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Self Published Authors are Amateurs – Or Not

20 June 2012

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.

Big Publishing, Self-Publishing

100 Comments to “Self Published Authors are Amateurs – Or Not”

  1. Sorry, my understanding is that professional means you get paid. Anyone who has published and sold a copy of their book is professional.

    • That was my understanding, too. A professional gets paid. The more pay, the more professional? ;)

      • I go by the definition used for Sports. Jim Thorpe lost his Olympic medals because he was paid for a season as a baseball player. At that time, paid (even the paltry sum he recived) meant he was viewed as a “professional” athlete so that his “amatuer” ranking in sports was tainted (even though his medals were in a different event entirely).

    • Yeah. It’s pretty embarrassing that a writer composed an entire essay on the premise of a distinction between “amateur” and “professional” while not appearing to understand what the words “amateur” and “professional” actually mean.

      FWIW, she has apparently tried to walk it back some:
      http://oinks.squeetus.com/2012/06/self-publishing-part-2-or-why-my-blog-needs-an-editor.html

      But not, sadly, enough. She didn’t really seem to address the underlying issue of her personal definitions of what “amateur” and “professional” mean. It’s possibly there’s a worthwhile conversation there, but not as it stands.

      IMO, “professional” means the work is crafted with the goal of producing a product fit for public paid consumption, with all that implies about the commonly accepted standards of the relevant market. “Amateur” means you’re doing it to please yourself.

      These aren’t, um, groundbreaking definitions, or anything.

      I will say that she seems to have handled the blowback with grace and humility, which always impresses me.

  2. barbaramorgenroth

    I enjoyed the preening tho.

  3. ” 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.”

    This is why they can’t make an ebook at a reasonable cost. It resembles a public transit union’s argument for avoiding layoffs.

  4. It might come as a surprise to Shannon, but there are people who make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from youtube videos.

    And there are people who make a very good living out of self publishing.

    There are also plenty of published writers who can’t quit their day job.

    Mostly, whether or not you can make a living as a writer depends on how hard you work and how good you are. Whether you self publish is a business decision best made on a case by case basis.

  5. I’ve seen the trend in traditionally published authors signing or promoting their names as follows: So and So, “Professional” Author. Now I understand why.

    Frankly, to say that self-published authors are not professionals because we haven’t gone the route of the traditional gatekeeper is just plain bigotry.

    It’s apparent that lines are being drawn due to the increasing success and threat that self-published authors are presenting. The traditional crowd is trying to re-define the self-publishers or indies in order to influence readers, which they are apparently losing.

    Even Amazon has raised a group of vigilantly reviewers who purposely target self-published authors to bring them down to their amateur status when their books climb to best seller lists.

    Being a professional encompasses much more than being signed with a traditional publisher. Snobbery, elitist attitudes, and name-calling isn’t part of the definition of true professionalism, by any means. However, organizations such as Romance Writers of America uphold those lines of thoughts in their refusal to recognize the work of self-published authors. Naturally, those attitudes trickle down to the “professional” masses.

  6. ~rolls eyes~ I’ve lost count of the number of times this tired old argument was trucked out and used against authors who went digital format before they went print. If your book was only e-book instead of print, you weren’t a “real” author or you weren’t a “professional” author.

    I have books with publishers and one that’s self published. For those residing with the publisher, I’ve had one editor/copy editor and one artist, all assigned to me. For the self published one, I had two editors, a copy editor and a cover artist, all picked by me for their skills in those particular mediums. They were just as professional and worked just as hard on my SP title as those who handled my titles at the publishing house, and if royalty numbers are any gauge to go by, did a better job of it. And trust me, they have my utmost respect and admiration.

    “Professional” to me means I’m paid to provide a service or product. Nothing more, nothing less. All the rest of that stuff Ms. Hale uses is just window dressing on a barn door. Meaningless and irrelevent.

  7. People like Shannon just make me want to spit. How snooty and elitist and arrogant, and worst of all, ill-informed! Even her attempt to be “humorous” sounds snotty: “How?” you ask. “Tell us, beautiful Shannon, how do editors and publishers make literature better?” Thanks for noticing. I work out.

    PUH-LEESE.

  8. Sigh. People don’t get that it’s the people in the business that matter. Most people don’t like companies, but they love the people who work for them. Think doctors and hospitals, decent waiters and chain restaurants, editors and publishers. It’s basic business that the people make the business. I’ve had people formally complain about the company I work for in my hearing, but say I am awesome. The people make the business.

