see this as the short cut to what they want. that doesn’t encourage better writing. Reviews can vary wildly and are not the same thing as a workshop. Certainly, there is bad art to be found in all professional venues, but it is rarely encouraged in those venues to put out art that is half-assed as if it were worth money. Say what you will about bad traditional books, most of them are at least competent. There are certainly exceptions. The issue here is how the quick fix takes away the need to strive for better craft skills. if you go online and make a bit of money writing drek, you aren’t likely to be inspired to get better. To be fair, I just read the initial work of a self-published author and a much later work. This individual makes a good deal of money and landed a traditional deal. The prose has not improved between several books.

    Yes, this happens in traditional publishing, but you have to at least be at a certain bar before you can coast. i suspect most true writers won’t fall victim to the quick fix and will continue to improve. But it does offer a way for the hobbyist and amateur to become a professional without doing work to improve their craft. That ought to be of some mild concern to any fan of good fiction.

  • “The big question I want to pose is this: what way do you think it should be? Right now anyone who is literate and has a bank account, a computer, something to produce a word doc and an image can write and publish a book. I think this is wonderful and right and no one should attempt to smash down anyone who wants to try.”

    You accused Chuck of straw man arguments in your kboards post, but here you are making a straw man argument—no one is saying people who want to try should be smashed down. What’s being said is that people who want to publish should take it seriously and should put forth their best effort. That means proofreading. That means editing. That means beta-reading.

    With these stats you keep mentioning, are they distributed evenly? Who are the indie writers who are making the highest profits? Is it the ones who half-ass their work, the ones who don’t bother editing their book, who throw up a cover that looks like it was composed in MS Paint? Or is it the ones who put the time and effort to make sure their book is the best it can be?

    This isn’t about setting up gatekeepers—nowhere did Chuck say anything like that. This is about writers taking their craft seriously, it’s about self-discipline.

  • “For Heidi. Have you read Hugh Howey’s latest?”

    Nope, but if you bought it on Amazon and didn’t like it you can return it no questions asked. Same as Kobo. I don’t really see what all of the fuss is.

  • I will not publish a garbage manuscript just because I wrote it. I will work hard to improve my skills as an author and write more. The experience of writing is what develops my art as a story teller. I wouldn’t trade a garbage manuscript for anything because it taught me many things I needed to learn. But, I’ll be damned if I try to publish it.

    A completed book is amazing and can’t be taken away from the author as a fine achievement. Congrats to all that can check that box, but don’t hit the publish button just because you can. I don’t want to read a halfassed book, or a book that begged me to print and scribble all over it in red pen, etc.

    Anyone putting out a mediocre effort should not publish in my opinion The reader deserves your best. I understand the difficulty of getting your name and your work into then public eye. I’m in the same boat and I want the world to see my words and vow to buy every book I publish and read my blog and go to my book signings. That won’t happen with a P.O.S. published work. Use the experience and move on. Don’t sell it to readers. They(I guess I can only speak to my self here) are not interested in seeing how an author progresses in their skill. They want an acceptable work that can take them out of the real world and into yours. They(I) want to read a book that is ready, not a book that says to the reader, “in five years, this author might have something.”

    I’m pro hard work. As an author and a reader.

  • I’m with Chuck on this. When POD was first introduced, it was thought that it would be the savior of the mid-list author, and be a great boon to older, more established authors with forty books to their name and a stable, if not growing, audience. The vast majority of their backlist would transfer over to POD format, and any fan who wanted THOSE books would be able to order them, and they’d show up in 3-5 days. No wasted paper, no extra storage, the customer is served, and the author is never out of print.

    Yeah, that didn’t happen. It quickly became the Wild West Show, and while some authors used POD to publish inexpensively, the vast majority of POD was bought by either (A) wide-eyed hopefuls who had always dreamed of being a writer and getting their “saga” into print, or (B) the clearly-superior, unrecognized genius who eschewed sending his work into New York Publishing Houses because they just wouldn’t see his vision, and blah blah blah blah.

    Thankfully, enough of a third category emerged, where smart, talented professional writers used POD and later E-publsing as a kind of bybrid model between door number one and door number two The important part of that last sentence is “smart, talented professional.” Lots of name (if not marquee) authors are using ebooks and createspace for their one-off projects, or the thing they did ten years ago that’s been out of print and no one in New York wants to reprint. And that’s great. Now, with Kickstarter, there’s a number of collaborative projects, anthologies and collections that can be made for short print runs and a decent pay rate. Awesome.

    But there’s still a vast number of writers–special snowflakes, all–who grew up in a Soccer Mom culture that was uncritical, self-serving, and very encouraging. I won’t call these authors ‘delusional’–wait, okay, yeah, I kinda will, These are the folks who have been told their whole lives, “You’re so creative!” and maybe they really are. But sitting at home, not interacting with anyone, writing your stories, and then taking the straight to CreateSpace, or Lulu, or Lightning Source, does not make you an author. It just…doesn’t. See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlanta_Nights

    Someone else needs to read your book, your story, your play, whatever it is. Someone not your mom, or your spouse. Someone who would be willing to buy your story and then put it in a magazine, or on a website. That same someone might need you to alter your work, make some changes, and rework a section or two.

