This week I helped launch an indie novel. The writer did the hard part: she wrote the novel. I did the fun part: editorial, badgering her with a zillion questions, making her write a bunch of additional material, asking more questions, and formatting the ebook. She contracted with a talented designer to create a cover. Indie authors have their work cut out for them when it comes to covers, too, even if they hire out. The author serves as the de facto art department, doing the research, finding the artwork, making suggestions and approvals, but most of all trusting in the wisdom and skill of the designer she’s chosen.
Then, yesterday, I was reading The Passive Voice blog and saw a few comments that made me realize the old prejudices against self-publishing are still alive and kicking. Nothing big, nothing I haven’t seen before, and even (I am so ashamed) thought myself at a point in my past.
The prejudice is that self-published novels, and their writers, are lesser things.
I’m here to tell you, I have evidence in my hot little Kindle, that is not so. In fact, I would gladly, and with utter confidence, put the novel Julia Barrett wrote, I produced and Winterheart Design designed a cover for up against any romance novel coming out of New York.
That’s not bias, it’s experience. I’ve published 17 novels with a traditional publisher, plus a lot of other stuff. I’ve worked with three publishing houses, quite a few editors, agents, art departments and booksellers. More importantly, I’m a reader. I’ve read thousands of books in every genre, and from across the ages. I know the difference between good and bad writing. I know when a book has quality production. I am confident you could blind test our novel against any produced by the Big 6 or Harlequin, and no reader could pick Beauty and the Feast out as the self-published entry. (Well, okay, if they looked at the formatting and realized it’s far superior to what many of the traditional publishers are producing–and charging a premium price for. Are you listening, HarperCollins? Formatting is not that hard. Really. Trust me.)
Here’s the thing about prejudice. It isn’t evil. It’s lazy. It’s a way to not have to think about our fears. Isn’t it easier to say, “Oh, I don’t like black people. They’re all shiftless,” then it is to actually get over your fear of strangers? Isn’t it easier to think, “Rich people are cheating, evil, power hungry scum,” then it is to beat oneself up over our own failure to put in the hard work, sacrifice, and long hours it takes to become rich? Isn’t it easier to utterly dismiss self-publishers as hacks who lack the patience (and talent) to get a NY contract than it is to examine our own failings and fears about our publishing careers?
This post isn’t an invitation to start a pissing contest about the merits of self-publishing versus traditional publishing. I’ve heard it all, trust me. There’s crap on both sides of the street. I get it. Because I’m old and actually pay attention to things, here’s a head’s up for you young’uns. There will always be crap in the street. That’s life. Deal with it.
This post is a reminder that the person truly harmed by prejudice is the person with the prejudice. Prejudice narrows your life.
And writers? Prejudice is lazy thinking and lazy thinking produces bad fiction. At its core, good fiction is all about using made-up shit in order to tell the truth. You have to be able to think in order to accomplish that.