So Much Ignorance In One Article

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So much ignorance in one article.

For the link to the stupid Guardian article titled “For me, traditional publishing means poverty. But self-publish? No way.” Click HERE. Because poverty rocks.

You’re going to read stuff like this on occasion. I’m fine with it being written, I just worry that somebody might believe it.

There are plenty of good reasons to self publish (see my brilliant 3 part series on that very topic, HERE, so this angry post makes more sense), but not according to some people–like this writer. Meanwhile, other successful authors have done it and keep doing it, so who’s smarter? Should you listen to people who say “I can’t do this so you’d better not try” or even “I never tried that so you better not, either?”

Uh, no.

I won’t self publish because YOU might look foolish, YOU might embarrass yourself, YOU, YOU, YOU… Shouldn’t it say I won’t self publish because I might embarrass myself, I might look foolish, I, I, I? As in, I am afraid? It sure sounds like fear when “I” is attached, doesn’t it? Of course it does. Because it is nothing but fear speaking. Well, fear and ignorance.

First, a few people who indie published that you might not know about:

Stephen King. Edgar Allen Poe. The guy who wrote the bestselling book that became the blockbuster movie The Martian, Andy Weir.

And a few names you might know as indie authors if you don’t live under a rock:

Hugh Howey, Chuck Wendig, Charles Yallowitz. There are plenty more.

The point is, many authors choose to self publish and traditionally publish, so why not?

But let’s address the stupidity in the article point by point, shall we? Because ignorance is lack of knowledge and stupidity is being incapable of grasping facts that are easily accessible.

“You have to forget writing for a living.”

Nobody I know as an indie author does that. Nobody. And I know hundreds, maybe thousands, of indie authors. You may spend time learning new skills like marketing, but it’s naïve to think that can’t be hired out. Meanwhile, by learning about it, you make yourself a better manager of your product—your book—as opposed to being a slave to the whims of your trad publisher. More on that later, but ask trad authors how often their book got pushed back because it wasn’t the hot flavor of the month, or because of budget restraints, or a new editor came in and wanted a bunch of changes. That’s after the author waited 18-24 months to get scheduled for release anyway.

I do know a person who quit their job last year after self publishing their first novel because the royalty money surpassed the income from their regular job. I know plenty of indie authors whose sole income is writing. And I know plenty who use their royalties as a nice supplement.

I also know a lot who don’t – same as trad authors.

“Self-publishing can make you behave like a fool.”

Lots of things can do that. Like writing a one sided article without doing your homework first. Or doing a video show with friends. Or blogging. Or TWI (Tweeting while intoxicated.) Or almost anything that features you on YouTube.

The indie author shoving their book in your face? Yawn. Because a trad author would never do that. Except they do. A lot. When they have to “help with marketing.” More on that later, too. We’re all gonna make mistakes because we’re excited and we want our friends to share our joy, and there’s no godlike trad publisher angel keeping you from doing stupid stuff, so forget that nonsense.

“Gatekeepers are saving you from your own ego.”

Because the god-angel bestowed unlimited knowledge upon them? Folks, the gatekeepers reading your book are no smarter than you. Maybe less smart, as is often the case. They aren’t out there creating unique, interesting stories, are they? Often they’re just chasing a trend or looking to fill an existing slot at Barnes and Noble as opposed to searching for creative talent, so let’s not pretend otherwise.

“Good writers become good because they undertake an apprenticeship. Serving your apprenticeship is important.”

Good writers become good because they write a lot and read a lot. That’s what the most famous writers have said, anyway, like Stephen King and others, but who are they to listen to?

“You can forget Hay festival and the Booker.”

Maybe you should. “Traditional publishing is the only way to go for someone who writes literary fiction.” Tell that to Hugh Howie – he’s currently sailing around on his yacht. Prizes are important to people who like prizes. Readers are important to writers. I’m not saying prizes don’t help with marketing, but if King and Howey both write books and only one could win the prize, does that mean the other sucks? Of course not. Write what your readers want, not what a prize selection committee wants you to write. That’s chasing the wrong goal. Think of it like the Academy Awards. Do they choose your favorite movie each year? They do not. Star Wars and Raiders Of The Lost Ark were blockbusters that went on to change our culture. They didn’t win the Oscar. (Star Wars was released in 1977; the academy chose Rocky as best picture that year. In 1981, when Raiders was released, Ordinary People won. See my point? Would you rather have created Indiana Jones or Calvin and Beth Jarrett? It’s okay, you can say who?)

“You risk looking like an amateur.”