  9. Oh, so this means that EL James is a better and more legitimate author than Courtney Milan. Mmm-hm.

    • Courtney Milan published several books with Harlequin’s HQN imprint, so she would count as a professional and “legitimate” author by Ms. Hale’s exalted standards.

  10. The Marie Antoinette-ness of this is what gets me. Why don’t we all just eat cake?

    Only quality manuscripts get published? Um, nope.

    Publishers slave night and day to make sure that the best possible product is put out every time? I think there are quite a few “professional” authors who would beg to differ.

    I also don’t believe that if you write a good story, you will, someday, somewhere, somehow, for sure land a publishing deal (because only the crap fails to make it through).

    I’ve been a fan of Shannon Hale’s for awhile, but I can’t even tell you how much this blog turned me off.

    I understand that things are very nice in Haleville. Movies made from her books, bestsellers, everything inside Versailles is going very well. But what about those of us who don’t want to make 17% per ebook? Those who want more than a 6-8% royalty on a published book? Who want more control and say over titles and cover art and final edits?

    She’s unaware of reality. She’s unaware of how many indies are succeeding, and how many are making just as much money as she is, without paying the lion’s share to a publisher.

    Publishers are no longer the gatekeepers. I no longer need their permission to be a professional. I need only to act like a professional, and I will be one.

  11. Those of us who are, or intend to be, both trade and self pubbed are then, what? Semi-pro? No, thank you. As a serious novelist looking to make a career out of my writing, I consider myself as professional as any other writer.

  12. Another author to add to my ‘never buy from’ list. Cool. ;P

    • Yeah, I actually like her books. But I had no idea she was so elitist.

      I guess I expect writers to support their fellow writers before supporting the industry. I’m always surprised by these types of posts.

      I don’t think I’ll be buying any more of her books.

      • This all strikes me, from whatever quarter, as a “let’s circle the wagons” response. It’s based on fear. What these authors know, they know well, and know it works for them — why should they want to embrace something new?

        Confidence says, “Good on ya, wish you the best success–but indie publishing just isn’t the route I’ve chosen.”

        Fear says, “We have to protect the status quo, ’cause that’s where our self-image comes from. If it all goes away, whatever shall we do?” It circles the wagons and points the guns out at those wild Indie-ans who MUST be attacking!

        • People who’ve passed the gate-keeper are always afraid of the gate going away. How will those on the other side of the gate know what they’re not worthy without a gate-keeper to tell them so?

  13. Hundreds of professional authors (by Ms. Hale’s own definition) are now self-publishing, either because their publishers are dropping people indiscriminately or because they were not stupid enough to accede to the odious terms that most publishers now want to foist on them. Does that mean they’re not professionals anymore?

    If a sailor’s ship gets sunk in battle, does that mean he’s no longer a sailor?

  14. Say a writer got one book published traditionally. According to Shannon, that writer is a “professional.” But say another writer self-published 10-15 or more books, that writer, according to Shannon, is only an “amateur?”

    I call total BS on that way of thinking!

  15. The problem with this is that Ms. Hale clearly doesn’t understand the real definitions of the word amateur. Or if she does, she’s co-opting it for a peculiar use of her own.

    She states that she doesn’t mean it qualitatively. Yeah, in the classic sense of the word, that’s a given. But in that sense of the word, she’d be talking about fine art. Literary work. Literary writers most certainly do sell their work to publishers. Sometimes for a very high advance.

    I would dare to say that the literary writers I know are LEAST likely to go for self-publication right now. That’s because they value the judgement of their peers.

    Now, it’s true, I am self-publishing, and yes, I am excited about moving into the amateur realm at last — the “avocational” rather than “vocational” side of writing — but I’m not exactly your usual self-publisher. And yes, I am coming to this from the professional side. If I wanted to continue to build my pro career, I would aboslutely do it via self-publishing.

    It’s just that, with the advent of e-publishing, I no longer HAVE to stick to the pro side.

  16. Roger Parkinson

    Like others here I’d point out that the actual difference between professional and amateur status is whether you get paid or not, not who pays you. There might be a bit more nuance to it though. As a self published author I do make a little money, but I don’t really consider myself professional because I only make enough to keep myself in coffee and gadgets, not enough to live off.
    In contrast my wife (Shayne Parkinson) does the same thing and she does make a living from it, and it is her full time activity. So that seems like professional to me.