    Mind you, this doesn’t have to be an editor. It can be a writing workshop, or a writer’s group, or something along those lines–someone who understands the craft and execution of writing on a deeper level than merely a reader. Nothing against uncritical reading; I do it all the time. But when I workshop, or edit, I put on a different hat and get my head into a different brainspace. ‘Cause you gotta. It’s apples and oranges. And you really can’t do it to your own work, either; not completely, anyway. Someone needs to see it after you’ve monkeyed with it. And it doesn’t need to be a pack of uncritical readers on Amazon, either. Here’s why:

    Reading is our most necessary skill. Books are sacred objects. Our relationship with the printed word should be one of reverence and humility. Not everyone can write, or write well. It’s a skill, sure, but it’s also an art, and a talent. At its best, it’s transformative alchemy that can alter your world view, change your most deeply-held beliefs, unlock new worlds and vistas in the real estate of your mind, and move you through time and space in a way that no other medium really can. I humbly submit that if you don’t respect that process, and give value and weight to it in your life, if not in our culture, then you are doing it wrong.

  • Here’s the problem, Chuck. You said:

    “You have permission to suck.

    For free.

    Free, there, is key.”

    1) You are equating quality (suckage) with “free” content. And then talking about self publishing. None of these are linked. In any form. In essence, you are putting traditional above self published in terms of quality. And that’s simply not true.

    There is nothing inherently ingrained in traditional publishing that grants it the ability to produce higher quality content than a self pubber.

    (In fact, I’d argue that the traditions of traditional publishing actually foster an environment of lower quality and sameness — but that’s fodder for another 387 blog posts).

    2) You are making the assumption that all people start out sucking. George Lucas’s student films are amazing. We know how his career ended up.

    3) What it seems you are afraid of is the Sophia Coppola effect.

    Sophia Coppola basically did her “film school” by making movies. Her name helped get her first ventures put on the bigscreen. And we, the movie-going public had to suffer for it.

    But so did James Cameron. And Spielberg. And David Lynch. And Tarantino. And Kevin Smith. And Orson Wells. And Scorcese. And… you get the point. Many of these guys learned their trade by doing it.

    And dare I say it — McTiernan, director of the beloved DIE HARD.

    At a certain point — if you want to make movies, you just make movies. It doesn’t matter if you’re learning as you do it or not. (Lemme rephrase, you should always be learning as you do something).

    At a certain point — if you want to be a writer, you just write.

    It’s really not up to the writer to determine what fans will like. You just do the best you can.

    • Um…with the exception of Kevin smith (and maybe David Lynch?) I don’t think any of those directors you named are comparable to self-publishers. They may have been new when they started, but they were backed by studios and producers and investors, yes? And they hired actors and assistants and qualified camera men and, and, and. Also, are you knocking Sophia Coppola? I mean to each their own but damn, I can’t believe you’d suggest the movie-going public has suffered through her career. Mainly though what I want to say here is – could people stop comparing one art form to completely different art forms? They are far more different than they are the same.

      Also, ““You have permission to suck. For free. Free, there, is key.” does NOT equate free with sucking. It simply says if you’re considering a piece of your work as practice and you’re not sure if if sucks or not then it should be offered for free. If you have quality work you want to put up for free, well that’s your choice.

      • Agreed, I honestly think a closer analog to self-publishing is web video (which is almost always free), and while a lot of youtube personalities get huge and all, it’s REALLY hard for narrative web series to find an audience. And a reason I’ve seen repeatedly cited for that is the production values — It’s REALLY hard to make movie anythings that look “real” enough to people without spending tens of thousands of moneys, and that’s if you’re good with a budget. Books have such a lower overhead there I guess a part of me doesn’t quite get, when you *can* put out a self published book with a more-or-less professional production why wouldn’t you?

      • The point of listing the filmmakers was that these people learned by doing. They didn’t enter the field as experts. (Well, maybe Spielberg did).

        I’m not disagreeing with the notion of professionalism — I’m just pointing out that there’s a certain point when you can no longer improve your craft by doing anything other than executing it. For better or worse.

        P.S. Yes, I was knocking Sofia Coppola. Ironically, I think her earlier work is her best (Which actually proves my argument lol. Sometimes you just gotta throw it out there).

        • With writing though, executing your craft means writing, it doesn’t mean publishing. Published writers whose work improves over time aren’t improving because their previous work was published, they’re improving because they wrote more. Still I think most everyone would agree that as long as someone has given an honest effort to produce something worthwhile (which is not a judgement of content, but the manner of execution) then by all means put it out there.

