Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Monday, October 11, 2010

As I See It: Publishing Snobs and How to Ignore Them

My Monday rant is about publishing snobs, who are fairly common in this industry. They say things like if you self-publish it's shameful and your book is going to suck. Or that snagging an agent means you're smarter and more talented than those who don't. That going with a small press won't help you and might even hurt you.  

Publishing snobs. Those people who have rules over how it has to be done, and if you don't follow the rules, then what? You're a loser? You're not a real writer? Or a real publisher? That you'll never make it? Whatever it is.

This kind of publishing snobbery has been going on for centuries. Charles Dickens was looked down on because he went to the people with his stories and printed them in magazines. Stephen King was considered a hack for two decades, despite all his bestsellers. Now we have Joe Konrath  who followed the rules for years and struggled to make a name for himself and his work. Then he stopped listening to the publishing snobs, practically single-handedly started the ebook revolution and now everyone knows his name. He is a hot commodity. He still writes the same, but goes his own way and ignores the naysayers while making more money than ever before.

More stupid snobby rules--

If your book isn't reviewed in _____________it must not be good. 

If you write a certain kind of genre you're selling out. 

A press who prints on demand is the devil. 

A book has to be in Barnes and Noble or it doesn't count. 

If you self- publish on Smashwords or Kindle it's not a real book. 

The publishing and literary snobbery goes on and on. I'm sure you've all heard it.

Some dishonest people spend their time figuring out how to separate the gullible and desperate from their money. Writers can be as gullible and desperate as anyone, so we have to be smart and research things carefully. But once a friend makes a decision about his own personal writing career, it's time to be supportive not critical, and go buy his book.

If I choose to go through an agent for many good reasons (see this agent's post) that's awesome, but it isn't the only way, or the only right way. The more writers blog and network with each other, the stronger we get and the easier it becomes to turn our backs on the publishing snobs of the world.

If I write, I'm a writer. And I keep writing until I get published. Then I'm an author. If a company pays to edit, typeset, design and print books for sale, they are a publisher whether they're located in New York or Nebraska.

If they publish your book, then you're a published author. If you publish your own book, you are a published author. Now keep in mind, it goes without saying that if you self-publish a crap manuscript you will get a crap book and people won't read it. But there are literary works winning prizes that people don't read either, so you're in good company. The difference is in the prizes.

If your book or story or article is published, whether on print media or online, then you are a published author. So don't be shy. Call yourself a writer. You are a writer. Or an author. Your poem was accepted for publication? You're an author. Say it loud and clear. Don't be embarrassed. It counts. It all counts. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Writers are all over the internet blogging, supporting and encouraging each other. This is a whole new world. We have each other, we are everywhere, writing and finding an audience. There are many ways to find that audience, it's no longer just one set of rules. Go for it, and don't be intimidated by the publishing snobs. At least that's how I see it.







54 comments:

  1. Seems most of the publishing snobs are those who went the traditional route. Not all of them, of course. The snobs are in the minority, but they're a very loud minority, aren't they?

    You write? You're a writer. The end.

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  2. The most important thing for a writer to concentrate on should be writing from their heart, and finding the audience to read their work. I agree, all roads truly lead to that same place. Great post, Karen!

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  3. This is very encouraging! I'm an unpublished writer, and there's no guarantee that I'll ever find an agent or a publisher, but no matter what, I still consider myself a writer. I love what I do, and my aim isn't to be The Best. I just write because I want to.

    Thanks for sharing!

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  4. It's just about writing a good story. I wish people didn't have to be snobby about how they get their story out there.

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  5. Great post! Different people have different goals with their writing, and different ways of achieving those goals. That's why there are so many different publishing options! One might be better for a certain writer-- but just because someone's route is different doesn't make it any better or worse in general. We're all writers, as long as we're writing! Thanks for this encouraging post.

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  6. Gosh - good luck all you very determined and very focused and very amazing writers writing and getting all published whatever way- just do your research, get your novel all edited properly and make it sparkling and then just go for it - there are so many possibilities in these day and age!

    Take care
    x

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  7. Loved this, Karen! I've been told what a special thing it is to write and finish a novel, and I'll choose to focus on that rather than on what avenue one takes toward publishing. I am grateful I had editors work on my novel, though, because it made it so much better. So I'd encourage self-published folks to spend the money to get some quality editing.

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  8. I have posted on this exact same thing before. The industry is changing to be sure. It is going to take more good writers self publishing before the stigma is completely gone.

