Letter to Self-Publishers
Updated: Oct 1, 2019
I originally published this post when I started my first blog (back when Foul Fantasy Fiction was just a little ole' blog about the good and bad in fantasy writing). I ended up writing this scathing mass review of self-published writers after many long hours spent scouring KDP and the other self-publishing outposts for something good to write about for my 'Fair' section of the blog. I was determined to promote indie work and find the little-known diamonds amongst the rubble. I did eventually find some, but not until I had waded through piles of.....
.....Anyway. Now we have turned that little blog into a publishing imprint, and perhaps this post is now more mean-spirited than ever because of it. But I think it still holds true today for a lot of "writers" out there. The #WritersCommunity is filled with awesome people, and I'd say 80% of them are hard-working and dedicated to their craft.
This post is for the other 20% of them. (Who are self-publishing that is.)
So without further adieu...
I have been exploring.
I have searched high and low for a self-published gem just waiting to be plucked from obscurity, lifted into the light, and rejoiced. But alas, I cannot find one.
I have officially reviewed, and researched, and read so many terrible books in the last few months that I'm actually sad. Really sad. And angry...and yet renewed by my anger.
I have now taken it upon myself to stop the insanity!
Authors, I don't get it. Why put so much work into something just to release it unto the masses incomplete? Why bother to promote a piece that is an embarrassment to you, and will taint your future as a writer forever? I have mulled over these questions for years, but now I think I finally get it.
The self-published (fantasy) authors out in the wild are assholes. They are walking insults to everything we writers hold dear: patience, hard work, art, language, and integrity.
I don't care how mean-spirited I'm being. If you take offense to my words then you are one of these narcissistic, delusional, self-publishing rejects, and you need to stop all writing projects now! Stick to your day jobs, and stop over-saturating the market with your unstructured, unedited, unformatted, and just plain un-GOOD books.
So Imma rant now, and you can't stop me!
You Lazy S.O.B.s
I am, by no stretch of even the most imaginative imaginations, a perfect writer. Hey, I get lazy sometimes too! I get impatient. Take this blog for instance. You'll probably find hundreds of grammar and punctuation mistakes throughout my posts because I can't bring myself to care all that much about them. I'm a single, self-employed mom. I'm busy. I want to write 'em as quickly as possible and just get them out.
I understand better than anyone the draws of laziness. The key is to know what's important, and when to cast aside your primal desire to sit and never get up again for the projects that are going to be your pianos.
I'm speaking nonsense you say?
I don't remember where I came across the analogy, but I've lived by it ever since.
When your mover is moving boxes of pillows and clothing to your new home, nobody can fault him for giving them a toss or two. After all, you're payin' the man by the hour, and a heavy hand is not going to do the goods inside those boxes any harm. But, professional movers know damn well that if they are moving a grand piano, they need to take a hell of a lot better care of it. They painstakingly measure every dimension of it, they cover it with protective and non-slip sheeting, they recruit more men to help carefully tip it on its side, they clear any and all object in the dolly's path, they wear special non-slip gloves, and that is just the beginning!
They do this because the consequences of damaging a grand piano are much worse than those of bruising your "dogs have owners, cats have staff" pillow.
Your novel is that piano! You don't have to spend so many years on it that it never gets read, but you also can't allow a steaming pile of sh** to enter the marketplace with your name on it. Your actual name on it!
Take the time, do the work, and make something that you can be proud of. There's absolutely NO downside to that. None!
I kid you not. One of those awful self-published (what's the polar opposite of masterpiece?) novels I've read in my search for a worthy feature was the absolute worst book in existence, I'm sure. After reading it, I put it away in an enclosed bookshelf. I opened the bookshelf the other day and the entire thing smelt like my toddler had taken a poop in it. Convinced that that had to be true, I took the whole thing apart. To my surprise, there was no poo. However, when I picked up this terrible novel it reeked. None of the books around it smelled, and the book itself looked to be clean. It was brand new after all. I gave it to my (then) husband and he confirmed that the book did indeed smell like crap!
