Monday 10 June 2013

WHY CAN'T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG? (My thoughts about the aftermath of John Green's recent speech.)

Since John Green's video speech about self-publishing splashed through cyberland last week there have been a lot of indie authors posting responses to it in defense/retaliation, many of which, to me, seem like various sophisticated wordings of "fuck you".

I'm not targeting anyone in particular. I'm totally generalizing here, based on the irksome feeling that pooled in my gut after reading several post-John-Green-speech-posts.

Okay, fine. I totally understand the inclination to cry "not fair!", and believe me, I'm on your side. It isn't fair. He said a few things that made me cringe. A lot. He also said a few things which were totally true. The problem is that he just doesn't realize that the things he claims authors need to publish a book (editors, designers, etc), aren't actually lacking in the indie author crowd. We don't just slap a book together from first draft and hope for the best. We take all those things very seriously. Perhaps even more so than the traditionally published author, because we actually have to commission these skilled freelancers ourselves and know how much work it involves.

Regardless of the content of John's speech, I'm pretty sure it was more the aggressive nature in which he voiced it that got under our indie author skins.

But the point I'm trying to make today is, there's this saying, guys, that is too often ignored or fobbed off for cliche: two wrongs don't make a right.

Come on, everyone. We don't need to stoop to his level of foul-mouthed aggressiveness to prove a point, do we? Everybody has an opinion about publishing. Everybody thinks their way is the only way.

But we're all still writers, folks. We're all still AUTHORS.
Why can't we just all get along?

The stigma attached to self-published authors may very well be on its way out, but we also know it's not completely disintegrated yet.

The way we publish is not yet embraced by everyone in this industry. And we know that. We've known that all along. We signed up for this challenge. We signed up to be the kind of author that some might think are lazy, rather than hardworking. But does it matter? We know the truth. Deep inside. And the best thing we can do is to keep educating people who have not yet accepted us. Let's keep producing quality work and prove them wrong in an honorable way, instead of lashing out for their ill-informed idea of what self-publishing is.

Sure, we should speak up. We should tell the world that we are just as good as the big guns. But I honestly think, the best way to do that is to do it through our books and our experience as indie authors.

Let people believe whatever they want to believe. Don't worry, we'll fight back. We'll fight back with books that our readers cannot bear to put down at night, and support our opinions on self-publishing with knowledge gleaned from personal experience. Not by putting others down.

What do you think? Is it right to lash out at John for this? His opinions are only coming from a world which he is used to living in. He hasn't experienced our world. He doesn't know. I think we should cut him some slack.

PS: I have a mini review tour for The Book, through Xpresso Book Tours happening for a week starting from today. There is a rafflecopter going for a signed copy of The Book. Two available internationally. If you're interested, you can enter below. Cheers!


  1. I've missed this whole controversy!

    I read published and self published books. And I agree that there are authors who put in so much effort to get a high-quality book out there. They put in the time, $, and are at the calibre writing-wise where I can't tell the different between trad pubbed and self pubbed.

    But then there people who don't. And that impression sticks because of those people. I bought a few friends' books (not yours!) and had to delete them because they were so poorly written or give away hard copies. One writer just posted on FB the other day that she took her daughter to a self-pub author's book signing and bought the book. There were 8 typos in the first few pages.

    I feel bad for talented self published authors. Without the same gatekeeper to keep anyone from publishing, you can get anyone publishing. It's got to be hard to stand out in the crowd.

    It's great there are more options for writers. We're taking the bad with the good, just like anything else.

  2. People will always believe what they want to believe—think about religion—and rarely does logical argument enter into the proceedings. All you have to do is look back history—and not merely the history of art—to see how violently people have reacted to change but change is inevitable. Self-publishing has been around for a long time but because it was hardly seen it was tolerated; people turned a blind eye if you like just like they did with homosexuality. Now its existence can’t be avoided and so people have to deal with it. Look at what’s going on at the moment with the notion of what a marriage should be and there will be plenty of people who’ll go to their grave believing that a marriage has to be between a man and a woman and that’s fine; let that generation die out holding onto its beliefs. I will die believing that ebooks aren’t as good as paper books. The belief isn’t rational but who said beliefs had to be rational? I will probably also die before people stop distinguishing between self-publishing and traditional publishing and that’s fine; change takes its own sweet time and although all of us would love to see all the kerfuffle over and done with it can’t be rushed. No one bats an eye hardly when they see a same sex kiss on TV but I remember the talk over first lesbian kiss on pre-watershed British television back in 1994. Twenty years isn’t so long. I expect to be still here in twenty years—you certainly will be—and maybe by then I’ll actually be selling some books. Stranger things have happened. For the moment we need to keep our dignity, bide our time and let the naysayers have their say.

  3. I missed this too, but after watching the video, I don't think he was bashing indie authors, I think he was bashing the people that PROFIT off of them for offering practically nothing(Authorhouse ring a bell?).

    That's the difference. All the people he refers to aren't paid until HE is paid, and their are sharks out in the indie world that take advantage of authors (especially ones who don't know what they are doing).

    It sounded to me that he is all for writers sharing their stories ("I WRITE BOOKS"...which is exactly what indie authors do, too.) It's just a matter of how those books get out there and who rips you off in the process that he doesn't like.

    And honestly, while I love me some indie authors, there are some who keep that terrible stigma alive by being the person who just writes a first draft, does zero editing, and puts together a crappy cover. THAT's part of the problem, too.


  4. Wow, how come this is the first I'm hearing of this? While I would love to say he's wrong, he does have a point. Not every self published author bothers with professionally editing. And the majority that do only use a copy editor. I've been reading a lot of self published novels recently, and my frustrations are mounting. Fortunately not every book is like this, but there are some bestselling authors who are more interested in quantity than quality. And those are the authors I never download another book from. Why should I when there are some great self pubbed books waiting to be discovered by authors who care to pay for more than just a great cover?