You sure do. And since you are the boss and the secretary and the marketing department and the janitor, you can quickly fix whatever you may have done wrong. Ebook corrections are usually posted inside of 24 hours. You can also read a book about indie publishing first and not look like an amateur. So there’s that. It’s almost like the writer is saying you will look like an amateur. Actually, I think that’s what the writer is trying to say. (It’s also fair to say that thousands of successful indie authors and millions of readers of indie books disagree.)

The list of absolute crap books released by traditional publishers is embarrassing. Snooki released a book through a trad publisher, okay? Talk about looking like an amateur. You’ve caught typos in trad released books. In general, an indie author can release a book with less quality because nobody’s there to stop them, except the market place, which crushes them along with the crappy trad authors’ books. Reading the sample will cure you of buying a nonquality book 99% of the time no matter who releases it.

 “70% of nothing is nothing.”

This, to me, was the best part. The writer says she made nothing for two years as a trad published author. So apparently 15% of nothing is nothing, too.

She would rather languish in self-described poverty than look for ways to improve. Stockholm Syndrome, anyone? As Wendig said, publishers don’t always know how to publish your book. Ouch! Reality!

Look, as I stated earlier, this is a false choice. There’s nothing wrong with working at being published traditionally and indie. Wendig and others have written extensively about it. Hugh Howey has, too.

You’ll have to market in both – you, as a trad author, will still need to build a platform, still need to help market, still need to do signings… and I guess the trad god-angels wave their magic wands to create extra time for you to do that, right? Because working two years for basically nothing means you paid the bills with pixie dust or you had another job.

It’s not an “either/or” choice!

Both methods of publishing can peacefully coexist. And have. In the same author, sometimes. Wendig calls himself a hybrid author. I don’t know what Howie calls himself. Others call him brilliant. That works.

But by learning all that’s required to independently publish, whether you master it or not, you educate yourself enough to hold people accountable as they work with your book. That’s a skill worth having no matter which way you end up going. That’s choosing to step away from ignorance.

I wish more people would do that, actually.

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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the amazingly great upcoming sci fi action thriller “The Navigators.” Click HERE to check out his other works.




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International bestselling author Dan Alatorre has 17 titles published in over a dozen languages. From Romance in Poggibonsi to action and adventure in the sci-fi thriller The Navigators, to comedies like Night Of The Colonoscopy: A Horror Story (Sort Of) and the heartwarming and humorous anecdotes about parenting in the popular Savvy Stories series, his knack for surprising audiences and making you laugh or cry - or hang onto the edge of your seat - has been enjoyed by audiences around the world. And you are guaranteed to get a page turner every time. “That’s my style,” Dan says. “Grab you on page one and then send you on a roller coaster ride, regardless of the story or genre.” Readers agree, making his string of #1 bestsellers popular across the globe. He will make you chuckle or shed tears, sometimes on the same page. His novels always contain twists and turns, and his nonfiction will stay in your heart forever. Dan resides in the Tampa area with his wife and daughter. You can find him blogging away almost every day on www.DanAlatorre or watch his hilarious YouTube show every week Writers Off Task With Friends. Dan’s marketing book 25 eBook Marketing Tips You Wish You Knew has been a valuable tool for new authors (it’s free if you subscribe to his newsletter) and his dedication to helping other authors is evident in his helpful blog.

56 thoughts on “So Much Ignorance In One Article

  1. I know people are entitled to their opinion, and the right to say it, but really? Sounds like a load of sour grapes to me…
    The author was presumably paid by the Guardian for this article, so invalidates much of what was said, to me anyway. We all know it’s not the easiest thing in the world to get any acknowledgement in the publishing world, whichever route you choose, but I for one, don’t have a choice. I write because I love it…

  2. This article makes me rather angry indeed. The points she makes could be true of both self-published and traditional published authors. And like in any creative or artistic business, being good at what you do is no guarantee to success – having a product that’s right for the market place at the right time is more important than talent. And luck plays a significant role too. There are an awful lot of bad novels out there – self-published and from traditional publishers – some of the best writing I ever read is right here on WordPress sites of great writers with huge talent just doing their thing. Does that make them worse writers than the lucky buggers who turned up in the right place at the right time with a manuscript that fills a hole on a bookshelf? Of course not. All writers are expected to push their own books, just like bands have to tour and play gigs and artists have to hawk their wares around too. You don’t get out of marketing just because you have a publishing deal. And who the f**k cares about a Booker Prize? That whole section is just bollocks. I could go on but I shall stop ranting and go and get a cup of tea. Anyway, I bet her book is shit.

  3. Brilliant! I think Howey describes himself as a hybrid author as well. You, and he, and Wendig are all in the same class. Genius. Thank you for reassuring us all that we need to stay true to ourselves and tune out the crap.