  17. To me, if you can’t do it on your own and manage the “business” side of things, you my dear Shannon Hale, are the amateur.

    Traditionally published authors = still needs training wheels, Mommy to hold their hand to cross the street.

    Self-Published author = going 90 mph on a mountain bike, handling EVERYTHING.

  18. I’m not even certain professional and money are all that closely entwined. I’ve always viewed profressional as a type of conduct. As such, her blog post falls into a category I would define as extremely unprofessional behavior. Or amateurish, if it suits her better. She also seems to be gorging herself on the publisher’s kool aid with her points about their improving literature, and the 20 people per book thing. To my way of thinking, someone who chooses to take control of their career, take on all the risk and responsibility, as well as creative and marketing control is behaving in a far more professional way than someone who gives up all that control, all that responsibility, as well as their rights in perpetuity and the lion’s share of the proceeds under largely one-sided contract terms they can essentially never get out from under. One might even call the decision to sign a standard traditional contract in the current atmosphere somewhat amateurish, if one wanted to be petty and namecalling in such an unprofessional way.

    • There is professional, amateur and unprofessional. According to Ms. Hale, I’m an amateur. While my readers and the IRS may disagree, I would still rather be an amateur than unprofessional.

      • I’ve read your books, MP McDonald! YOU are a professional.

        • Back at ya, Donna! :-)

          • WOW! What a bunch of jealous wanna be authors – you are a professional if you have the TALENT to earn the respect of other proven professionals in the field who are recognized as experts in the field of publishing – who have done the hard work to get there. Not whiners sitting at their kitchen table full of self-inflatrig delusion. Not predatory fake publishers who have an unending stream of revenue from big egos with marginal talent. Self-Publishing is American Idol for writers! Good luck to you. This talented author doesn’t need it because – well – she has talent. Who is pretentious here, really?

            • Have you read any of the work of the folks who comment here? If so, please provide some specific examples of the flaws in their writing. If not, I think I’m justified in assuming that your attitude is based on solely on your own prejudices.
              You really ought to get up to speed on what’s happening in the world of publishing. I find your allusion to “predatory fake publishers” particularly amusing. Take a look around this site and you will discover that the people on the side of predatory fake publishers are “experts in the field of publishing”. Here’s the link: http://www.thepassivevoice.com/07/2012/the-authors-guild-doesnt-serve-writers/

              Believe it or not, the Authors Guild is on the side of the predatory fake publishers. David Gaughran, who did the legwork to dig out all the links to PublishAmerica and is a frequent commenter here, is the author of a fine historical novel, A Storm Hits Valparaiso. I highly recommend it. You can buy it here:
              http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006OPORV8/?tag=lesgedi-20

              Come back after you read that book and see if you feel the same way. I can give plenty of other recommendations if sweeping historical epics aren’t your style.

            • From this alone: “This talented author doesn’t need it because – well – she has talent. Who is pretentious here, really?” I’d say you sound the like the pretentious one. Everyone else here gives me the vibe that they think there is plenty or room for both self published and traditional as well as talent in both.

  19. Ms. Hale claims that many (she would guess most) self-published books are first drafts. Since that is clearly not true, I wonder if she has read any?

    My first self-published novel went through innumerable drafts while evolving over a period of twelve years, being discussed by many critique groups and getting a final polish by a professional editor. By that time, it was not only a good book, but I had learned to write quite well, thank you very much.

    And since it’s selling, I guess that makes me a pro, right?

  20. Another of her points (from her blog, not the excerpts above) is that traditionally published authors have put in the time to get rejected/refined by the process of landing a contract, and have benefited from the process by becoming better writers. She states:

    >> I suffered the years of rejections. I was told again and again that I was not good enough, my stories were not good enough, my book was not good enough. Most published writers I know suffered through a similar process. For good or ill, it’s survival of the fittest, and many writers give up too soon.

    But see, this principle holds for all writers, whether self-pubbed or traditionally pubbed. Most self-published authors will give up too soon – after a handful of sales (rejections), 1 star reviews (being told not good enough), etc. It’s survival of the fittest. That is correct – for every type of writer. The line Hale has drawn is unnecessary.

    • I don’t see why anyone believes that rejection makes writers better. If you actually get some useful feedback saying what’s wrong with your story, perhaps, but a form rejection tells you nothing about how to improve as a writer and even personal rejections often disagree about why they rejected the story.

