Incoming Rant: An Open Letter to Traditionalist Writers

To all the writers I know who scoffed, hesitated, or snickered when I said I was self-publishing,

Thank you for devaluing my hard work. In one instant, you went from supportive friend I was probably itching to talk to about my work to “that jerk” who once again reminded me of the ignorance of some writers. You are the ones who make me hesitant to admit that I am a self-published author when I am damn proud of my work and what I have accomplished in a little over a year.

Thus far in my fairly short career as an author, I have received tons of support from friends, fellow writers, and even people I met through Facebook and Twitter. I’ve even gotten messages saying how people loved my work or my characters, which made my day, but what always sticks out are the friends whose reactions surprise you by how subtly patronizing or rude they are.

They stare for a moment as the words “self-published” leave your lips, and with a small chuckle and glance to the side, they mutter, “That’s great.” Then either go off topic completely or ask you why you are not saving yourself for a traditional publishing contract like you’re supposed to do.

Well, I don’t want to. I want my freedom. I want to control all aspects of my work. I don’t want my characters homogenized or my work shelved after it doesn’t move twenty-thousand copies in a month. I don’t want my work’s worth to be solely valued for how much someone else can make off it. Yes, I could have possibly ended up with movie deals or a display in Barnes and Noble, but more than likely, that wouldn’t have happened even if I did go the traditional route.

I say all this, having repeated it numerous times before, and then you say the worst thing you could ever say to a self-published author. “But anyone can slap a book on Amazon.”

Thank you for devaluing all of the work I put in to making that book successful. Yes, anyone can slap a book on Amazon, but that doesn’t mean it will sell, and by saying that, I have to wonder if you have any idea the amount of work that went into slapping that book on Amazon.

First there were the hours I spent writing that book, editing it, having beta readers and an editor take a look at it. The amount of hands it passed through alone should be enough to impart some legitimacy to my endeavor. Then, I worked with an artist to create my covers, and I formatted both versions of the book myself (ebook and paperback). What takes an entire publishing team at least a year to do, I do in a few months. You have no idea how much I do, and I don’t think you care to know.

While you’re waiting for that agent or publishing house to respond to your query, I’m working on building my business. More than likely, I have never said anything negative about your thousands of query letters or that I think your time would be better spent self-publishing, gaining a following and presence, and working on your next book even if I’ve thought it. You may not know it, but a lot of authors self-publish and traditionally publish and they get those contracts because they have proof their books sell. I may have even sent you links to open submissions or contests to help you while you chose give me a patronizing pat on the head.

I have proof that my way is working. I have sales and fans and people who like my work. While you could say anyone can find someone who will like their work no matter how bad, just know someone could say the same about you.


Your friend who chose the other path

6 thoughts on “Incoming Rant: An Open Letter to Traditionalist Writers

  1. I follow and am a fan of two formerly-trad-published authors who’ve gone self-published. In the one case (Shanna Swendson), her publisher left her series (and her fans) hanging in the middle of the series, didn’t want to publish the rest because it didn’t sell enough for their liking. Her readers were thrilled when she finally took the bull by the horns and published the rest of the series herself. The other (Frank Schaeffer) is a hugely bestselling author who had both secular and religious publishers begging to be allowed to publish his latest book – and he turned them all down and put the book out himself, because he wanted to keep control of the book. Self-publishing is a very real and viable option today.

    1. I think it’s fabulous that authors now have two very viable options and don’t need to rely on the publishing industry anymore. There is no longer a monopoly on literature.

  2. A great post, Kara!! You’ve gone out there and done what many don’t have the courage to do! It’s not easy going down the self-publushing route, but I don’t think it’s something that should be scoffed at because when it’s done well, it equally as good as anything traditionally published.
    An example of hybrid publsihing is well shown through an author I really like, Michael J Sullivan, who couldn’t get his Ryria series published for various reasons, and went self-pubslished, then got a contract and now does a mix of both!!
    So, I say, keep on doing what you’re doing, Kara because your books show just what can be accomplished when you follow your dreams!! 🙂

  3. I, for one, am endlessly glad you’re a dedicated self-publisher, because as an avid fan of your work I would succumb to a severe case of the jitters if I had to wait for 18 months for each new book for no reason.

    Now, I fully understand that traditional publishers are pressed for time and couldn’t work any faster than they already do (which to me says they’re probably severely understaffed, but hey), but if a well-put-together team led by an independent actor can, then why should they NOT? That’s what competition *looks* like. We all put out the same products (books), but if one party can offer three new titles in the time it takes the other to put out one (at a much higher price, at that), it’s quite evident which one is going to be more attractive to readers in the long run.

    Now, there’s of course also the concern which some people are so fond of putting forward of that “self-published books are bad and badly edited”. While I’m fully aware some are, the way these people are using a few bad examples and to discredit a plethora of excellent works put out by hard-working writers is so prejudicial it’s ridiculous.

    I guess after a point, though, it must become more and more difficult for someone who’s dedicated so many months of their time to pursuing the traditional pathway to admit there are other, in fact very viable options. People never like admitting they may have been wrong. Or, perhaps, they themselves do not (yet) have knowledge of the tools which they would need in order to succeed on the self-publishing path, and thus are afraid to fail.

    I feel like these people may need a support group. We could gather them in a circle and do weekly readings from the Indie Author Survival Guide and hope a few will see the light. 😉

    ((Conflict of interest statement: The author of this comment is – should it not already be obvious – firmly in the self-publishing camp. ))

    1. Competition is definitely what the big publishers are fearing and why they spread the belief that indies are crappy. If people stopped looking to them for validation, they would go out of business or at least have to severely change their business model, which of course they don’t want to do.
      I agree that I think a lot of people degrade self-publishing and act as if it isn’t a viable option because they don’t want to admit that they could have been published years earlier by simply doing it themselves. It’s fear. The fear of failure. If a publisher rejects them, there are ample times they can try again (or at least they think so), but if they publish themselves and get bad reviews, they have no one to blame but themselves. You have to have courage when you’re a self-publisher because you only have yourself to blame in the end.

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