I belong to a very active writer’s association that oversees and sponsors a number of writing groups and workshops in the area. My involvement in the local group has been limited in recent months, only attending meetings when a guest speaker visits to discuss a topic of specific interest to me. This may sound a bit selfish, but I prefer to avoid a handful of pompous, published blowhards whenever possible. Recently I discovered a little secret about a pair of these folks that could send both of them rushing off to therapy, but no names or associations will be mentioned.
Before making the decision to self-publish, I worked very hard trying to learn as much as possible about the business in general, while developing a network of friends and acquaintances that could offer guidance and honest critiques. On one occasion, I approached one of our local published authors and asked, very conversationally, if her publisher considered Young Adult fiction. I did not attempt to pitch. The tone of her reply was dismissive and rude and she actually walked away in mid-sentence. “They have too much in the hopper right now and are not accepting submissions.” I was dumbfounded and embarrassed. She had always been very pleasant on previous occasions. Maybe she was having a bad day. Her broom may have been in the shop for an oil change and new brakes. Or maybe I had unwittingly hit the raw end of a nerve.
A second experience was even more annoying. As part of an after meeting discussion, again where being published was dutifully compared to climbing Everest in flip-flops, I casually mentioned my intent to self-publish. I was promptly ambushed by Mr. Pompous Published Author. His face was contorted as if he had just sucked a lemon dry and, though his opinion was not solicited, he chided me in front of the small group clustered near the exit. “Self Publishing is akin to taking a shortcut, bypassing the system established to weed out the undesirable, while validating the work of real writers.” All that was missing was a fake British accent and an ascot!
Weeks following my tutorial in the way things should work, I clicked through the writer’s association website and discovered a link to a publishing association. I was amazed to find a lengthy list of local publishers and, out of sheer curiosity, clicked on the member list. It seems the ‘hopper’, which was described by the broom rider as being so full, was actually filled with the work of only one writer, the one whose ‘publisher’ was not accepting submissions. Down the page, I stumbled across the name of good old Mr. Pompous Published Author, the lemon eater. It seems these writers are both (gasp) self-published. They created their own labels for marketing their award-winning work and masquerade as traditionally published authors.
Admittedly, both writers have talent and they sell plenty of books. They are not bad people, just not very genuine or helpful. This charade must work, at the very least providing some sort of benefit in the fragile ego department. I’m sure they get all giddy at the mention of their ‘publishing company’ prior to being introduced to the assemblies of awe-struck wanabes. The high and mighty attitude? I could do without that. No one likes a snob, especially a phony snob.
For me, validation from the industry is less important than the work itself. The goal should be to create works of real quality, regardless of publishing method, in order to establish a base of loyal readers, anxiously awaiting the release of the next title.