This is a topic that has been weighing on my mind recently. While I generally avoid controversial tropics, this is one that I feel the need to discuss. There are supporters of both sides of the argument, and I’m not sure that there is a correct answer. It seems to really depend on your individual perspective.
Before I reveal my topic, I’d like to look into history a bit. Humans used to learn professions by studying a person who was already in that profession. A person would apprentice until they knew and understood the trade. Even then, there were people who considered thinking and writing to be their profession. Back then, I believe you had to prove your worth to study at a school or university. (As normal, I’ve done no research on this historic aspect – just trying desperately to remember my philosophy and theology classes) I’m not really sure when schools came into being. But I am sure that some societies were quicker on the draw than others in creating them.
For a while, a high school diploma was impressive. Then that became typical and a college degree meant you were qualified for a profession. Now there are Masters degrees and Doctorates. A mere four year college degree barely means anything.
Regardless of the pre-training we have, employers (or potential customers) expect to see proof of expertise and experience before taking a chance on you and what you have to offer. Even then, if you are unable to perform your job duties due to laziness or an inability to learn, you are let go and are forced to pursue a career elsewhere.
Anyone able to guess where I’m going with this?
Nowadays this seems to have all changed. There are so many people in the world looking for a profession to call their own that you really have to stand out from the crowd to be considered.
But for the purpose of this blog, I need to take a small step backwards. In an e-world where publishing your work/art/whatever you choose to call it with the mere click of a Submit button, are we actually entitled to publish our work by ourselves?
Many traditional authors feel that we are polluting the libraries (and I think that’s the nicest way to describe their actual thoughts about self-published authors) Our work is too unrefined, immature (is that redundant?), typo ridden, and rushed to be considered readable. Not to mention the fact that we didn’t spend countless nail biting and tear shedding hours waiting for that one acceptance letter to arrive.
I’m sure that not all traditional authors feel this way. But based on the number of blogs and forms that I’ve read through, a lot of them do.
And despite my status as a self-published author, I can somewhat understand their irritation. We’ve all read at least one, if not a handful, of self-published work that has made us cringe. Horrible grammar, a complete disregard for even an electronic spell checker, and dialogue that is flatter than a junior high school girl’s hair after she’s bought her first hair straightener (and that’s being generous).
And of course, it’s always easier to point out the flaws in someone else’s work. I will be the first to tell you that I’m not perfect and neither is my work. But I do have two proof readers and an editor at my disposal.
From the self-publishing side, I can tell you that, yes, it’s easier than traditional publishing. Obviously. If we have someone capable of professional level editing in the family and we’re not printing copies, then the cost of publishing our book is only however much we want to spend on a book cover and promoting our work.
And while I have no awards or professional experience, I do have a degree in English Education and that certainly helps.
I don’t believe that self-published authors are hurting anyone. First of all, we get very few sales in comparison to published authors, so very few readers are comparing our work to theirs. Secondly, if our work is horrible, the reviews we receive will reflect this – even if you’re one of those naughty authors who are paying for reviews (which even traditional authors are capable of) you will eventually get some fairly negative reviews. So then even fewer people will take a chance on you and your thoughts.
I want to also mention one drawback to traditional publishing that I’m not sure is typically taken into consideration. Agents and Professional Publishing Companies are NOT, I repeat, ARE NOT looking for unique and professional level ideas. They are looking for marketable ideas. They’re looking for the next Twilight, Hunger Games, or Fifty Shades of Gray. They want a national, if not worldwide, best seller. That does not necessarily equal good and unique. Please keep that in mind. They’re looking to make money, not change the world (which obviously every author hopes to do in some way).
So no, I don’t have a degree in creative writing, I’ve won no awards, and no agent or publisher has decided that I’m marketable. But I do work hard at my books. I have an editing team and an editing process. Does this ENTITLE me to self-publish? No. But while we still have freedom of speech in this country, I will continue to attempt to entertain others with my stories. And while that may seem a cheesy way to end this blog, it’s simply the truth. I publish because I can.