  4. This is my conundrum. I self-published my first book. I have friends who have SP and friends who have TP. I learned loads about writing, publishing, and marketing with that first book. I planned to SP my second book (different genre and style of work entirely). Then, when the book was well-received at Sleuthfest, decided to try TP. I pitched to agents and all wanted ms or partials. I consulted an expert about how to write a query letter. He gave me tons of advice, which included keeping my SP work separated from my TP work, even to go so far as to use a pen name to query and abandon any mention of my new book on my existing author platform that is under my real name. He feels it is better to be an unknown, that to be a known SP author. Now, all my self-published friends are telling me I’m not being true to myself. As small as my author platform is, it’s still my platform. I can’t see building it up again under a new name. I’m torn.

        1. Sure, so at first you follow the advice of those who have your best interests at heart, whatever that may be. As you learn more you can make different choices. You have more than one book in you.

              1. I’m hearing agents screaming for something new. And a new approach to the P.I. novel using humor rather than hardcore grit is what I have to offer.

    1. I’m gonna chime in here. Agents and editors care about SP work if it sells, and they want to see a platform. Your comment makes me wonder if your expert has sour grapes against indies as well.

      1. That’s what I’m feeling. He gave good advice for reconstructing my query letter, but he is a former literary agent, and believes every book should have an agent as if that’s what proves its worth. He reviewed my query letter, synopsis, and fifty pages. I can see his points clearly about the query letter. He liked the synopsis and the fifty pages, and told me how to design the query letter to showcase what the book offers in entertainment value without mentioning things that might be off-putting to an agent at first glance. He gave me ideas on how to get endorsements for the book, and told me to mention my publicist…but repeatedly told me NOT to self-publish, to separate myself from the previously self-published work and to use a pen name. I had been under the impression that even the traditional houses want to see a media presence and I built mine around that SP book. So now what? The SP work only sold about 2000 copies and has 41 reviews. It’s an entirely different genre. It’s a historic novel and I had come up with some ideas on how to blend the historic with the contemporary and continue to promote from the same platform, now I’m having doubts if that’s the right way to go about it. He’s only one man with his own preconceived notions about the industry. Do I listen to him as the expert? Or go with my gut?

        1. I’m always a big fan of the gut.
          The advice I’ve read says if it’s not 5,000 or more sales in the first year, you simply don’t mention the SP book in the query. I’ve never read to remove yourself from your SP work. That feels drastic to me. If an agent or editor is interested in the book you’re querying, they will probably Google you and find the SP book, but more importantly they’ll see your platform and that you already have a readership. That’s less work for them in the long run.
          But I’m not a former agent, so what do I know? 🙂

          1. It is been my experience that people go with what they know. I am friends with somebody who was in the publishing business for decades, and she has a low opinion of Independent authors in general, partly because she still makes money through her traditional channels and Independent publishers don’t make her money. So she has a vested interest in not supporting the independent industry. I have friends who independently publish who make lots of money who would never consider traditional publishing. They enjoyed running their own businesses. (Not everyone does.) Because each of these friends had success in their own arena they don’t see any benefit to changing. Plus, all their expertise is from the arena they came from so they’re not experts in the other stuff. Doesn’t make them bad, doesn’t make them wrong, it may however make them well-intentioned but poorly informed.

          2. I’m feeling that it’s drastic as well. I think there is a climate in the traditionally published world that is different from the self-published, at least at the upper echelons.

            1. If I’m not reading too much into this, I’d say you don’t want to distance yourself from the work you’ve done.

              So don’t.

              However it turns out, good or bad, you’ll still wonder “what if” about the other choice, so go with your gut and TRUST the years and decades of experience you’ve accumulated.

              I have some feedback, would you like to discuss over email?

  5. Been seeing a lot of rebuttals to this article. First time I got mentioned, so I’m blushing. 🙂

    I’ve people with the mentality that it’s trad publishing or bust. Most seem to work off the idea that going the self-published route means you’re desperate and aren’t very good. Long ago, I remember being told that those who have no talent and are too foolish to accept defeat go this route. Needless to say, I didn’t listen to that person and eventually lost contact. Anyway, it seems this person is working off a similar way of thinking.

    It’s amazing how these people think it’s an ‘either/or’. There’s so much potential for the two camps to work together. We’re seeing more people opt for the movie or TV show over the book. Some won’t even touch a series that doesn’t have an adaptation, which means books are competing with other entertainment mediums. I admit that I’m iffy on ever going with a trad publisher because I keep hearing horror stories about not keeping control of my own work. Yet, there’s no reason a trad can’t watch the indies and see if anyone catches their attention. In the same vein, indies should keep an eye out for anything the trad publishers offer that can be useful. It’s really hard to give examples because it feels like there’s more head butting than handshaking. Hopefully that changes.

