That, above, is the meme.
It’s jet-skiing its way around Facebook right now.
It leaves me scratching my head. And my chin. And my nether-junction.
Let’s remove for a moment that this meme supporting indie writers has a number of misspellings — we can discount that because the list appears cribbed from this piece from Daily Writing Tips, which does not ascribe it any indie significance at all. The misspellings are from the original list. Originally I’d thought, “Ha ha, oh, the irony, some self-publisher propaganda that has — wait for it, wait for it — a passel of misspellings.” Ah, but it seems the “indie” banner has been attached only recently.
But that’s where I get lost.
Indie writers. Readers. Rejection. Support.
I’m trying to parse what these things have to do with each other.
“Great books have been rejected (but then published) so you should support indie authors because…” And here is where I start flailing about like an octopus on bath salts. Because indie authors have not been rejected? Is that somehow meaningful to a reader? “Because the reader’s opinion is all that matters. We write for you.” (As if traditional authors don’t write for readers?) So, self-publishers skip the submission/rejection process to put their books direct into the hands of readers. That’s fine, totally admirable, but that’s not cause to support anybody, is it? The motivations of the author matter? Not the story? Not the quality of the tale told? Just the motivations and business decisions?
Self-publishing is not charity.
It’s not a 6th grade trophy for participation. Readers don’t buy books by indie authors because they’re indie authors — well, I’m sure some do, but those readers are probably also indie authors themselves. Are you really hoping that readers will support you based on your decision not to tough it out in the traditional space? That they’ll “throw you a bone” because of a business choice? That, recursively, is insulting to self-published authors, isn’t it? That you should be patted on the head and given a lift because you made a different decision, not because you wrote a kick-ass book that deserves its space on all the bookshelves?
Here’s the other thing: this sends the wrong message about rejection.
It tells us rejection is bad. It’s not. Life is full of rejection. We need it. We need it for perspective. We need it to improve. Rejection isn’t always right. It rarely feels good. But it reminds us that we’re not special.
That we have to work for what we achieve.
Should we remove reviews? Because they’re a kind of rejection. Should we stop grading tests? Or trying to get jobs? Or applying for college, or scholarships, or internships? Maybe we should stop asking people out on dates and just bang a lamp or a pile of bean bags instead.
Now, you can make the argument that this meme proves how the system is fucked — how classic works meeting the Rejectionist’s Axe is proof of a broken machine. But that’s not at all what this meme suggests. Rather, these are books that made it. Books by authors who persevered and that ended up on shelves, in schools, in your hands. The very fact they exist — and have become the classics we all know and love (erm, excepting Chicken Soup for the Soul) — is proof that the system works. If these were all self-published after getting cornholed by the traditional system, hey, fine, I hear you. But these are books that the system supported. That became classics and sold bajillions out of that very system.
Sure, somebody rejected Harry Potter.
And it’s good they did.
Who knows what the book would’ve become under a different editor, different publisher? Oh, that rejection is proof that… humans are imperfect? That they don’t make perfect decisions all the time? Is the system flawed? Um. Duh? Of course it’s flawed. Everything is flawed. Nothing is perfect. No writer, no agent, no editor, no publisher. Could it be better? Sure. But that doesn’t automatically mean skipping the game just because you’re afraid you’ll skin a knee.
If anything, this meme proves that one rejection, ten rejections, two dozen rejections, doesn’t have to stop you. That you can keep on kickin’ and swinging for the fences because you only need one acceptance to make all those ugly motherfucker rejections fade into meaninglessness.
It doesn’t prove that you should be an indie author. Or that you should support an indie author.
If you want to be an indie author, go for it. It’s a path with value. But it’s not a path you take because of rejection. It’s not a path you should take because of something other traditional authors did or experienced.
You choose it because it’s right for you. Because you have the right temperament and ability. Because you want control. Because you think you’ll make better money and reach more readers.
Stop acting like the victim.
Stop making this choice based on your rejection of the “other” choice (or its rejection of you).
No more propaganda.
No more middle fingers to the “system” or its authors.
And if you’re a reader?
Don’t support indie authors.
Don’t support traditional authors, either.
Just support good authors with good books.
*peels out of the driveway in a cherry-red Geo Tracker*