This post, by A.J. Pearson-VanderBroek, originally appeared on Apology to John Keats on 8/28/12.
So, I’m a little late on this topic, but I feel it’s time that I sat down and assembled my philosophy of self-publishing in wordage. And the topic/quote is a springboard for just that.
So, bestselling author Sue Grafton made a lot of independent and self-published authors angry when she basically called self-publishers lazy wannabes. I originally saw the quote in this Forbes article by David Vinjamuri, and soon after on writer’s blogs. Grafton has since issued some damage control and explanations about her quote, but the embers still burn.
Here is the quote, I found here:
"The hard work is taking the rejection, learning the lessons, and mastering the craft over a period of time. I see way too many writers who complete one novel and start looking for the fame and fortune they’re sure they’re entitled to. To me, it seems disrespectful…that a ‘wannabe’ assumes it’s all so easy s/he can put out a ‘published novel’ without bothering to read, study, or do the research. Learning to construct a narrative and create character, learning to balance pace, description, exposition, and dialogue takes a long time. This is not an quick do-it-yourself home project. Self-publishing is a short cut and I don’t believe in short cuts when it comes to the arts. I compare self-publishing to a student managing to conquer Five Easy Pieces on the piano and then wondering if s/he’s ready to be booked into Carnegie Hall."
So, here we go.
Honestly, getting mad about "wannabe" writers is the third in the Big Three, as I like to call them, of Things Every New Writer Thinks. One is needing to put a © symbol on everything they submit/don’t submit for fear of having their work stolen. Two is honestly believing that their book’s themes are universal themes, so everyone will want to read it. Third, I reiterate, "Omg, I bleed ink better/harder/longer that that guy. I’m mad now." (And I’m speaking from experience as well as observation.)
I ran into the same thing in college. I was a lit major, and I took lit classes. I had peers who never read the books assigned. (That’s all lit classes are. Reading books. And they didn’t. Why. No idea.) Or the scope of their literary criticism/critical thinking was, "Yeah, I didn’t really like that book. That wasn’t a good book." Well, guess what. I loathed "Cry, the Beloved Country" but that thing is underlined and noted on every other page, and I learned a lot from reading it. At the end of the day, it didn’t really matter that they just read Sparknotes and got C’s or B’s, when I stayed up every night reading 300 pages and got A’s. We graduated with the same degree. And since it doesn’t really matter if you can list Dante’s circles of hell when applying for jobs in telecommunications or customer service, I guess everyone wins. (I mentioned writing literary criticism as a hobby at my interview for the grocery store. Express cashier, baby.)
But it’s everywhere. In every job I’ve had, in every hobby I’ve seen, there are people standing around lamenting over the wannabes. Fearing they may be thought of as a wannabe. Pointing the finger at the wannabe, haha, wannabe! But let’s not dwell on the wannabes. Wannabe’s gonna wan..na.
The main point that has ruffled so many feathers is "Self-publishing is a short cut and I don’t believe in short cuts when it comes to the arts." Like many of the angered self-pubbers out there, I do not see self-publishing as a shortcut. I have spent hours (Blood! Tears!) teaching myself formatting. I have honed my skills as an editor, because, honestly, good editors are very hard to find. I’ve read graphic design and art books to learn about cover design and have actively been trying to sharpen my skills in photography. Not to mention that I spend hours in between my three jobs reading fiction, non-fiction, blogs and articles. I take notebooks with me everywhere I go. I write on napkins, in texts, on my breaks, late at night. And many self-publishers do that. They work diligently to polish their product and get better at their craft. But it doesn’t matter to anyone else that I’m sitting at my patio feverishly trying to get a page written before I have to go to work. No one’s life is changed by me staying up too late again to write this blog post. We’re all doing our own thing, to cope, to live, to survive, to escape, to whatever. And we get great books out of it all, that we all enjoy and share. We also get bad books.