Boast Post #2–And A Word About Prejudice

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.)

Look at number one, Beauty and the Feast. Readers are recognizing quality, too.

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.





18 thoughts on “Boast Post #2–And A Word About Prejudice

  1. My name is Bridget, and I’m a sampler. It has been 1 hour and 45 minutes since I last sampled a book and found it wanting. Was it an establishment publisher’s book, or published by its author? I have no idea. I sample everything based on covers that catch my eye and sell copy that piques my interest. I pass or buy based on my enjoyment of the writing, the characters, and the unfolding story. I do wince a bit at 99c titles, but mainly because I’m afraid the author is hesitant to charge a fair price, and I hate to see a good book stuck in the ghetto because of a number.

    This self-publishing thing is the coolest thing to come along since crunchy peanut butter, and we’re all feeling our way through to what works for us. Hasten the day when most people won’t hold a books origins against it if the writing and storytelling hold up to a bit of advance reading.

  2. Brilliant, touching, heartfelt, justifiably angry and indignant post, Jaye. My father always said that the biggest sin isn’t hatred, it’s hatred for no reason.
    I agree, blind taste test. I think Beauty and the Feast can stand side by side with anything New York puts out. In formatting, quality and pure reading pleasure.
    I’m very proud of our work.

  3. Yes indeed. I am attending a well-known writer’s conference this weekend and it’s going to be veeerrry interesting to see how the self-published writers and the traditionally-published writers get along. There will also be agents and editors in the mix. I wonder if we will throw up barricades and start throwing pencils at each other.

    • Heh, Margaret. Your books have quality that can go head to head with any traditionally published offering coming out of NY. I am picturing you pulling out your Nook, moving to the sidelines, reading and smiling sweetly while the silly arguments fly.

    • I recently attended the World Horror Convention. Not sure how big it is in the ranks, but I know it’s up in the top two for the horror genre. While there were a couple shots taken at self-publishing (but more along the lines of, “Everyone expects to be the next John Locke”), it was pretty tame. I pitched my novel to a few publishers (this is the novel I had already self-published), and all of them were still willing to look at it. Their only hesitation was in how many copies I had already sold and whether or not I understood that I would have to relinquish e-rights.

      I think they are starting to understand that there is quality to be found (hopefully mine being one 🙂 in the self-pubbed ranks, and if they want those authors, they’re going to need to start reevaluating some of their practices.

      Paul D. Dail A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

  4. Exactly. The next John Locke? Of that’s delicious. It’s so easy to do, right?

    Reminded me of a great quote I read, but cannot for the life of me remember where or who said it. (paraphrase) “Ugly is everywhere and it’s cheap. Hell, it’ll strip down and give you a lap dance without you even asking. But beauty? To find that you have to open your eyes and SEE.”

  5. Pingback: Self-Publishers, Are You Cross Promoting? | J W Manus

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