    I have been researching self-publishing for the last week or so. There is so much to wade through, but I am certainly going to give it a spin. I will probably start with non-fiction first, as my two completed novels are tied up in contests right now. But I will definitely be giving self-publishing some serious thought.

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  9. I'm with a small publisher - I'm not snobbing anybody!

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  10. I love it when the underdogs make it (Charles & Stephen)! I haven't heard of Joe. I'll have to check out his work. =D

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  11. My mantra has always been that if you can't get through the front door, kick in a window. It has served me well.

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  12. Love this, Karen. As a writer, I just want to write! If I find readers, then so much the better. A reader is a reader, wherever they find my words.

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  13. My aim is to write well and be published (fingers crossed) whatever form it takes is good for me :)

    Great post.

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  14. Oh well said, I'm fed up of publishing snobbery, and I'm not even a writer. Well, except on my blog!
    Do make the green tomato chutney, Karen, and let it mature, if you can, for a couple of months. Ready just in time for Christmas! Or New Year! It's lovely with goats cheese. Have I convinced you yet?

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  15. snob is another name for bully...

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  16. If you write, you're a writer. End of story. :)

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  17. In an industry lacking in much monetary reward, some people look for ways to "differentiate" themselves - which is really unfortunate, because the overwhelming sentiment of the writing world is fabulous support of each other. That's why I enjoy it so much! It fits who I am. The snobs will have to find someone else to worry about. ;)

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  18. I love this line: "The difference is in the prizes."

    I think if people are still trying to go the traditional route, they will be disappointed. Traditional publishing isn't the same anymore. There may be a time when someone asks, "What's a paperback?" (That's when deforestation destroys all our trees and we live in outer space...)

    These days, I read 90% of my novels on my Kindle (or electronically). Last year, I read 20%. The year before that, I didn't know what a Kindle was... did anyone?

    Blogging for writers has become a must. Even traditional publishers require their writers to publicize their books.

    Great post, Karen

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  19. What a great post Karen! Really uplifting and feelgood. Am I a published author if I've only been published on-line? I should be! But it's difficult with all these norms, not to be shy and say; I'm not a writer... yet...

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  20. Great post Karen!!! I say to stick to writing and I hope to one day be published soon, away from the snobs :)

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  21. Karen, thanks for posting this. it says what i've been thinking and trying to get across to my writing friends for a long time.

    i have a blog award for you when you have the time to pick it up.

    http://michellegregory.blogspot.com/2010/10/irresistable-or-strange.html

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  22. I read plently of garbage that has been traditionally published, and recently read a couple of increadable books that are only availible in e-format. If anything I am a Kindle snob. If I can't get it there, I probably won't read it.

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  23. I definitely think we're in an interesting place in the world of publishing. I like to think all this change just means more people will be reading and writing. That's win-win for everyone!

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  24. I read this and think of Richard Paul Evans. I think he's changed the self publishing world forever.

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  25. What a wonderful post! Writers, authors, book bloggers and the like are some of the most wonderful people I've had the chance to meet. I'm so very blessed to be surrounded by such supportive people and I think it's an utter shame there are those who would look down on those who choose to publish a different way than they did. We need to support each other, not tear each other down.

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  26. I have to admit that I'm still shy about calling myself a writer, which is why a lot of the people in my life don't know about my writing aspirations. But I appreciate your advice. I know very little about the publishing industry, so it helps to learn about these kinds of things from writers who have experienced them.

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  27. Amen!

    The publishing world is changing so fast. People who are willing to try new things, use different ways to get their stories out there, will find readers, whether the snobs like it or not.

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  28. YES!

    There is one published author who has a blog, (a few followers), who drives me bloody nuts talking about "rules" all the time. Go away and let me write.

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  29. A very thought provoking post. Isn't it maddening how many people out there try to spoil people's enjoyment and enthusiasm for their art/craft? If a piece of work is good it will speak for itself however it is published etc. It's like when Bob Geldof organised Live Aid people called him Saint Bob. They are the lemon lips of society! BTW there's an award over at my blog for you, (something else the lemon lips try to diminish). ;O)

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  30. I LOVE this post, Karen. Jane Friedman has been saying something similar for months. Traditional forms of publishing are not the only way to be published anymore. And the snobbery bothers me too. We don't need to look down at people because their genre is YA or faith-based or chick lit or whatever isn't considered literary by some.

    Thanks for writing this. I love the support from my fellow bloggers - especially the published ones because they can speak from experience.

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  31. So true Karen. I met a guy at a writer's conference who told me that self-publishing can help first time authors establish a platform if enough books are sold.