  5. Hi Jess - I sort of half heard/read .. but ignored. We aren't always happy with many in public life - but away from it all we live together relatively peacefully ... and we all have opinions, mostly we don't voice them.

    We can build quality readers and if we are destined to we can rise above those around us ...

    Good luck to everyone .. cheers Hilary

  6. I didn't know anything about this. That said, opinions are like belly buttons, everybody has at least one. There's such a thing as constructive discussion or argument too. We can agree to disagree without getting mean and nasty.

  7. I'm not inclined to give slack to someone because they don't know what they're talking about. ;) That being said, prior to this, I really liked John. Now I feel like he's... talking about something he doesn't really understand. And wrong ideas DO need correction (not lashing out, mind you).

    (Justine: I believe he's bashing Amazon, not AuthorHouse. PLEASE GOD let him bash AuthorHouse, who takes horrible advantage of writers and is owned by Penguin, who publishes John Greene. If he did a hit-piece-video on AuthorHouse, I would be shouting it from the rooftops.)

    Beyond all that, I don't think he's actually talking to indie authors at all. I think he's speaking to all his fellow authors who are already traditionally published, especially midlisters who are not bestsellers like him, and for whom indie is a very attractive option. He's saying to them, "Don't jump ship! I wouldn't be where I am today without my publisher! Don't believe the lie that you can do all this on your own!"

    (Note: this, plus the meme that authors are obligated to uphold the status-quo in order to support lesser known authors, are just a couple of the memes floating around about why authors need to "save publishing." Needless to say, publishers have an interest in fostering these memes.)

    I don't agree with him, but John's entitled to his opinion. It would just carry more weight if he had indie published himself.

  8. I was unaware of this until now, and not feeling inclined to really hear his words as they may be coming from a place of ignorance (as in no experience) with the topic of choice. That's a bit sad and disheartening as I've read countless reviews of his fiction writing being a joy to experience.

    I don't begrudge his opinion. Like a**holes, we all have them.

  9. Two wrongs don't make a right. And for the author who does all the right things as far as editing, cover design, etc., self-publishing is a very viable option.

  10. Didn't hear it but I can guess. The way to combat people's poor opinion is to prove them wrong and until the folks who publish their first drafts quit doing that people's opinions aren't going to change much. I do not think it's a good idea to rant about how other people choose to publish, however, and completely agree with Susan that his words don't carry the weight they would if actually had the experience of being an indie author.

  11. I also missed this. Weird.

    See, for me, i thought he was pretty much speaking directly about himself and to the people who tell him he should self pub instead of sticking with traditional. I didn't see it as a rant against self pub in general, i saw it as a rant against people telling him to take a different path based on the assumption that he did everything himself.

    If he says he can't write the books he writes without the help he receives from his team, that's completely his choice. That's what i saw this as. I dunno, maybe i should have extrapolated further, but i just didn't see that this speech warranted that, you know?

  12. Most people that are opposed to self-publishing are doing so because they have contempt for the industry, and they're trying to preserve their privilege. That's how Republicans are in my country. They legislate to preserve the privileges sustained by the 2%.

    Some people just like to feel better than others. There's different ways to accomplish this. 1) Career 2) looks 3) wealth 4) dick size 5) amount of sex one gets compared to someone else 6) how young someone is compared to someone else... etc.

    Anyway, that's what I've learned in my life. People like to feel better than others. They walk a tightrope that consists of 1) I don't want to piss off too many people because I want to have lots of friends for social stuff but 2) I want to keep the "riff raff" out.

    To relate all this back to publishing, the authors who have "made it" look at all of us as "riff raff." They live in "the Hamptons" of the publishing bizz and don't want any of us moving in next door with our "wife beaters" (white trash term for t-shirt) and our Dodge Hemi's with the optional fork-lift attachment loaded with coon dogs.

  13. I don't understand why people look at the two differently. A good book is still a good book.

  14. What you said, Jessica! It's best to just prove naysayers wrong. Speaking out about preferences and how people publish is topical and brings more traffic. More promotion of 'this way' over 'that way'.

    Haven't we as writers got better things to do? 'The Public' always likes a duel. But it's only a debate with no sure ending.

    Someone else was discussing pen names and why we shouldn't use them. It seems everything can be dissed, by someone. It's why Freedom of Speech is important. Unelss we are a qualified expert, it's only an opinion.

    Hope it's a good week for you!

  15. I'd cut him something. Don't know if it'd be 'slack', per se. He is right on the money that this isn't a solitary craft, no matter how much we desire it to be. There are editors, cover designers, etc. But what everyone keeps leaving out (which I did see stated in a comment) is the READER. The reader is the one who decides overall what they want to read. How much they'd be willing to spend. I feel that a lot of the stigma regarding indie authors could go away if people would stop bashing it. Sometimes, you get a book that you really don't know if it's been self-pubbed or traditional, it's that good.
    The other thing I saw mentioned there in the comments was the whole thing of, of course he won't support indie when he's supported by bookstores. Everyone has a price. Makes me wonder if this is truly his opinion... or someone else's.
    It's his opinion, though. He can have it and well, he can voice it. There are better things to "fight" over. This isn't one of them. A good book is a good book, no matter how it came to be.

  16. Yes! I like your fair and balanced response. I think a lot of traditionally published authors aren't so much lashing out, as worrying that the value of their work will be diluted by what they see as readers "accepting crappily self-published work". I think it's going to take a while for them to realise that the cream always rises. The really good stuff will find its way around the planet, the way it always does (along with some ridiculous traditionally published crap which does too).
    It'll even out folks :-) Let's be nice!


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