By now most of you have probably read something about Sue Grafton and her comments about self-publishing and indie authors (I is for Ignorant: How Sue Grafton Hates Indie Writers – love that title). I read the original interview of Sue Grafton as well, and felt a mix of emotions as I read it and as I read some other blogs and comments about Sue Grafton. Yes, Grafton really stuck her foot in her mouth. She showed an incredible amount of ignorance (or stupidity) when it comes to indie authors and the new age of publishing. However, I think there’s more to this. I do think Grafton had one good point. And I also see indie authors making some pretty stupid comments as well. Here are some things that I think indie authors need to step back and think about before trying to use them as an argument to support self-publishing.
Indie Authors – I Can’t Afford Editing, A Graphic Artist, Etc.
Yes, I’ve heard this…a lot. If this is you, it’s time to take a step back and ask yourself if you’re really ready for self-publishing. This is a business and it should be treated with the same professionalism as you would with your job. You want to tell me that indie authors who make these kinds of comments are publishing quality material when they don’t take their craft seriously enough to, at minimum, get their novel edited by a professional? Yes, a few people skip these steps and still succeed. But the vast majority don’t.
Indie Authors – Do You Know Your Craft?
As indie authors rip on Sue Grafton, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. Grafton makes a good point about knowing your craft:
Quit worrying about publication and master your craft. If you have a good story to tell and if you write it well, the Universe will come to your aid. Don’t self-publish. That’s as good as admitting you’re too lazy to do the hard work.
Yes, the comment about the universe and being lazy are dumb. But it’s perfectly okay to say that an author should master his/her craft. J.A. Konrath talks about it taking 10,000 hours to master something. Read On Writing by Stephen King and look how long it took him to crank out something worthy of publication. Too many indie authors write one book and think they’re the next ____ (fill in the blank). Most aren’t. But try telling them that. Which brings me to my next point…
Indie Authors – Don’t Criticize Me
Sadly, too many indie authors can’t take the criticism. I’ve had many authors ask me to read their works and when I give them some feedback, many just say oh, that’s your opinion and dismiss it. And in some cases, we’re talking really poor writing. If you can’t take some criticism and you don’t want to improve your writing, maybe, as Grafton says, you haven’t learned your craft yet. And maybe you shouldn’t publish. And before you rant on me about how terrible I am for saying this, there’s actually a very good reason why you don’t want to publish too soon. If you do and your readers hate what you wrote, they won’t come back. You’ve just lost potential sales – do you really want that?
And I have to laugh when I read indie authors who are criticizing the likes of Grafton and others, but these indie authors don’t know the difference between your and you’re, their and there, it’s and its…and you want me to think that you know how to write. Hm, I don’t think so.
Indie Authors – But There Are Bad Mainstream Published Novels Too
Ugh – can we please put this argument to rest, once and for all? So what! It doesn’t matter! If you’ve heard this comment, raise your hand: two wrongs don’t make a right. Now, all of you, put your hands down.
First, when most indie authors that I see make this comment, they inevitable mention or are thinking about books by King, Grisham, Evanovich, Koontz and other bestselling authors. Guess what? Those are poor examples and here’s why: of course those books aren’t edited that well. What publisher is going to tell Stephen King or any of the others to change their novel? Publishers won’t because they don’t want to lose their cash-cow authors to other publishing houses. And like it or not, it’s those big names that keep the publishing houses running.
If you want a better comparison, pick up a mainstream-published book by a first-time author and compare it to what indie authors are publishing. Those mainstream-published books are likely to be very tight, compact, well-written stories. They have to be or those authors would likely have not gotten an agent in the first place, and thus the book never would’ve been published.
Furthermore, if the vast majority of books being published by indie authors were good (let alone great), we wouldn’t be having this argument. Yes, there are gems being published by indie authors, so please don’t blast me in a comment saying that I said all the books being published by indie authors are crap. But let’s face it, there is a lot of crap out there. Do you really think that if you bought a hundred books by unknown authors at Barnes & Noble and a hundred by unknown indie authors that the vast majority that are mainstream-published are bad and the vast majority by indie authors are good? I doubt it. And yes, I’ve read a lot by indie authors and for the most part, it hasn’t been very good. If you think yours sticks out, feel free to send me a copy and I’ll read it. But I, like many readers I know, have read some bad stuff and it makes me leery of self-published work. Again, not all of it, but certainly a lot of it (Grafton makes a comment that a lot of what she reads by indie authors is bad – it’s her opinion and she’s entitled to it).
And finally, and this is the most important point, because there are mainstream-published books that are bad, does this somehow make the bad writing by indie authors good? Of course not, so quit using the argument and focus on publishing the best possible book that you can. As I said in Indie Authors Miss Golden Opportunity, indie authors should be challenging themselves to go over and above what is mainstream-published.
Indie Authors – Before You Rip On Me
When I write stuff like this, inevitably somebody wants to blast me about how I’m elitist or I don’t support indie authors (one guy even thought I wasn’t an indie author – for the record, I am). Let me be clear: I’m not doing this because I don’t support indie authors. Far from it. I interview indie authors. I write this blog to help indie authors with writing and marketing. I teach a class about self-publishing at a community college. I freelance with indie authors, assisting with various tasks related to self-publishing. I want to see indies succeed. Also, take the time to read the comments in this post. Many agree with some of Grafton’s points, just like I do.
Here’s the point about criticizing indie authors who haven’t mastered their craft before publishing. As I stated above, you want to publish the best possible books possible – if you don’t, you’ve lost readers and potential sales. Why would you want to do this? I certainly don’t.
It’s also too bad that we indie authors can’t say hey, there’s bad writing out there without being criticized for it. Believe me, when I wrote Indie Authors Are Killing Great Writing, there were plenty of indie authors who agreed with me. We all recognize that there is great indie writing – it would be nice if it gets to the point where the great indie writing is the norm and not the exception.
Indie Authors – One More Thing About Sue Grafton
As I stated before, Sue Grafton made some stupid comments. But I’ve met her on more than one occasion and I can say that, at least at that time, she was wonderful. I talked with her at length about writing and publishing, and she was very helpful and encouraging. I doubt she said what she did out of malice – ignorance, yes, but not malice. And female mystery writers should keep this in mind. Grafton and Sara Paretsky are credited with paving the way for female mystery writers. They got books into the mainstream and opened doors for future authors. Grafton deserves to be remembered for this as well, not just her comments on self-publishing.