Let’s begin this week’s Miller Time with a little question and answer. Okay? Cool.
What’s the definition of an author?
A lot of people think they know what an author is not, and claim that calling everyone who publishes an author is devaluing the word. They also say:
If you don’t earn a living from writing, you’re not an author.
Indie and self-published means nothing, because publishing something doesn’t make you an author.
I hate to burst their bubbles (okay, not really), but according to my dictionaries, an author is anyone who pens a book, story, article or some type of written material OR a person who starts or creates something.
Still with me? Good.
Now, what is the definition of a writer?
This seems to be pretty established. The Internet and the dictionaries agree that, essentially, a writer is someone who writes.
The reason I’m defining these things is that I’m seeing a lot of discussion on social media about who has the “right” to call themselves author and who should be “just a writer.” According to the above definitions, it’s pretty simple to me. But…
A growing group of individuals that view themselves as “Professional Authors” complain that in the traditional publishing world, you have to have talent to publish, but “real authors” are getting swallowed up by all the lazy self-publishers polluting the book market with their shit books.
Others complain that there is no quality control, no way to label yourself as a professional, because the talentless hacks out there have tarnished the label of “author,” because these crazy kids are going out and publishing their books without editing, without the say-so of someone who “knows” the difference between a “real” author and a wannabe.
Oh, and before you think traditionally published authors are the only ones complaining, I should tell you, Indie and self-published authors are included in this bunch of whiners too. I’ve seen a list of “concerns” posted on both the Facebook and the Twitter, as well as on various blogs by a surprising number of Indie authors. The consensus seems to be that these authors are upset about garbage being sold alongside their precious babies, which I’ll assume are not poorly written and/or edited. They don’t like that readers might go to Amazon, see their book listed smack in the middle of books written by people that don’t edit, don’t revise, don’t even look twice at what they’ve written. They’re worried their masterpieces will be “lumped” into this drivel. Some have even considered getting out of publishing entirely, rather than risk having a reader wonder if they’re just as shit-tastic as these other writers. If we continue to allow crap to be published by know-nothing, money-hungry losers, then why should they bother?
These authors believe (or at least imply) that the reason they haven’t made money in this industry is that there’s too much garbage for readers to wade through. Too many piece of shit writers publishing their books, crowding digital shelves so readers can’t find the good stuff. And by the good stuff, these authors mean their stuff, of course.
Where’s the quality control? These… these… hacks, are tainting our art.
Self-pubbed author, Travis Mohrman replied to a post voicing these concerns with an interesting point:
Do painters have the same complaints of other painters? Anyone can purchase a canvas and sling some paint on it... they can probably even find a buyer a time or two and then call themselves professionals.
In other words, your idea of art might not be art at all, honey.
The reason your books aren’t selling isn’t that there’s too much trash out there. No one is missing your book because self-published authors are flooding the shelves with drivel. Actually, the shitty writers out there don’t affect you at all. Their claim of the title “author” doesn’t change readers’ perceptions of you either.
Our perception of what is good in terms of fiction is subjective. What you think is garbage might be gold to someone else. What you think is fantastic might be drivel to someone else. Just because a publisher says your stuff is good doesn’t mean it is. Snookie got a publishing deal, after all. Let that sink in for a bit…
And just because you have a fancy degree doesn’t mean you can write something worth buying. Just because you used an editor doesn’t make your book suddenly valuable, particularly if you don’t have that indefinable “something special” all the great authors have.
Basically, you think you’re great, and that’s awesome. We all need to believe in ourselves, but unless you’ve got some secret power that allows you to judge what all readers like, well, you have no place judging who should or should not be called author. Not a single one of us is entitled to that kind of judgment.
Worry about yourself. Focus on publishing the best work you can produce. Market yourself. Be a business person and an author, and stop whining about why you can’t make it in this industry. The only person controlling your success or failure is you.