I have never laughed so hard in my life. The book that was the worst piece of sh** I have ever read, actually started to smell like a piece of sh**.
I'm now fully convinced that if you write a book bad enough it will start to leak real sewage into yours, and your reader's lives. I will forever remember the book that smelled like poo, and, unfortunately for him, the author of the book that smelled like poo!
Your readers will remember your bad book too if only to avoid all your future work like the plague!
How Narcissistic Do You Have to Be?
I can't understand how these books get published. No, I get how they get published, but who lets them get published?
I mean, for the most part, I've noticed that the worst of the worst is written by authors who have dedicated their works to a spouse of other "supportive" loved one.
They are either lying and don't actually have anyone to love them, or they have surrounded themselves with sycophants who tell them only what they want to hear because everyone knows that they will never listen anyway.
These people probably don't get editors for the same reasons. They can't handle the criticism, even for spelling mistakes, I guess. Or, they just think they are that good.
Nobody is that good. Every writer worth their salt uses an editor! I'm not plugging my own services, I don't care if you use me. Hell, maybe I've pissed enough people off with this post I have guaranteed fewer clients. Whatever. Just get an editor!!!
I've read books written by lots of editors who have thought that they could "do it themselves." Well, guess what, they couldn't.
If you can't handle criticism, you shouldn't be writing. Books are meant for audiences, and audiences expect and deserve a certain level of professionalism. A few spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes here and there are completely acceptable. Readers won't abandon you at the first little mistake (which could have happened at any point in the process). However, they will not forgive blatant disregard for sentence structure, flow, or any kind of knowledge about the English language. They will spend more time correcting your writing in their head than doing any reading (if they bother with it at all).
Then again, maybe that's your "art."
Oh! You Think This is Easy?
The last possible explanation for all the garbage-worthy self-published books out there is that these people think writing a novel is so easy a monkey could do it.
Although, there must be a level of delusional thinking if these authors believe that the work they produce is on par with any of the professionals.
This sentiment is also insulting for those of us who spend years conjuring up ideas and shaping them into something decent. I blame romance.
I mean it. Not that I think there is anything wrong with romance at all. I actually like a lot of romance. But most of these authors pump out novellas about as quickly as their fans can read them! That's fine for some romance, but that just isn't possible for lots of other genres.
Browsing freelance writing jobs, one can find unlimited job postings for "fantasy and science fiction ghostwriters wanted." All of which, asking writers to come up with an idea off the top of their heads, or take a simple premise and write a fully developed/edited novel in a matter weeks! It's insanity.
Nothing good can come of that. The thing is, these books are being written, and they are the "steaming piles" I referred to earlier.
I Think I'm Calm Now, Thanks For Listening
I will continue my search for the next feature-worthy title, but I fear it may be a long and painful journey.
To my followers, I beg of you all to please keep your integrity and pride intact. Remember what your pianos are and work at them like you actually enjoy what you're doing. Lastly, please accept all the criticism you can get with open ears.
Do what I do. When I'm ready for some hard truths, I will tell whoever is near that it's a "tell me I look fat in my jeans day," and let them review my work. Then, I sit there as they get as mean and honest as they possibly can, and I'm not allowed to get defensive at a single word. I write down every little note of what they tell me and then (here's the hard part) make the changes.
You can't just listen to criticism, you need to take an action afterward to fix what has been criticized. Not everything is going to need the changes, and all judgments are subjective after all. If you have to, get a second opinion but never brush something off as "stupid" or "not understanding my vision."
If you do that...you're an ass. The only one facing the consequences is you, after all.
For the select few self-published authors who are writing only for themselves and no particular demographic or goal. Then I can't really judge you all too much, can I? And I won't.
But for the rest of you...I'm watching you. I'm reading your garbage and at some point, I'm not going to be able to take it anymore, and I'm going to add a "Steaming Pile" section to this blog to point my finger at you personally. So watch out!