The Snobbery of Traditional Publishing


There are a number of articles that have popped up recently about the substandard quality of independently published work vs. the pristine and curated quality of traditionally published material. This post is one that I published back when I had an encounter with a traditionally published author.

snobPhoto credit: www.businessesgrow.com

The Snobbery of Traditional Publishing

During a recent weekend, my seven year old daughter had an event with her dance group at a local street festival. As we walked around and looked at the various tables, we happened upon an author of children’s books who had some of her work displayed on a table. My daughter saw the books and we stopped at the table and listened to this friendly, grandmotherly figure tell us about her books.  They were based on the antics of her grandson and looked very nicely illustrated.

SPBHPhoto Credit: www.creativereview.co.uk

We were about to move on when my wife blurted out that I had written some novels.  The author’s first question was not about the genre or the titles. Her first question was, “who’s your publisher?” Before I could get the words DSM Publications (my initials are DSM) out of my mouth, my wife told her I was self-published. Now, I’m not ashamed of being self-published (I prefer independently published). In fact, I like the freedom that it gives me to publish on my own terms and at my own pace. I’ve talked about the marketing (not my favorite part) in past blogs, but I can deal with that.

scoldPhoto Credit: www.coetail.com

As soon as she heard the words self-published the grandmotherly smile disappeared, her body language changed, and I began to receive a lecture on the benefits of having a publisher. There were things like:

  • I get into author events for free
  • I don’t have to market my books (even though I’m sitting out in the sun at a table at a street festival hawking books)
  • They edit my books (children’s books targeted at 3-5 year-olds with two to three sentences per page)
  • Did I mention I get into author events for free?

I began to explain to her the benefits of independent publishing through such outlets as Amazon. She responded that Amazon and those other “outfits” keep too much of your money. I explained that you get to keep 70% of your royalties on Amazon if your book is priced at $2.99 or more. She told me that she heard it was less than that and didn’t trust them with her work. I told her that you retain all of the rights, and she told me she didn’t think so. Thankfully, my daughter had to be at a girl scout event and we had to move along. Her parting words were, “good luck with that self-publishing, but you really ought to think about getting a publisher.”

fact-check-1Photo Credit: www.southwesttimes.com

It was an enlightening conversation and one of those moments that solidified my choice to publish independently. As I thought about her “sweet” publishing deal, I began to look at the realities of her situation. Here are some of my observations:

  • Her books were priced at $10 and above. The copies she had on her table were likely purchased by her from the publisher. If she was making $1-2 per book, she was more in the 10-20% profit range. Based on the traffic at her booth and her book supply, I’d be surprised if she went home with $20-30.
  • How well is her publishing company marketing her books if she has to resort to events like this one and promote books between the boiled peanut stand and the fence company.
  • She had not checked out the specifics of independent-publishing. She didn’t know the terms and conditions. Unfortunately, she couldn’t make the switch because she no longer owned the rights to her books, the great and powerful publisher did.

This was not the first time I encountered this snobbery. An acquaintance of mine has worked throughout his career on the periphery of the journalism field. He has a segment on local public radio and I asked him if he had any advice around generating publicity for my work. He had some good tips. One of the things that he suggested was contacting a local authors’ group. I listened to the qualifications of their membership and what they had to offer and was interested. That is until he told me that I should not tell them that I had independently published and work because they would likely look down on it because they didn’t believe this to be “real publishing”. I asked how many members of the 30+ group had published work with traditional authors. The answer was “one”. I decided that I didn’t want to be brought down by a group where 99% of the membership had failed in their goal.

So, now I sit here with many works published in the past three years. I put this work out to the millions of potential consumers through Amazon and CreateSpace. Reviews for every piece of work have been 4-5 stars. If I quit today, that would be quite an accomplishment. I do outsource my editing and some of my marketing, but I still do many marketing tasks on my own. Can I quit my day job on the money I’m making and buy that beach house? Not yet, but I feel like my chances to do so are improving every day.

My fellow independently published authors, you and I have an advantage over the majority of the members of those snobbish literary groups, books that are published with readers that are buying them. Whenever someone turns up their nose when I tell them I’m independently-published, my gut reaction is to ask them the name of their published book to which most will reply that they don’t have one.

So, keep your heads held high. Don’t feel inferior to those snobbish traditionally published authors. Most of them are probably making less per book than you are and have much less control.

quality-assurancePhoto Credit: www.dynamixuae.com

Now, with all of that being said, I’m not going to get off of my soapbox about keeping the quality of independently-published work at a high-level. There is no excuse for not doing this. There are plenty of willing editors and beta readers out there to keep you from publishing work that is inferior in terms of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure. Don’t put garbage out there, because you hurt all of us when you do.

You might think you can’t afford an editor, but, in my humble opinion, you can’t afford not to have one. You may think you can do it yourself, but, to paraphrase a saying from the legal profession, the author that thinks he can edit his own work has a fool for a client.

Advertisements

29 thoughts on “The Snobbery of Traditional Publishing

  1. This is so encouraging Don, especially as I intend to join the ranks of independently published authors this year. I agree there are so many independently published authors who deserve more praise and a pat on the back for having the courage to go it alone. With this in mind I am now reviewing independently published author’s books and offering Author Spotlights and/or Interviews on my blog. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Book selling 101: don’t start an argument with some other author about whose “deal” is better. You just make yourself look like a know-it-all.

    Every author makes the decision how to publish, and there is no right way or wrong way. Advantages? Sure. Drawbacks? Of course. Her traditionally published book deal was right FOR HER. Your self-publishing is right FOR YOU.

    All authors share the same struggle to get their work on the page and out to the public. Far better to be friendly and support each other, no matter the details of one’s “deal.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post and all of the above are why I too am an indie author. I chose to do it that way even after a publisher was keen to take my work on. Personally I like to have complete control over my work and luckily I already have an outlet for the books, which is a big help.
    I guess it’s horses for courses though, if I didn’t have the outlet I may have gone the traditional route.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s