      • I agree with this. In the early stages, a writer needs brutal feedback that, at the very least, pinpoints where the story first becomes a train wreck. It’s possible to get the same effect from putting the story aside for several months while you read up on The Craft, but it doesn’t work as quickly as outside comments.

        An editor won’t give that kind of feedback until you’re almost there anyway. They don’t have the time. It’s bad advice to make it sound otherwise.

  21. For those who are interested, Shannon Hale’s response can be found in the comment section of Anna’s post.

  22. Another rant against Indie writers – Oh YAWN!

    I get paid every month – that’s all that matters.

  23. Shannon’s post is an outrage. She calls independent authors amateurs then compares them to garage bands. The Olympics are for amateurs and people pay more to see those events than some professional games. Why is there such fear and hostility among 20th Century published authors? I can understand the editors and agents being hostile to their publisher-centric livelihoods being turned upside down in the past year. But authors? We call ourselves Independent authors because we have been liberated. We are now in the author-centric era with all the responsibility that brings.

    IMHO the old school publishers have an underlying financial problem. I spelled it out here http://wp.me/p2pMMC-77

    Peace, Seeley

    • “She calls independent authors amateurs then compares them to garage bands.”

      The most valuable company on the planet was started by two ‘amateurs’ in their garage…

  24. So let’s see… I hired Julie Dillon to create my cover. I saved the copy editing fee by “hiring” a dear friend who is an editor, but I would have hired one if she hadn’t volunteered. I hired a proofreader for the final version, and because I’m using CreateSpace and publishing an ebook myself, I’m an amateur? Oh, and also impatient. Well, I’ll stipulate to the impatience. I finished my novel eleven days ago. Why should I wait two years to see it published, instead of two months, as I’m planning? Why should I get rejection letter after rejection letter from agents and editors?

    One of the commenters on that thread has been turned down by 65 agents and THANKED Shannon for her post. Wrong attitude, honey. Self-pub and see what happens.

    That’s what I’m doing.

  25. I went to Anna’s website and read the whole post. That was so beautifully written. So diplomatic, yet she still called a spade a spade.

    I really admire those communication skills! That’s how I want to communicate when I grow up. :)

    I also really appreciate that she was willing to stand up and take a stand. What a wonderful voice to have representing tolerance and acceptance!

    • Thank you so much, Mira, what a lovely compliment! I’m never big on conflict and confrontation, but sometimes you really just can’t keep silent. I’m truly honored that my post seems to have struck a chord with so many.

  26. Ironically, Kris Rusch posted about the insanity of the lines in the sand tonight as well. http://kriswrites.com/

    I’m with MP McDonald. If the IRS believes I’m a professional writer, I’m going with their decision.

  27. I have never been rejected by a NY publishing house or an agent.

    This is probably because I never have submitted anything to either. No, while writing my first novel, I researched the publishing industry, studied, and read a lot from both traditionally and self-published authors about their experiences in publishing. I spoke with friends that had self-published and friends that worked in traditional publishing (some in quite high positions).

    With all that information under my belt, I decided that self-publishing or indie-publishing (whatever label you use) was the better choice to fit my goals, which are to write books and be paid for my work. Self-publishing made far more economic sense, freed me creatively, and put me in charge of my own career in a way that traditional publishing would not allow.

    So, I hired my own editor, my own cover designer and did all my own publicity. And I can now support myself and my son with my writing income. This is my career. My career pays my editor and my proofreader. It pays my cover artist and my formatter.

    I did not make the decision to self-publish for my own ego. I did not make it out of anger or as an act of societal rebellion. I made the decision to self-publish because, PROFESSIONALLY, it made the most economic sense.

    How completely amateur of me.

    • I have been rejected by both New York publishing houses and agents; but not for more than ten years now. Since 2002, though I only submitted to editors and agents who specifically asked for my work, I have never received any decisions from them at all, yea or nay. The booby prize goes to an editor who held onto two of my book manuscripts (I was a fool to send him the second, though he asked for both) for three solid years before I lost patience and withdrew the submissions. So I did my best impression of Oscar Wilde: ‘If publishers treat their writers like that, they don’t deserve to have any.’

      Then I put my writing on the back burner and did other things for several years. The opportunity of self-publishing has been a godsend to me, and my researches have led me to the same conclusion as you: this is the quickest, the most profitable, and yes, the most professional way for a writer today to find a reading audience.

      As one ‘amateur’ to another, I salute you!