Yes, there is a lot of crap in the publishing world today. I used to worry about it too, until I realized it doesn’t affect me or my writing. Crap exists in every industry. Thanks to the Internet, every shifty lazy ass can sell whatever he damn well pleases. But putting in a quality control, a gatekeeper, if you will, isn’t the solution either. Why, you ask? Because we’d still end up where we are now.
Imagine you made tires. You make the best tires ever. However, the tire manufacturers are all “Hey, man, we’ve got our own tire makers and they’ve made good tires for years. We don’t need yours.” So you make your rounds, hoping to find a company with deep pockets to buy your tires for their brand. These tire folks, they don’t like risks, and you’re a risk, because your tires, while they’re fine and all, have never been road tested. So they say no thanks.
What are your options? You say, “Hey, I’ve got my own shop. I have all the tools I need to make and sell my own damn tires.” So that’s what you do. When you find a store to sell said tires, they plunk your beautiful circles of rubber heaven right next to the cheapest off-brand tires they offer. And you know those tires are shit. Everyone knows it. When you look at the price, you realize your tires are priced in the same margin as the crap tires. Oh, doesn’t that burn your ass? It’d burn my ass too. But guess what? That’s business. That store has the right to put your tires where it chooses, and those shitty tire makers have the right to sell their tires just as much as you do. Sure, they know less than you about tire making, and they don’t particularly care if their tires are worth buying, but you can’t do much about it. No one cares that it’s not fair, sweetheart.
This is what the publishing industry looks like now. Traditional publishers don’t want to invest time and money on a product they’re not certain will sell, and that’s understandable. Self-publishing has given both author and publisher something useful, even when what’s published is crap.
I was thrilled when a publisher felt my writing was worth their attention. It was like they confirmed I might actually know what I was doing. Nice ego boost, but I had to publish before the traditional world would even give me a chance. I was new. I was not road tested. I was a risk. When I self-published, I gave them their road test and they said, “Hey, she can consistently put out good stuff, and she has buyers (readers) for her product.” I became less risky, less “new.”
To be honest, though, I like publishing myself. I enjoy having someone else handle all the boring stuff, like editing and formatting, but I prefer the control self-publishing gives me. I don’t want my books lumped with a bunch of typo-filled nightmares written by folks who can barely recall whether to use your or you’re either, but when you enter into writing as a business, that’s the reality you have to accept.
I see you’re still upset. I get it. I mean, when traditional publishers ruled the world, there was some quality control. However, it’s time we all admitted that quality control was pretty… sketchy, and brilliant authors had no voice simply because they were new. Readers were missing out. Now, they have more options. This means they’re getting a broader sampling of work and authors. This is good for everyone.
And here’s where you learn the secret to success in publishing: You worry about you and let him worry about him.
This goes for both traditionally published and self-published authors. I see way too many of you squabbling over who has the right to be called a professional author. A professional doesn’t point fingers when things don’t go the way he wants. A professional doesn’t bad-mouth or belittle his competition. He produces a better product. A professional doesn’t even worry about lower quality products. In fact, a professional is kind of glad his competitors are producing stuff that’s not quite as good as his. A professional author is too preoccupied with the business of writing to care what everyone else is publishing. A professional is working, not whining.
The point of all my rambling here is we need to cut it out. This discussion shouldn’t even be discussed. It’s childish and unprofessional. Indies, stop hating traditional authors. Traditional, get your noses out of the air. All authors are book lovers (or should be) and we should encourage readers to read everything. We want the publishing industry to thrive. To thrive, an industry needs competition and variety, and it needs professionals. So, whether you publish yourself or not, start acting like grownups and take care of your brand and your readers. Let the other guy worry about his.
When she's not burning dinner or waiting tables in a pizza joint, she dwells in a glamorous office/garage cuddled up with her laptop. She's what folks like to call a "hybrid" author, having self-published three novels in the crime/suspense and romance genres, and recently signed with Crescent Moon Press to publish a series of paranormal novels featuring Greek gods.
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