Disclaimer: The following is the opinion of the author and may not necessarily represent the opinions of Nerds in Babeland or any of it’s many fabulous contributors.
“It seems to me to show an abominable sort of conceited independence,a most country town indifference to decorum.”
If you’re a fan of Austen (or even just Colin Firth <3), you’ll recognize the above quote as a line from Pride and Prejudice, spoken by Caroline Bingley, a lady well-accustomed to looking down her nose at anyone she feels is beneath her. Basically Miss Bingley calls our lovely protagonist (Elizabeth Bennet) an ignorant hick for walking by herself “barely three miles” in dirt/mud to visit her beloved sick sister. Keep in mind that a lady walking alone anywhere was frowned upon, God forbid she get her petticoats dirty in the process!
Now I bring this up for a few reasons. First being that I love Pride and Prejudice so any chance I get to reference it makes me a giddy little school girl. The second is that I feel this kind of attitude–and Jane Austen herself, even–is extremely relevant towards the attitude and stigma towards self-published work.
“Oh,” you say with a touch of disdain. “It’s going to be one of those posts.”
Yes, it is.
There is a clear ‘status’ divide between many traditional and self-published authors and I think it’s time we tried to bring it to a stop, don’t you? Good. Now, let’s examine the major prejudice against ‘Self-Published’ work. The complaint I usually hear is that since anyone can self-publish and so there’s some real trash out there. Okay, fair point.
But can we agree that there is also some truly terrible traditionally published work?
Yeah. That’s what I thought. Regardless what your taste is, we’ve all read at least one book that made us go, “How the hell did that get published?”
A lot of people seem to think that you only self-publish after you’ve been rejected by multiple publishing houses–which is true for some authors, but again, this doesn’t mean that the story is bad or even poorly written.
Publishing houses aren’t really looking for a good story–they’re looking for a product they can sell. Did you happen to notice the boom of published vampire novels after Twilight gained popularity? Those manuscripts had been sitting untouched in publishing houses until it became clear that they were going to turn a profit because they were the ‘in’ at the time.
Yes, just like every other market, books follow trends and while possibly more discreet than the fashion industry, it can often be ten times more vicious.
It’s why we’ve seen certain repeating elements in books that may not have anything in common at all. Take ‘The love triangle’. It used to be a convention we only saw on an occasional sitcom and soap operas. Oh and in anime, but anime took the ‘love triangle’ and turned it into a polygon with much more sides (See ‘Harem’ Animes, Love Hina, Tenchi Muyo, etc etc). But ever since publishing houses discovered the marketing power of ‘Team Edward’ and ‘Team Jacob’–you’re seeing our heroines (and some heroes too, I guess) constantly at odds with who they’re going to get sugar from (or… y’know… love forever ‘n shit).
And before anyone starts on Pride and Prejudice–NO. Despite that romance is a major theme in the books, there was never a, “Oh, but I like them both, which shall I choose?” moment.
A friend of mine who has some beautiful traditionally published work even confided that the publishers MADE her make a character a second love interest so the love triangle marketing ploy could be employed.
Which brings me to why I decided self-publishing was the route I wanted to go.
The chief complaint I hear from any traditionally published author is fighting with the Publishing House over aspects of your story because at the end of the day they’re still looking to sell a product. Whatever that means. It could be adding sex scenes, it could be taking away some of that spicy talk that one of your character’s favors. It may be little things, it may be actual character or plot altering changes. Either way, it wasn’t a discussion I wanted to have. While being challenged about my work is fantastic and I encourage anyone who reads it to do so–I wanted that to come from a “What best suits this story?” stand point rather than “What bests suits our pocket book?”.
A publishing house tells you they don’t think they can sell your book? Fine, to me, that probably denotes a lack of courage and creativity that you don’t want supporting your work anyway.
I think self-publishing challenges authors in a way they may not have had to be challenged in the past. It’s not just uploading a file and pressing ‘publish’ through Amazon Kindle or Smashwords, it’s being your own marketing and pr team. It’s becoming less of an age where being that recluse on a mountain top is going to cut it. Now you have to network, now you need to cultivate some level of charm because ultimately, you’re promoting yourself. If someone likes you, they’re far more likely to give a damn when you mention you have a book out.
So maybe that’s where the disdain and hostility comes from; self-published authors try to do everything themselves and so they’re viewed as being self-important, or even possessing ‘a sort of conceited independence’.
But I would encourage you to look at it this way: Someone was passionate enough about something to go and create it without being directly sponsored. And does that piece of work discredit any other piece of work just by existing? No.
Self-published books are to the book industry as web-series are to television. Neither is ultimately better than the other, it’s just two different ways of going about getting your story to the world. Okay?
Can we play nice now?