    • Cheers to you, Elizabeth! I too didn’t submit to NY or anywhere else. I did my due diligence, realized after making 65% on my non-fiction articles for 3 years, why on earth would I settle for something in the ball park of 17.5% on my fiction? YUCK. Not only that, I KNEW they wouldn’t know how to market a romance for non-romance readers told from a guy’s POV. ;)

      I am definitely a professional. I accept endorsement deals. LOL.

      • You know, Elizabeth, I was a technical writer for years. (Not sure what kind of non-fiction you wrote.) It may be a perspective built from working in that part of the writing economy. For me, it just made no sense to hand over my work for that little money. No sense at all. I didn’t have any sentimental attachment to seeing my books in the front of a book store or going to my own book signing, so there was little a traditional publisher could offer me to offset handing over the rights to my work.

        BUT, I will be the first to add that for some, those goals *are* worth it! And there is nothing wrong with that, which is why I’m so glad we have options now.

  28. Wow, that’s some unfounded elitism. The Once and Future King was originally rejected by publishers… so TH White was an amateur….

    Publishers aren’t out to make literature better, they are out to SELL it; therefore they will select works which are more likely to sell. Considering that what was regarded as a 5th grade reading level in 1950 is now considered a 12th grade reading level, so what is more likely to sell may not always be great literature. :P

    I decided to go indie when every offer I got would have me getting 8-20% of the money on the digital versions… so my response was ‘I can keep 100% of the profit on my own… so WHAT do I need you for?’ ;)

    Don’t get me wrong, if a traditional publisher made me an offer where I’d make more money, I’d go for it, but for now, I like my freedom… and keeping all my profits :P

  29. I have many friends who are both self-published and traditionally published, friends close enough that we talk about our contracts, terms, etc.

    I know for a fact that I make more money than many of the so-called professionals, many of whom can’t afford to quit their day job.

    I remember a time I would have jumped at a $5000 advance from a publisher so I could have that validation and get my foot on the ladder. Oh how times have changed. I don’t hate publishers. They just aren’t offering me anything that makes good business sense for me right now.

  30. I hear that same point over and over again. I almost wonder if Hale has actually looked into self publishing from a strictly business perspective. Her post seems more in keeping with the cliched notion that self publishing is little more than a glorified extension of vanity press rather than the viable business it is. Realistically, I’m having a hard time seeing how traditional publishing is going to keep up without seriously improving what they offer writers across the board, especially if print declines in any appreciable way.

  31. I worked at a publishing company where the CEO’s high school daughters were allowed to edit during their summer vacations. So much for professionalism. I had an agent whose emails to me looked like they’d been written on her subway ride in to work, during a power shortage, when her med’s were off. So much for professionalism. I know someone who got a book published with a high-profile academic press that had so many errors in it that he could barely stand to look at it again. So much for professionalism. These examples are but a drop in the bucket; I only supply them for their amusement value. The point is too easily made.

    Who is Shannon Hale? I’ve truly never heard of her.

    • She writes some very good children fiction. If you don’t read middle-grade, you probably wouldn’t know her, but among female middle-grade readers, I’d consider her well-known.

  32. For myself, I prefer to use the old guild system of classifying writing: apprentice, journeyman, master. I’ve read traditionally published books that are no higher than what one might expect from a journeyman: basic grasp of skills, some understanding of writing theory and some attention to finishing details. I’ve read self-published titles that are master-class: strong set of skills, deep understanding of writing theories and exquisite attention to finishing details.

    We all travel the spectrum in our own way–sometimes surging forward, sometimes backsliding with a vengeance–but recognizing that writers are indeed ON the same spectrum helps me (at least) remember that it’s not a case of Us vs. Them, but simply Us.

    Writers Write so that Readers may Read. We have different strengths, different choices and different visions, but indie writers are no less writers than those traditionally published. For myself, I will continue working towards mastery and hope that someday we can agree that, no matter what path one chooses, we owe each other a minimum standard of respect because we all are Writers.

  33. I think I’ll listen to this guy…

    “If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.”

    ― Stephen King

    • Stephenie Meyer made him change his mind about this. :)

      Questions of talent aside, someone paying you to write makes you a professional writer. “Professionalism” as it relates to behavior is a different matter.

  34. Wait….wait….let me get this straight.

    Snooki from Jersey Shore is a “professional” author.

    I am not.

    No. Just no.

    Shannon Hale does not get to decide if I’m professional or not. Shannon Hale does not choose what I am.

    Shannon Hale is not the boss of me.

