Friday, 5 October 2012

Wading into the great debate...

Opinions - the PG version

I love bloggers. Proper ones, I mean, who post reviews, information, thoughts, ideas, plans and daydreams every day for the rest of us to ingest, share and marvel at. (And no, I definitely don't count myself as a 'proper' blogger.)

It's a fact of life that once we state an opinion, there will likely be a few folks around who agree with us and a few thousand who don't - it's human nature and heartily satisfying as far as I'm concerned; wouldn't the world be boring if we all agreed all of the time?

Since writing is my thing, I tend to be attracted to blogs and bloggers who have something to say about books, writing, self-publishing, traditional publishing, agents, bookshelves, the poor quality of biros these days etc. etc. etc. It hasn't escaped my notice (!) that from time to time these fabulous folk and their commenters fall out about the differences between Trad and self publishing. There are strong advocators for each and lots of angry comments fly back and forth about the merits of one, the attitudes of people engaged in the other, which is better, which sucks and so on and so forth.

Most of the time when I read these, I end up feeling slightly nauseated. And then I get to wondering if there's something wrong with me since I'm not out there fighting in either corner.


I spent most of my writing life dreaming of the day when my bubbly, enthusiastic agent would phone to tell me that a publisher had bought my book and I was going to be 'published'. Ah, the joy that would fill my heart, the excitement that would shine in my dull grey eyes, the flush that would decorate my cheeks...yeah, you get the idea.

And instead I ended up with a large stack of very kind rejection letters.

Now, according to some camps in the blogger-verse, I should have continued down this route and ignored the temptation of self-publishing. In taking the self-pubbed route I was being 'lazy'.

Maybe they're right but I don't feel 'lazy' - I write the best story that I can, have it edited as well as I can afford, pay for a designer to provide me with a good cover and set up the interior of my books for printing, attempt (usually unsuccessfully!) to market myself, create workshops and visit schools to encourage children to give creative writing a go and, above all else, I keep writing. Yes, I've made mistakes and embarrassed myself several thousand times but I was always told that making mistakes is how you learn, getting it wrong once or twice has certainly shown me all my flaws and reminded me to take more care!

I don't feel angry when I hear a traditionally published author complain about self-publishing and I don't feel overjoyed when I hear self-published authors lambaste traditional publishing. I truly believe that there's a place for both and there will always be a friction between the two but that's okay - like I said, wouldn't it be boring if we were all the same?


The only time I twitch a little is when someone from the 'Trad' point of view complains that self-publishing needs 'gatekeepers' (arguing that in traditional publishing, the agents provide this role, weeding out the unsuitable, incapable and downright crap). I find this very confusing. Self-publishing already has such a thing - they're called 'readers' and they provide the same function for the self-published writer as for the traditionally published - a vast, able and mighty ability to discover good books and champion the best of them. If they download or purchase a book that they don't like then the chances are a) they'll tell their friends not to touch it with a barge pole and b) they'll avoid other books that the author puts out afterwards. 

So, am I lazy in taking the self-published route? Well, obviously I hope not but I can understand why a traditionally published author might view me in that way. Maybe I should have kept sending out the enquiry letters instead of jumping in with both feet by myself; I wanted someone to read my stories and get enjoyment from them. That's it. And am I wrong in believing that there's a place in the wonderful world of books for all kinds of publishing? Fingers crossed.


  1. I loved this post, Ashley, and you're certainly not taking the lazy way out! I've had feet in both camps for a while now--my memoir was published by Random House three years ago, I self-published a novel last year (out of frustration, because my agent couldn't sell it) and then Penguin bought my new novel. I actually think this is an exciting time to be a writer because there are so many ways to get your work out there--and you're right, the readers will let you know what you need to improve on the next book. Best of luck, girlfriend--it's a bumpy ride but a fun one.

    1. Hello there, Holly. Thanks for stopping by! You're right - there are now more opportunities for writers to get their work in front of a reader and get constructive criticism straight from the mouths of the people you want to have reading and enjoying your work. That instant connection is wonderful! Lovely to hear from someone who's trying their hand at Traditional and Self-publishing - would love to think that this might be the norm some day. Very best wishes.

  2. It's interesting to me that if you were a musician who didn't have a recording contract, no one would think twice if you made your own recording and started selling it at your concerts or from a website. You'd probably get points for ingenuity. And I agree, the future probably holds a mix of self- and traditional publishing for most authors.

    1. You're so right. Indie musicians and film-makers are hailed as innovators and not accused of being lazy or taking short-cuts! William Blake, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, DH Lawrence, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain - all 'Indie' or self-published authors to begin with; good company to be in. Thanks, Liv :-)