Why are we fighting?

The self-publishing versus traditional publishing war is as retarded as it is emotionally-charged. I’ve allowed myself to be carried by the horde, arguing for this or that, and I still stand by what I feel is right for me. But who the hell am I to tell someone else that’s right for them? That’s none of my business.

Nathan Bransford  (highly recommend following his blog) wrote an article this week regarding the traditional versus self-publishing battle, that is really reasonable and intelligent. He discussed the existence of this invisible battle, and essentially asked why we’re fighting a battle that shouldn’t exist. He felt it boiled down to making the right decision for your book, not the right way versus the wrong way to publish. And I agree with him, mostly.

One commenter respectfully disagreed with him right away. The argument was sound: Self-publishing is extremely risky for new authors. Traditionally published authors have a reader base, so they can roll the dice without worrying about sabotaging their career.

I agree with this guy (or gal) too.

There is no “right” way for everyone anymore. I don’t think there ever was. The difference now is that there are too many options available to everyone—even those who shouldn’t have an option at all. But I think the message of Nathan’s article may have been lost to the commenters. Why are we fighting amongst ourselves? He’s right. We are writers. We produce content. We sell/give that content to readers. We entertain, enlighten, and try to touch readers in some way. That is our goal, and nothing else. Who cares if Joe Nobody self-published his book? Is it good? Then, why focus on how he got it out there? Who cares if Jane Somebody traditionally published? Is she any better than Joe? Worse? Then don’t buy her book. Quit bitching about them. We’re tired of hearing it.

We need to stop moaning that this person or that person shouldn’t be published. There will always be someone on the bookstore shelves who shouldn’t be published. It’s how this industry plays the game. I don’t like it, and I used to be one of those moaners, but time and careful evaluation of what my goals and such really are have mellowed me somewhat. Why should I care if readers read shit? It’s not my business. My business is giving them something worth reading, thus showing them the difference between a writer who works hard at what she does, and one that shovels shit without a care to whether it’s worth paying for. If said reader can’t make the distinction, it’s not the shit writer’s fault, is it? What is being gained by insulting or demeaning someone else’s work no matter how awful you think it is?

In terms of whether we have the same amount of options between traditional and self-published authors, I must disagree with Nathan. We don’t. New authors should try the traditional route, if only by sending out a few queries. Just try it. On the other hand, at some point in the query process, said authors need to take a step back and admit to themselves that traditional publishing is not the be-all and end-all to becoming a successful author.

Traditionally published authors who’ve turned to self-publishing need to stop trying to convince new authors they should skip the query process entirely. This is irresponsible and really not fair. New authors are entering a maze filled with conflicting advice and they really look up to those who have “made it.” If you’ve published, even with a small publisher, and opted out of the traditional game, consider where you were prior to publishing and what you learned by experiencing both routes. It’s something everyone needs to experience, good or bad. And give a gal a chance to build a reader base. Jesus, you did it, so why not encourage others to exhaust every option just like you did. Everyone gets different results because we make different choices and write different stories. In telling a newb that traditional publishing is bullshit, you may have encouraged her to toss away her shot at something big. Maybe her book will be different than yours. Alternatively, you may have saved her a lot of heartache too. But you can’t know what her experience will be. Writing should be hard. Publishing should be hard. You busted your ass and got a stab at both methods so that you could then make an informed decision for you. Get your head out of your ass and let someone else make the same informed decision. Encourage others to experience it regardless of how things worked for you.

Previously published authors have a much better chance at succeeding with self-publishing than new authors. I don’t care if they didn’t make the bestseller list, they still have readers that most unpublished authors do not. This makes the choice different for them. There’s not as much risk involved and not as many unknown variables to consider. If you’re going to open your mouth to give advice, make sure you haven’t biased that advice and made it useless.

But writers in both camps should not be at odds. There shouldn’t even be separate camps. We are writers. That’s it.

People love drama. We like to feel part of a team. Otherwise the Team Eric/Team Bill (I’m team Eric), Team Jacob/Team Edward (I’m team neither), etc. marketing ploys would never work. But they do work, and they do it extremely well. The problem is that we tend to pick fights where fights shouldn’t exist. Write your damn book. Shut up about who is better. No one is “better.” There’s shit on the traditional shelves and there’s shit on the self-published shelves. Who has more shit or worse shit isn’t important. Your focus should be on NOT writing shit. That’s all you should concern yourself with. Then, whatever shelf you choose to put your book on has one less pile of shit than it did yesterday.

2 thoughts on “Why are we fighting?

  1. Great post, Renee. With regard to 'new' writers self publishing it all boils down to their temperament. If you are able to replicate to any degree what the big publishers are able to offer, ie if you are motivated and unrelenting, you have a chance. Other than that it's a bit like playing 'poo sticks'.

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