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Indie Authors, Take No for an Answer and Behave Yourselves!

25 March 2011

An assistant professor of English believes this self-publishing fad is déclassé. She bought some self-published books and didn’t approve of them.

99 cent pricing? A terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible idea. Not good at all.

She’s an English professor. She knows things. Pay attention.

And stop worshiping at the altar of empowering yourselves. Right now.

She struggles, oh how she struggles.


Quality is certainly very subjective but even with that, given the self-published work I’ve read (admittedly not an adequate sample to really draw broader conclusions) there’s a reason most of those self-published books were not picked up by publishers great or small. There was no misunderstood genius in these novels. These books fell through the proverbial cracks for a reason. As an editor it was painfully easy to identify the weaknesses in plot, characterization, tone, dialogue, pacing and all the other elements that comprise a good book. Some of these books were adequately written but boring. Some of these books were plain terrible and filled with sloppy writing, making the very strong case for the value of a competent copyeditor and the value of a gatekeeper to say, “no,” this book should not be published, at least not in its current state. These were not books that could be published by anyone but the writer themselves.

. . . .

The $.99 price point is a terrible, terrible idea and it sets a terrible, terrible precedent. It makes no sense to sell a 300 page book for the same price as a three minute song. If we as writers don’t value our craft enough to price our work appropriately, how can we expect readers to want to pay appropriate prices? If you have to basically give your writing away, what does that tell you? It feels like we’re avoiding some of the really difficult questions about self publishing to worship at the altar of empowering ourselves and challenging the status quo. I could see myself selling a short story for a buck or two but a book, a whole book? My work is worth more than that. Your work is worth more than that. If I cannot sell my books at a ore reasonable $8-$10 price point, perhaps the market is telling me something about my writing. Humbling? Perhaps.

We live in an age of entitlement. We want therefore we must (and should) have. We are encouraged not to take “no” for an answer. Writing, or publishing really, is primarily an endeavor where we must learn to appreciate rejection or at least accept rejection. As writers we will always hear “no” more than we will hear “yes,” because taste is so subjective, because for many publishers, there are a finite number of books they can publish because they have finite resources, even if they are some of the largest publishers in the world. Persistence is an important quality in a writer. Some of my greatest writing successes have come from being persistent in the face of constant rejection. And yet, I wonder if there comes a point when we should take no for an answer, when we should use rejection to reassess why we keep meeting with rejection. At what point does faith become foolish or even delusional?

Writers ask me if they should self-publish and I struggle to find the right answer.

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