I was not entirely surprised at how many comments THIS POST on Facebook generated. You see, some people — writers, to be exact — can get downright ticked when you insinuate that self-publishing MAY be an over-reaction to “the system.” In other words, SOME authors become so disgruntled with the traditional publishing system — the hoops, submission guidelines, courting agents and editors, demographic pandering, dealing with edits, pretty much just playing the game — that they choose to forgo the entire process and self-publish.
So self-publishing is like giving the finger to traditional publishers.
This isn’t the case with every self-published author. Obviously. I didn’t self-publish two books because I’m pissed at anyone. Still, I am surprised by the anger exhibited toward the publishing “establishment.”
In that particular post, it was the CBA. That’s the Christian Booksellers Association, but the term’s used generically for the mainstream Christian fiction industry. Now, I’ve done my fair share of criticizing Christian fiction, its publishers and its readers. Nevertheless, sometimes our criticism of the publishing industry can be a smokescreen, and resorting to self-publishing, a cop-out.
I think my books are good enough for someone else to foot the bill.
Sounds pretty arrogant, huh?
Some will suggest that, along with my arrogance, I’m also stupid. After all, the disparity of royalties between trad and self-publishing is quite significant. Not to mention the cut my agent gets. Either way, going the traditional publishing route is not without its costs.
The Resurrection and The Telling were both contracted by a Christian publishing house. So I knew going in that parts of those stories would have to conform to CBA standards. I fought hard to keep some things in the novels, but had to relent. Am I a sell-out for doing so? Would I have been better off self-publishing those stories and doing them my way?
There’s a certain nobility in artists who rage against the machine. You know, those creatives who refuse to adapt their style to the market. They rail against the money-grubbing gatekeepers. They scoff at “the rules.” They chafe against industry decorum. They denounce the status quo. They disparage what is commonly accepted as popular art. They would rather die anonymous than be a patented sellout.
They are… principled.
I dunno. But sometimes being “principled” is really just
- Institutional prejudice
- Lack of professional savvy
Should standing on “principle” sometimes be applauded? Absolutely! There’s many artists who have resisted conformity and we are better off for it. But at what point does resisting conformity hurt you or your craft? At what point is circumventing “the system” just obstinacy and fear of rejection? I have benefited from interacting with writers and editors, having my work critiqued by professionals, and learning to collaborate. But for some, self-publishing can be a way to bypass such important processes.
As well as scapegoat the industry.
The hard truth is that sometimes it is not the industry’s fault that a writer remains unrecognized and unpublished. Sometimes rejections are NOT about your genre, the Christian market, or inflexible publishers — they are about your writing.
Will ALL good writing be recognized? Probably not. Does the traditional publishing system fail? Yes. Often. Will some books simply not fit in with ANY publishing house? Sure. Nevertheless, I cannot let that be an excuse to stop “learning the craft” and striving to tell a more compelling story. I cannot let my frustrations become a smokescreen, a rationalization to blame someone or something for my publication woes. I can’t let those things justify a “screw you” mentality that makes the chip on my shoulder an anvil. And, by all means, I can’t rush my book into self-publishing because I refuse to suffer rejections and yield to editorial critiques.
So is ALL self-publishing a “principled” cop-out? No. Is some? I think so.