  35. I’m betting this is really helping her book sales. Ten bucks says her publisher tells her to kill the blog and it mysteriously disappears.

    • Oh, I doubt that. This is the new line of attack against the pernicious upstarts who dare to clamber through the rubble of the walls rather than wait at the gates like obedient supplicants.

  36. Oh dear. Someone more qualified than I needs to drop back by Shannons second blog, http://oinks.squeetus.com/2012/06/self-publishing-part-2-or-why-my-blog-needs-an-editor.html
    and respond to the last commenter, Jessica the librarian who can not find one single self pubbed book worth reading. The HIGHEST rating she gives them is “bland and unforgettable”. I’m usually not a rabble rouser, but people like that need to be educated and I’m in the middle of something else at the moment.

  37. This is a hot, sensitive, and divisive subject among writers, authors, and publishers. The line is blurring, and I think some folks are threatened. There are two sides (or maybe more) to this story, and I can understand both to a certain degree. I don’t see what’s wrong with choice or having writers dip toes on BOTH sides of the fence.

    I’m one of those writers working her a$$ off to be ‘ready enough’ to tackle ‘the big 6′ and see my name on a bookshelf. I do take offense to the comment about most submissions being “first drafts” and wind up in the slush pile. My manuscript is in its umpteenth edit (by yours truly) so that it IS ready for primetime, thank you very much!

    I’m busy cramming two full-time jobs (my “real” job & my writing job) into a 24-hour day to make it happen. I usually try to stay out of this debate because of its very delicateness, but when I saw that particular comment, it peeved me. Thanks for listening to my rant :)

    • Best of luck in achieving your goal, Dawn. :-) It’s a great time to be a writer in that you can push for the Big 6 and maybe land a huge advance, or even just a nice one with a lot of marketing backing. You never know what could happen. The thing is now you have a choice. If the Big 6 dream isn’t working out for you, you can self-publish if you want. It is now a viable option. If it’s the same book you polished for submission, it isn’t going to suddenly become crap just because it’s self-published.

  38. “The difference between amateur and professional is obvious in these areas, but with books, I’ve noticed a general unawareness”

    Perhaps the general unawareness is because people are judging the product, not the production process.

  39. I had to google her – for someone supposedly well-known, I have and HAD no idea who she even is! lol

  40. Haha! Love the comments. I knew her (Shannon) argument was going to get thrashed. =o)

  41. In a few years time, a lot of people are going to be eating humble pie, or trying to sweep blog posts under the carpet.

  42. I’ve been a full-time technical writer/technical editor for thirty years; gainfully employed, 40-hours a week with benefits and everything, it even says I’m a senior technical writer/editor on my job description. I was informed the other day that I should not consider myself a professional writer since I self-published my historical fiction series (which, while not blazing to the heights of any best-seller lists, is still trotting along with several units sold per day). I just laughed and went about my business.

    Unfortunately, I’m afraid we’re in the name-calling stage on both sides. Rather like the struggles of the Continental Congress when John Adams and John Dickenson were at each other’s throats over the question of independence. One comment that Shannon made that I’m still mulling is one I’ve seen on other blogs and forums. There seems to be this concept that a writer must have suffered through multiple rejections and vettings prior to acceptance in order to be considered a professional. The old “starving in the garrett” idea, I suppose. But what of the rare writers who, through a combination of luck and talent, just hit it out of the ball park on the first or second attempt? The premiere agent, the huge contract with one of the big 6, appearances on the various cultural TV shows. They haven’t suffered so they haven’t “earned” their place in the stratosphere by that definition. Are they then considered lucky amateurs by the parameters of that concept?

    Oh well, back to my struggles with the AEF and 1917.

    • Starving means you deserved your success. It’s a protective spell against the jealous, unpublished masses who only see your name in the paper or, nowadays, on the Internet, not the years you quietly worked at improving.

      Success without starving means a lifetime of snide comments whispered in dark corners both within and without earshot. It means living with perpetual insecurity. I can see why authors would thank Mrs. Hale for her encouragement.

  43. Gary Allen VanRiper

    Don’t have time to list all of the artists in various disciplines (music/painting/photography/writing) who rejected or were rejected by the elitist establishment and went on to revolutionize their area of expertise.
    Mark Twain has nothing to fear from us – no literary genius here – but we have sold at $9.95 more than 100,000 copies in our self-published children’s series and counting.

  44. Kellie J — I LOVE that quote!!! lol

  45. [...] The Passive Guy reports an article from Shannon Hale on why indies are amateurs, and an insightful response from Anna Elliot. [...]