    As for this: “Self-publishing can make you behave like a fool.”

    Has this person ever noticed the amount of James Patterson commercials that are on TV?

  6. I think the competitions, longlists, short lists, Bridport prize, Bath literary awards, Booker etc… etc… Are good for honing your Flash fiction , for keeping momentum while you revise and revise and edit. If you get picked up through a doorway from a contest then great but meanwhile keep going. I think as ebooks sit alongside paperbacks and audio books; self publishing sits alongside the traditional way. One size doesn’t fit all.

  7. People say stupid things all the time. The other day, one of my author acquaintances on Facebook said he didn’t think authors should promote their own work, that the quality of their writing should be left to stand for itself. I replied, so, should Pepsi stop running commercials? Authors have a DUTY to learn how to successfully promote themselves and their work, to let people know about their product.
    Okay, I’m getting of track.
    I think that with all the misinformation out there, articles like this, debunking all the garbage, is so important. Great read!

    1. Thanks. One of the most important artists of our time, Salvador Dali, was constantly accused by his lesser famous and lesser compensated critics as Salvador dollar. Dali understood marketing. He understood he could starve to death if he didn’t promote his work. And he is known worldwide because he was willing to do what it took to get his art to the people. Anyone who thinks in today’s market that you will have Oprah and Ellen knock on your door without doing any marketing is naïve at best.

  8. Just one sour old Brit write chimes in.

    Can’t say I’m surprised that this article came out in a UK ‘broadsheet’ (aka newspapers for the ‘thinking reader”-sarcasm). The ‘G’ likes to see itself as the voice of art, culture, etc, but of course on its own terms.
    There are a body of us UK writers who feel our fair Island stifles truly independent writing, because a writer has to comply to certain standards by certain schools of thought/style and if you don’t fit into any of those, well ‘One is simply not a good writer’. (Surprising how conservative some ‘liberals’ or ‘unconventional’ people can be, if you don’t fit into their confines)
    So I am not surprised to see that ‘an author’ writing ‘a piece’ for ‘a broadsheet’ would voice these opinions; after all if self-published authors were let loose, where would it all end?
    Our beloved ‘edgy’ ‘challenging’ or equally conservatively-rebellious established ‘names’ would have to compete with all manner of lesser folk, who would not comply with any of the established schools of writing..
    Oh no, it simply won’t do.

    One poet of my acquaintance, regularly submits work to the US as he finds the UK too limiting.

    Let’s hear it for self-publishing!!

    1. I hear you. Just last night OI was reading about two folks from the greater kingdom,. I think, and they said this:

      “You know, Tollers, there’s far too little of what we enjoy in stories… Really it struck me how rare such books are… I’m afraid we’ll have to write them ourselves.”

      – C.S Lewis to J. R. R. Tolkien, who agreed. He advised fighting what he called the tyranny of the machine.

      Keep fighting the good fight.

    2. “Surprising how conservative some ‘liberals’ or ‘unconventional’ people can be, if you don’t fit into their confines.” If you only knew how often I’ve had this very thought. This entire topic continues to confuse (and sometimes depress) the heck out of those of us in the Yet-to-be-Published Club. It’s good to know there are alternatives to trad publishing but, more importantly, that those who’ve gone before us are willing to share their experiences.

      1. You have to figure either each side has a vested interest in not conceding the other side’s points, or neither side has evolved as the industry has. Can’t really be too many other options.

  9. Thanks for your encouragement even though both paths (trad & indie) are challenging as heck. I think it’s a matter of how determined one is to get that book out. How much do you really want it? That’s all one has to ask and then forge on.

  10. That voice from the Guardian, that author, takes such a snide tone in her article that I had to stop reading after the cabinet-maker analogy. She has absolutely no clue as to what she’s talking about in much of the piece and makes so many sweeping generalizations and assumptions based on, perhaps, a few agents’ bits of advice and a handful of examples of the self-published authors (and their work) she may-or-may-not-have-encountered. Even the traditionally published authors are turning to the hybrid route, a little trad and a little self-published work, because it makes some financial sense…PRACTICAL sense…to do so if one wants to make a decent living at it. Their reputations haven’t been ruined as a result either.

    I wish that the stigma, like the author here is displaying, of self-publishing would just cave in on itself for a change because there is ample proof that there are plenty of trad. published books that aren’t worthy of sewers (pick up a “memoir” from a has been D-List celeb, for example) and self-pubbed works that deserve critical acclaim usually reserved solely (and pretentiously) for “literary” works.

  11. You raised a lot of great points here! I personally lean towards the traditional side, but your post gave me new things to think about and consider regarding self-publishing. Thanks for that! 🙂

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