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  32. Karen,

    I love this post and agree completely with what you say. The prejudice against certain genres of writing, in particular, annoys me very much!

    As to self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, I just don't see this as an either/or any more. There are surely pros and cons to both approaches. Why should we have to choose?

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  33. I hear that self-publishing got a bad rap because there were people churning out crap. It's a good idea to pay for an editor to weed out our typos & "Darlings."
    Another point I recently heard was that "Indie" music and movies have a lot of "Street Cred." Why not books? I think our time is coming!

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  34. Lucky you! Such a new follower and Pe-Yoww, your name was drawn as Flashlight Follower.

    This must be exciting for you, cause I know it is for me :-)

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  35. Oh, Karen-this was a FABULOUS rant! There is a vested interest of the industry keeping all of us buying into this. (Probably the author world ALSO has an interest, so bookstores don't disappear, BUT...) I wholeheartedly endorse the SUPPORTING of other authors. I would sure love to see some sort of 'guild' or something so that authors could give a little guidance making sure books are their best before going to the self-publishing. Because I agree--that doesn't MEAN books are bad, but a lot of bad books go that route, which is hard on the credibility of the resource.

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  36. Self-pubbed authors can eliminate the snobbery by doing two things - hiring a professional editor and avoiding the subsidy presses. Those are the two biggest complaints. (And usually go hand-in-hand.) As more writers publish quality works, the stigma of self-publishing will gradually vanish.

    The publishing industry has changed a lot over the past ten years. Hang on for the next ten, as it's gonna be wild!

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  37. There were no rules until a bunch of people came along and realised they could make a massive load of money by making rules. So they did and here we all are.

    I do what I think is best for my writing and that's it. I don't bother about anyone's idea of 'rules' or 'the right way to publish'. Life is too short.

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  38. Thanks for dropping by my blog today. Yes, Lemon lips, I guess must be a British term. If you check out my post for the One Shot Weds last week, it's all about a lemon lipped person.
    http://scribbleandedit.blogspot.com/2010/10/moleskine-magic.html

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  39. I think the industry will turn around. With a new demand coming from e-readers, titles are bound to increase, self-pubbed or traditional. I don't know . . . I always liked finding that "secret" book in the back of the library. Self-pubbed kind of hold that feel for me. It's exciting!

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  40. these are excellent points, Karen! And I'm always reading articles about self-published books that have been picked up by publishers and reformatted. Do your best and then follow your heart~ :o) <3

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  41. I think everyone knows how I feel about editing. It is SUPER IMPORTANT, and especially when self-publishing. The publishing snobbery that bugs me the most is when people say going with a small press can hurt you, because if you don't have good sales then no one else will take you.

    And bad sales with a big press WON'T hurt you? So the titles that big publishers put out never sell poorly? There's no real logic in the snobbery, which is what makes it snobbery. Or as Pat Tillett says, bullying.

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  42. Great post! The way I see it, the snobs are making tons of money off the writers and you're right, there is NO real logic in it. Actors get paid more than the directors and producers for their talents. So why should writers get paid so little for theirs?

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  43. hear hear. Great post. Did somebody say something to bring this on?

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  44. Someone above said "write from the heart." I think you just have to write, period, and not worry about "snobs." Let's face it--the world really isn't fair.

    I just sent you an email (your yahoo address) about Paul Yarbrough.
    Ann

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  45. Tamara, Not lately. It's just my Monday rant, my new feature.

    Ann, just write and move forward is the best way to handle the naysayers, you are so right.

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  46. Way to stand up for everyone, Karen!

    It's not nice to put people down for any reason...Everyone who aspires to be an author is on a journey and how they get to their destination is their own business...Heck, their destination is their own business. Not everyone has the same goals...

    BTW...My name is Sharon and I'm a writer. (smile)

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  47. As an author, publishing with a small press gives me more freedom to explore genres. Signing on with an agent usually means pigeonholing one's self into a formula genre, staying with a theme your readers will expect, something the agent knows he/she can sell. I want to experiment with writing different types of stories.

    I say "real" authors write what moves them. Simple as that!

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  48. I like how you see it, Karen. :) People want to set up their fiefdoms wherever they go, don't they?

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  49. I agree with Pat Tillet that sometimes snobs are just bullies and the only reason people bully someone else is because they ultimately feel threatened by them.

    I've read some great books which have been put out by a small press (which has then gone on to garner acclaim for what it was publishing and gain a good reputation within the publishing industry). I've also read some fab self-published titles and am starting to read those only published on Kindle, and those few I've read to date, I wouldn't have wanted to miss out on reading.

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