          • As long as we keep the emphasis on “worthwhile.” I put a TON of myself into my first mystery novel, edited the holy crap out of it–and ultimately concluded it didn’t quite measure up (I was helped in that conclusion by some agents). My point is that you can put 100% effort into something and still have it not be good enough to share. If you have any pride in your own work, you then bung it in a drawer and go write another. And another. And eventually you get there. THEN hit “publish.”

          • I’ve had ten books published with traditional publishers. In no case did I enjoy getting the ten-page (or longer) editorial letter and the hundreds of comments/suggestions littered throughout the manuscript. For the most part I didn’t enjoy the seemingly never-ending back and forth of corresponding with editors over changes big and small and miniscule. What I did enjoy, and what made me more than willing to go along with the whole thing, was knowing that in every case the editor and I had the same goal in mind–to make the story awesome–and that the end product–the book–was going to be better for the process. And to extend the product theme into the automotive world–if you’d produced a Yugo and somebody was able to help you turn it into a Lamborghini (or even a Subaru) before it went on the market, and you even got to put your name on it, wouldn’t you do it? Personally, I wouldn’t be interested in getting someone to buy a Yugo by pretending it’s an actual car. And if I eventually self-publish something, I’m gonna make damn sure it meets the standards knowledgeable editors (and readers) expect in an actual book.

  • I have friends who are serious runners, and they’ve been talking about the culture that says finishing a marathon/warrior dash/5k is enough. That these events are called “races” but the culture is shifting so that everyone gets a pat on the back and bragging rights because they showed up, and they finished.

    Okay, cool. I couldn’t run a 5k. When I could, I wouldn’t have. So yes, that is something not a lot of people can do, and perhaps you deserve to pat YOURSELF on the back. But serious runners are going to be pissed that they can’t run a real race without tripping over a bunch of people who just want to SAY they ran a marathon.

    Finishing a novel… oh jesus. It isn’t easy. A lot of people try and most fail, a lot more say they want to try and never actually open a notebook or Word document. So sure, yeah. Pat YOURSELF on the back for finishing. Finishing is good. It’s better than good– it’s great! But like finishing a race vs. finishing a race, no one else really gives a rat’s turd about it. It’s an accomplishment for you and I am glad. I champion this cause. I do NaNo, I defend NaNo, I raise money for NaNo, because I believe finishing is empowering and awesome and I want people to do it.

    But finishing is not the same as winning. And I can’t understand embracing the idea that we should encourage authors to be satisfied with last place. Even if you are only writing for yourself, you should want something worthy of a gold medal. If you are asking people for money in exchange for your work, they deserve to expect gold medal quality. Nike is not going to sponsor the guy who came in last at the local color-run, readers cannot be expected to pay you for simply finishing, either. You have to take some goddamn pride in your work and only put the best out. I have published 97% of short stories I have submitted, and the reason is that I have a nice stack of stories I have not, and maybe will never put out into the world. They aren’t good enough. They’re finished, but they aren’t winners. Such is life. Finishing is rarely enough to warrant praise, and it’s almost never enough to warrant cash.

  • “At a certain point — if you want to make movies, you just make movies. It doesn’t matter if you’re learning as you do it or not. (Lemme rephrase, you should always be learning as you do something).”

    Filmmaking is not a good analogy to use here. While they are both stories, they are by no means the solo effort you make them out to be—film is a collaborative medium. None of the directors you mentioned worked in a vacuum. Every single one of them had other people working with them. Every single one of them had input on that production. Just because they didn’t have studio executives telling them what to do doesn’t mean that they were working alone. I’ve made short films, so I know for a fact that it is NEVER a solo effort—everyone involved provides some level of input and collaboration.

    And then once you’ve finished the filming, you don’t just throw it on a DVD. You look through the footage and the different takes and you choose the ones you feel tell the best story, then discard the rest.

    At the very least a film is required to go through three stages—writing, filming, editing (and you’d be hard pressed to find a movie that doesn’t go through multiple stages within those stages). Each time is taking another pass at it.

    That doesn’t always happen in self-publishing. There are writers who will finish a first draft, then upload it to KDP without so much as running a spell check. What’s being argued here is that it’s a stupid thing for authors to do, and they shouldn’t do it. If you believe your story is good enough to be stacked against a traditionally published book, then you should take the time to make sure that the technical aspects of that are also up to snuff.

    Why do you have a problem with authors being told they should do this?

    • As I posted above: The point of listing the filmmakers was that these people learned by doing. They didn’t enter the field as experts. (Well, maybe Spielberg did).

      I’m not disagreeing with the notion of professionalism — I’m just pointing out that there’s a certain point when you can no longer improve your craft by doing anything other than executing it. For better or worse.

      • as a native of james cameron’s home town, i can safely say that he studied his craft for a long time before hitting hollywood. student films, local stuff, playing with cameras as a kid, all that counts as “iterating” in private or for free. no one wakes up one morning and says “i think i’ll make a movie today”, makes said movie with no input from any outside source, slaps it up on the big screen, and starts charging admission. the problem with self-pub is that people can, and too often do, do exactly that.

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