Love it or hate it, if you’re a writer you can’t ignore it. It’s the debate on whether being self-published is valid or not and whether we should continue to call ourselves Independent Authors or Self-published Authors. After reading Victoria Strauss’ “Why You Are Probably Not an Independent Author (or, Another Post for Which I Expect I Will Get Some Flack)” I thought I’d chime in on the argument.
I must admit that Victoria’s idea that using the term “Independent” was: 1) inaccurate, 2) redundant, and 3) euphemistic and that we should all just call ourselves “self-published” (unless we can’t “admit that self-publishing actually does still carry a stigma“) made me rather angry. If we put her words to work, then we can’t even call ourselves “self-published” unless we do everything, including printing each and every copy ourselves.
As MeiLin Miranda commented, “But why should people be stigmatized for trying to find their own audience? What amazes me is that literature is the last medium where the gatekeepers are still so firmly worshipped and those outside the gates so deeply despised.” MeiLin goes on to explain that bands and comic artists aren’t stigmatized by going the independent route. The question is, why are authors?
One person commented that “self-published” equalled poor quality writing. I can’t argue that in a lot of cases that is true. However, this person believes that by going the traditional route one’s writing will become better because it must get past the editor’s desk first. I say, not so! I’ve seen plenty of traditionally published books that make me shudder from the poor quality. It was published because the publisher believed it would sell, not because it was well-written. If a writer wants to improve his or her writing and still self-publish, then that writer must seek out an unbiased third-party to edit the piece. There are groups like Critters for that.
As Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords publishing, points out, “Part of the problem here is that many traditionalists (uh oh, did I just create a new label?) have spent years maligning the term “self-published” to connote “loser author,” “failure,” “not good enough to get published in a respectable manner,” and worst of all, “vanity.”” He goes on to say about vanity that “…the word also implies conceited and excessive pride in one’s appearance. What’s more vain than an author refusing to publish their book unless its published by a big name NY publisher? Vanity cuts both ways, folks. And let’s face it, publishing is an act of vanity. It’s the author saying, “I have something I think is worth sharing with the world.” Blogging, twittering, public speaking and social networking are all forms of vanity as well.”
There were a lot more comments on both sides. Obviously I come down on the side of keeping the term “Independent Author”, but I would like to add one more item, something another person added in the comments. No writer should be stigmatized regardless of what path one takes. I would like to put forth the idea that both “traditionally published” and “self-published” be abolished from our vocabulary. Let us all just be writers on The (hard) Road to Writing.