A Moment of Cranky

MCMThursday, August 27, 2009

I apologize in advance for this rant. It's been building up for a few weeks, and I just have to say it, even if it is impolite and a tiny bit irrational. I do my best to be civil and understanding at all times, but I've been pushed over the edge.

To writers/agents/publishers (both professional and aspiring): stop using "self-published" as shorthand for "crap".

I have seen one too many blog posts that warn against problems like adult illiteracy, fragmented culture, and self-publishing, as if they're somehow comparable. As if we're talking about the literary equivalent of lung cancer if an author decides to publish their own work. For all their problems, self-publishers aren't responsible for the deplorable state of creative expression in today's society.

I appreciate that self-publishing is a very dangerous game, and that many writers/agents/publishers want to warn would-be writers of the danger. I can't fault anyone for that. But it's when the sentiment crosses over from caution to overt and irrational hostility that I get cranky. More and more, I'm seeing that angle being played out by so-called "professionals", which is where this rant is directed.

Look, as I rule, I don't go calling names. It's tacky and childish. But hey, if you want to go there, I'll just observe this: the majority of the writers that go on tirades about self-publishing are the ones who write lazy, semi-coherent, cookie cutter novels with plots taken from the Law and Order rejection pile, complete with cardboard characterizations and dialogue so expository it makes the Book of Numbers look like subtle and poetic. I know you all must be insecure about your talent, but there's no need to pick on others just because it's hard to string together a paragraph without a cliché to elevate the prose.

Self-publishers have made a choice to put their necks on the line for their work, just like you made a choice to try and redefine what it means to be the lowest common denominator. If you're satisfied with your spot in life, why not let other people be satisfied with theirs, too? Snarking about publishing methods won't make your writing any better, so stop trying to create a lesser caste so that you don't have to be the bottom of the heap.

I have no problems with populist fare, and I obviously have no problems with engaging with mass media like a major TV broadcaster. The difference is, I don't go insulting indie filmmakers because they took a different approach to the creative process. I prefer to judge each work on its own merits, and not the mechanics by which it came into the world. Claiming that self-publishing is a foolproof condemnation of quality is no more reasonable than suggesting a major publisher logo proves you're Shakespeare. Trust me, dear snarkers... I've read your stuff, and you ain't no Shakespeare.

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