Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Lev Butts Does It Again

It's been a good bit since I went on a diatribe about dissing the self- and independently-published writer. Almost four years, in fact. I thought I had put it all behind me. I thought, naively, that I had won.

I really did.

I had hung up my shootin' irons, beaten my sword into a ploughshare, and turned my spear into a pruning hook. I was all ready to sip tea on my porch and reminisce with the young'uns about the ol' days fightin' the good fight for writer equality.

Then I saw a social media post from a writer I respect (who shall remain nameless, partly to protect his privacy and  partly because he's a local poet, so you wouldn't know him anyway) that advised his followers not to take writing advice from self-published authors who think high word counts equal quality writing. I'd share a screen shot, but I can't find it now. It has either been edited, deleted, or is buried so far down his news feed that it finally hit China.

It's just too far to look.
Now there's a lot to unpack in that statement: don't take writing advice from self-published authors who think high word counts equal quality writing.

As an English professor, I understand the importance of qualifiers. One interpretation of this statement, then, could be that one should ignore only those self-published writers who think high word counts equal quality writing. The implication being that it is fine to take advice from self-published writers as long as they don't think high word counts equal quality writing. Indeed, the lack of a comma after "authors" makes this the literal interpretation of the sentence.

However, this is still a problematic idea. Are we then free to take writing advice from traditionally published authors who think high word counts equal quality writing? If so, the implication is not that the word count thing is the problem, but that the self-published thing is the crux. Otherwise, why not say "Don't take writing advice from authors who think high word counts equal quality writing"?

On the other hand, the phrase "who think high word counts equal quality writing" could be read as a defining characteristic of self-published writers. Admittedly, if there were a comma after "authors," it would literally mean just that.

Apparently how at least one traditionally published author views self-published authors
Either interpretation, however, implies that the crux of the problem with taking writing advice from self-published authors is the manner of publication, more so than the counting of words.

Underlying all of this vitriol towards self-publishing seems to be at least one of two misguided ideas:

1. There is some kind of competition between traditionally-published and self-published authors. 

This is, of course, patently absurd. It assumes that readers only buy one book, and if they buy a self-published book, it means a traditionally published author has gone hungry. However, we all know as readers, that we are going to buy exactly as many books as a) strike our fancy and b) can be covered by our cash, our debit cards, and/or our credit limit.

Look, with only a few exceptions, nobody is getting rich off of writing. There's plenty of poverty to go around for all writers. In fact, if any writer is making a living at it, much less getting rich, you can bet he or she is traditionally published. Even if it were a competition, then, clearly the traditionally published are winning.

Killing it along with literally every one of his characters you love.
2. Self published writers are lazy hacks with no talent.

This is probably the most common insulting stereotype about self-published writers. The idea that they are either too unashamedly lazy to do the work of getting traditionally published (an idiotic assumption given the amount of extra work a self-published author has to do, beyond writing, in order to sell books) or they are so abysmally without talent that no publisher will touch them.

Of course, this last assumption implies that traditional publishers only take good writing, so every single book on the shelves of Barnes and Noble must truly be a breathtaking masterpiece of literary genius.

Amirite?
Clearly this isn't true.

Which brings me to the next thing I am going to do that I haven't done in a while. I haven't done a countdown in a bit, so starting next month, I am listing the best self-published books I have read.  I will discuss one a month, in no particular order (so it's not technically a countdown, I guess).

If you have any suggestions that you'd like me to take a look at, send them to me in the comments and tell me why they are worth a look between now and then, and I will try to to read them before I finish the list.

I will show you that self-published does not necessarily equal a lack of quality.

4 comments:

Chris Longmuir said...

Great post Lev and I look forward to your task of assessing the best self-published books you read. I might find some new authors. I actually did that a few years ago when I was crime writer in residence for the online Edinburgh eBook Festival which was all about indies and their books. I read 91 authors and did a blog post every day assessing and comparing their books to those traditionally published. They were assessments rather than reviews. At the end of the festival, I pulled the lot together and published them in a book which I titled Crime Fiction and the Indie Contribution. It doesn't sell terribly well but it did provide me with a lot of satisfaction. I'll be keeping an eye out for your future posts. Happy reading.

Leverett Butts said...

Post a couple of the best ones if you can remember them and I will try to work them into my list

Chris Longmuir said...

I'd have to hunt for them Lev and I don't have a lot of time on my hands at the moment but I'll see what I can do. However, all the assessments are contained in my book Crime Fiction and the Indie Contribution. Hope you enjoy your reading.

Griselda Heppel said...

Well, the guy's own inability to construct a logical thought proves your point - beautifully put! A few months ago there was some silly, uninformed article in the Huffington Post, listing all the usual rubbish about self-publishing equalling vanity publishing, because authors obviously don't bother with self- copy- or any other kind of editing etc etc. As a self-published author I found it extremely annoying as the HP has a lot of clout.