Point and counterpoint.
First, from author Shannon Hale:
First I want to clarify how I view this topic.
Self-publishing = amateur
Traditional publishing = professional
Amateur does NOT mean “inherently bad.” It means “not professional.” You can enjoy a neighborhood basketball tournament and witness some great players, but it’s different from an NBA game. You can enjoy videos posted to Youtube–there are some real gems among the hundreds of millions of homemade videos posted–but it’s different than watching Netflix or Hulu. You can jam to a great band at the local bar, but you wouldn’t pay the same for admission that you would to see a Grammy winner in concert.
The difference between amateur and professional is obvious in these areas, but with books, I’ve noticed a general unawareness (for example, the local elementary school flying in a self-published author to do an assembly). If the products of self and traditional publishing are viewed interchangeably, then editors and publishers, who are the backbone of professional publishing, are not getting their due respect. When we don’t value something, it could go away, and I don’t want that to happen. Editors and publishers raise the standards and help make literature better.
. . . .
2. Publishers hire the best people in the world at their jobs. A team of professionals puts in significant hours and hard work on every single book they publish. I read that an average of twenty people are vigorously engaged working on any book from a professional publisher. Many drafts, copy edits, care for the best cover, how best to promote, etc. Some self-published books represent years of hard work by the author. However, many (I would guess most) are first drafts. I worked a slush pile once. I read a lot of hideously bad stories that the writers believed were good enough to be published. Bless their hearts, they were wrong. Sometimes we’re not our best judge, especially when first starting out.
And a Don’t Be the Sneetch response from author Anna Elliot:
Dear Shannon Hale,
I hate having to write this to you. I doubt you would remember, but more than 5 years ago when I was a young, fresh-out-of-college aspiring writer, I wrote to you. And you wrote back with lovely, encouraging words. Since then, you’ve always been one of the authors whom I most like and admire. I’ve read and loved your books, and found sentences so beautiful they made me feel hollow inside. I’ve read every single one of your blog posts for the past 7 years. And I’ve always (though we’ve never met) somehow thought of you as a kind of ally. A fellow mama of very young children, down here in the crazy trenches of trying to mother little ones while maintaining a writing career. But I just can’t keep silent in the face of your recent blog post The self-publishing paradox; or, why I love my editor, in which you state your view that traditionally published authors are ‘professional’ while independently published authors are ‘amateurs’.
I personally am lucky enough to have landed (without previous self-pubbing experience) the big, fancy, six-figure traditional NY publishing deal. I’ve also, concurrently with my 3 traditionally published books coming out, independently published 5 more novels. And it’s from this perspective that I say: I really do not think this kind of divisive, line-drawing thinking or blog posting is productive or beneficial for anyone.
. . . .
And the independent authors who hire their own professional editors, copy editors, and book designers? Whose books hit the bestseller lists and earn them an extremely comfortable living? They are not nearly as ‘rare’ as you in your post imply–just among my own limited circle I know dozens. Widen that to the indie authors whose names I’ve heard of and there are hundreds–and probably thousands more whose names I don’t (yet) know. You would smack an ‘amateur’ label on them? Really? And to what purpose? “Neener neener, you still can’t be part of our ‘real authors’ club”? Dr. Seuss wrote a book called ‘The Sneetches’ about that brand of thinking. And frankly it is as childish and petty and just plain silly as Dr. Seuss made it sound.
Link to the rest of Shannon’s Post
Link to the rest of Anna’s Post and thanks to Sarah for the tip.