  46. Since I suffered through some rejections does that mean I’m a professional now? Granted it was after I self published my novel (I hired a cover artist, proof reader and had about a dozen people beta read it. Overall, the story went through a bunch of drafts before I hit publish) and I was only emailing agents because a Turkish agent contacted me about having it translated into Turkish. In the end, I did the deal myself and have been paid. Now I’m waiting for the publisher to translate it and send me my copies. Oh! Since I’ll be traditionally published in Turkey does THAT make me professional? (If you haven’t guessed, I’m getting sarcastic here. I do my best to put out the best story I can and to continue learning to hone my writing.)

    I do wonder if the one agent even read what my book was about. The reply back was personalized, but also informed me that the agent didn’t do paranormal romance. My book is more about brotherly love than romantic love, but I guess since it has vampires in it that all agents and publishers assume it’s a romance.

  47. The wanna be writers on this board commenting need a major reality check. Self-publishing for all but the most talented is a futile ego trip and such persons can rationalize their own lack of talent sufficiently to attack talented writers. You can respond here based on bloated egos and delusional thinking but that won’t get you published by a reputable publisher. That is what the blog author meant my “amateurs”. Self-publishing is American Idol for authors. Good luck to you…

    • You came here? To post that?

      Why?

    • I don’t see anyone here attacking “talented” writers as you call them, without provocation. It’s the inside the walls writers that are attacking us. For what reason, I don’t know. If you’re so talented and happy with your “reputable” publisher, why does it matter what those of us out here are doing? Publishing is a business, and one that’s currently expanding thanks in no small part to ebooks, self publishing and companies like Amazon. Prior to this, publishing and reading in general was in the midst of a steady decline. Self publishing has opened doors that never existed before, and many types of writers are pouring through them, from genuine not-ready-for-prime-time amateurs to those looking to escape the fiscal and creative iron grip of some publishers. No one’s attacking Shannon Hale out of jealousy. They’re calling her out for writing a dismissive, condescending and somewhat insulting blog post she has since tried to back away from, albeit only slightly. Speaking as someone who has an almost two decade career in the industry, working for “reputable” publishers, self publishing offers some incredible business possibilities, as well as nearly unheard of creative freedom. Throwing stones at those exploring these newly discovered waters not only reflects poorly on you, ignoring these possibilities is short sighted and may well cause you to miss some very real opportunities to better your own career. Best of luck for you with that.

    • /Self-publishing is American Idol for authors./
      I can see the similarity, but the catch here is, does participating in the American Idol makes Adam Lambert, Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson and all the rest who used American Idol as springboard any less professional because of it? Or lessens the talent they have?
      Self-publishing is a career choice. Is not for everybody just like trade publishing isn’t for everybody. Every writer who wants to make a long-term career out of writing will research the benefits and downfalls of both. — That’s the attitude that separates amateur from professional. IMO.

      • If this is like American Idol, I call dibs on having a career like non-winner Jennifer Hudson. Or even Kelli Pickler. Chris Daughtry didn’t do too badly either, for a non-winner.

  48. Of course – out of millions of aspiring singers – a tiny fraction will succeed (.0000000001). Most will fail to make it a career never mind support themselves with a “writing” career. Just as many of the Top Ten Idols fail each year and the many more who “come close” – never mind the thousands who try out and don’t even get on stage. And they don’t necessarily fail for lack for talent only. To think all of you on this Board will be the next Jennifer Hudson because you can self-publish is self-delusional. That is what judges/publishers are for – to give you an honest appraisal of your talent, chances, audience potential and all those other pesky reality-based details. Lightening does not just strike because you want it to strike you – just don’t give up those day jobs! The difference between a “writer” and an “author” is not a self-published book. The difference is that one of them is pretentious and the other is not…and the published author is not the pretentious one. Why not keep working at your craft until you are at least good enough for a small, independent publisher to express confidence in your ability and work? Of course, none of the 10 family members and friends who buy your self-published book (and the next best seller of course!) will tell you – you can’t sing/I mean write. And, expert opinion doesn’t matter, of course. That would be an “elitist” concept. FYI – I came here because I was astonished at the “group entitlement think” I found on this board. I can’t imagine any person with such a narrow perspective and rigid world view could publish much of anything worth reading. If you love writing – keep writing but don’t expect to be the next Kelly Clarkson and until you are I suggest a bit of humble graciousness until you are actually the star. Otherwise, you are just obnoxious and clearly not able to take good advice that might help you improve and no editor will ever work with you if you can’t take direction like a “professional” and not an “amateur” (read 2-year old). So maybe you should adjust your attitude and your aspirations.

