Over the past few days, there have been cries of unparalleled outrage from the Indie author and publishing community over an egregious Huffington Post blog article titled “Self-Publishing: An Insult To The Written Word.” If you have not had the chance to read the article yourself, I recommend you do so before reading the rest of this blog.
It should not come as a surprise to anyone that even when you strongly disagree with something, you can still learn valuable insights and lessons from it. This article is no different. Sure, the author was obviously writing to give Indie authors a bad name, but there are things she mentions that all of us should take to heart.
Ease Like Never Before
If you take a glance through history, one can easily see the influence writers have had on society. Through their writing; Alexander Hamilton, James Maddison, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine helped shape the country and government we have today in the United States. William Shakespeare, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and J.R.R Tolkien have captured the admiration of readers for generations. Today, however, publishing a piece of written work has never been easier.
With the technology available to us right now, it takes nothing more than putting fingers to computer keys and fashioning a story/opinion/belief, using a website like Canva.com to create a cover, and uploading it all to Amazon and hitting “PUBLISH” to “self-publish” a piece of written work. This is fact, and we all know it. Any “writer” can do it. There is a sizable difference however, between a “writer” and an “author”.
The REAL Gatekeepers
When a person picks up a pen and makes the decision to transform an idea into a story, and from a story into a book, they are undertaking a responsibility they often have yet to realize. It is not simply a responsibility to those writers and authors of the past, or solely to those who will one day read their work. The writer is undertaking the responsibility to themselves and to their name. Thus, the author becomes the first of the Gatekeepers.
In my time within the Indie writing and publishing community, I have yet to run into a writer who merely wanted to publish their work no matter the condition. The Indie community is filled with writers who long to showcase their work in the greatest possible light. As the Gatekeeper to their name and reputation, the Indie author has the responsibility to ensure they put out the best quality material possible. This is not something to be taken lightly. Once you are known to readers as a joke of an author, it is a reputation nearly impossible to repair.
Which leads me to the actual and final Gatekeepers; the readers. Overall, it is the readers who will validate the work of any author. Not only are the readers the end purpose of writing, but they are also the most vocal and crucial critic in the field, they are also what will make or break an author’s career. If a writer publishes a piece of work not up to the reader’s standards, these Gatekeepers will make sure the world knows. It is our responsibility as authors to ensure the final product we showcase to the reader is of the quality they deserve.
The Purpose of Agents and Publishers
Make no mistake about it, most of us Indie authors dream of the day we receive a call from a major publisher offering a six-figure book deal, or an agent promising the same. This however, does not make them the Gatekeepers. We should and must label them what they are; a business. It is the role of agents and publishers to make money. Their job is not to pick the best written work, or an exceptional story. Their job is to select the work they can make the most money publishing. Not that making money is a bad thing, just that it has very little to do with overall talent and ability of the writers who have been rejected. Do not ever forget, publishing is a money making business, not a literary litmus test.
The Indie Responsibility
Being a member of the Indie author and publishing community is a distinction one should wear with pride. The process of publishing a written work into a quality piece is not something to scoff at. That being said, as a member of the community, we all have the responsibility to ensure we go through the process and publish only a superior product. This means fine-tuning your craft, editing, utilizing beta-readers, and if needed, going back to the drawing board. No one wants to be synonymous with the writers who have given us Indie authors a bad name. It is up to us to remove the taint to the image of self-publishing and raise us to the level we belong.