Sue Grafton caught some flak recently for disparaging comments about the rise of indie/self-published authors. She later apologized, saying her comments were based upon her experiences from when she first got into the business forty years ago, a time when self-publishing was equated with vanity publishers, meaning charlatans who would drain your bank account in exchange for doorstops and paperweights (New York Times and USA Today bestselling self-published author, Jaime McGuire, has a great blog post about her experience with a con artist passing himself off as a legitimate agent before she took matters into her own hands and self-published). Not sure why Sue Grafton is so behind the times – Joy Fielding, who came on the scene about the same time as Sue Grafton, brought this article into class and said pursuing e-books as a means of getting your work out there had some merit and was worth looking into.
Joy, you rock.
Publishing is curious in that, it really is one of the few artistic industries where doing it yourself is looked upon with the worst kind of derision. Think about it. There are movie theaters, film festivals, and cable channels that celebrate the indie movie maker. The enterprising singer-songwriters who start their own labels to record and distribute their music are hailed for bucking the system. But if you self-publish, you’re considered a lazy hack who couldn’t get published the traditional way.
Publishing seems to be the only industry where this type of entrepreneurial resourcefulness has been discouraged. The message has been don’t self-publish because no self-respecting author does it and no good will come of it. It’s like telling a chef not to open his own restaurant because chefs don’t open their own restaurants.
Maybe it’s partially because writing is seen as a highly intellectual pursuit and one not everyone is adept at. Writing is so subjective, though. For every critically acclaimed book/author who can’t crack the New York Times Bestseller list, there are writers who get savaged by the critics (and even readers) yet sell books like hotcakes (regardless of which category you fall into, if we’re calling ourselves writers, at the very least, we should all learn the basics of writing.)
I think ebooks are becoming the publishing industry’s version of the indie film. A lot of authors who couldn’t get past the “gatekeepers” are redefining publishing by presenting their fresh, fun and unique voices in a new and exciting way. Even more interesting, many of these authors find themselves in the position of entertaining offers from the big publishing houses.
The publishing industry is only going to keep evolving and pooh-poohing these changes is a waste of time. The best thing an aspiring writer can do is keep trying, keep learning and above all, keep writing.