    • Elizabeth Hunter

      Miss, you are either a troll or very uninformed about the publishing industry. Either way, I’m sure you’ve attracted the attention you were seeking when you posted here. Happy Independence Day.

    • Wow, where is all this venom coming from? Since you are addressing the writers commenting on this blog, I will just say that most here have sold tens of thousands of books. Readers have decided that they are writers worthy of their time and money, and when it comes down to it, readers are the only ones who really matter.

      Are you an author? I tried to find your books on Amazon in case you were, but couldn’t find any. Of course, you could write under another name.

      As for myself, since I made the Jennifer Hudson comment, in case you didn’t figure it out, I was joking–just being silly. I admit that I’m no Jennifer Hudson, but I have just passed 44,000 books sold and while I DO come from a large Irish-Catholic family, we are not quite THAT large. ;-)

      Also, I know that isn’t many books by trade publishing standards, it’s allowing me to go part-time at my job and the only reason I don’t quit and write full-time is I need the health benefits for my family. I can still get those while working part-time. (Yeah, I know I could buy coverage outright, but I also kind of like my day job and want to keep my skills up to date.)Anyway, I’m off to a picnic with my large family–maybe I can hit the slackards up for some sales. Happy 4th to everyone from the U.S!

    • /And, expert opinion doesn’t matter,/
      Oh, are you an expert? On what?
      I have to say, I’m astonished about your lack of knowledge about how publishing works and your ignorance about a meaning of two simple words: author and writer (you should look it up in a dictionary), and how freely you are displaying your ignorance.
      The majority of the commentators here have been in this business for a while, most of them work hard on their craft and that they know what they are talking about.
      The success of the book is always determined by the readers, not publishers, publishers just buy what they think would sell (I know that first hand). Self-publishing offers possibility to bypass agents and publishers and to have a chance on your own with readers. If you are going to fall or succeed, it’s the same as going with trade
      publisher. Some are going to be a success, some are going to have decent sales, some are going to sink, but at least you don’t have to jump through the hoops like those seeking agents and publisher have to.

  49. Gary Allen VanRiper

    The sales numbers for traditionally published authors on average are quite dismal. Most of the traditionally published authors I know are very guarded about their numbers and cannot make a living at their writing – they are supported by a working spouse or are bi-vocational or must supplement their income with such things as speaking engagements and workshops. Had we heeded the ominous warnings of the elites we never would have attempted to publish ourselves, much less have gone on to sell multiple thousands of books to parents, grandparents and school districts nor have established a still growing company. Do you love to write? Keep writing. Do you long to see your work in print? Do your homework and pursue the avenue that works best for you.

  50. “I can’t imagine any person with such a narrow perspective and rigid world view could publish much of anything worth reading.”

    Funny, that’s exactly what I was thinking while reading your comment. All I can say is that the self expressed worldview you’ve espoused is infinitely more narrow than any of the regular commenters I see here. One further point, you’re making a giant assumption that the “expert” opinions of publishers relates to some etheral standard of quality and not simply saleability of content within their specific business model, which I can tell you from first hand experience within the industry is largely untrue. With a little research on your part, I think you’ll find that successful saleability in the traditional industry apparatus is vastly different than successful saleability within the self publishing segment. Quality of writing is actually far more important to any measure of success in self publishing than traditional.

    • /Quality of writing is actually far more important to any measure of success in self publishing than traditional./
      This!

  51. Have people seen that Shannon wrote a response to the negative comments for the original post?

    I thought her response was more open-minded, and I appreciated that she didn’t get defensive, but acknowledged problems in her first post. That’s not easy to handle – public critique.

    I think we’re all learning in this Brave New World of publishing, and I really liked that she took a somewhat different stance.

    Here’s the link, if you’re interested: http://oinks.squeetus.com/2012/06/self-publishing-part-2-or-why-my-blog-needs-an-editor.html

  52. A gentle reminder folks from your friendly temporary mod while PG is on a well deserved vacation: While lively, spirited discussion is very much encouraged, anything resembling personal attacks or impolite discourse is frowned upon. Not pointing any fingers. I just wanted to ensure that any visitors new to PG’s place understand the sort of environment and discussion style that’s supported here. Thanks for your cooperation!

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