His argument is this: Writers should not be as presumptuous to call themselves ‘authors’ unless they have validation from a “real” publishing house – in the form of a contract and sales.
“Just because it’s easy to upload your written word, so that it can be downloaded to another machine does not make you an author, any more than me buying a stethoscope allows me to be called a doctor.” – MK
Michael goes on to have a rant about the advent of DIY eBook publishing devaluing the word ‘author’.
Well, I want to have a rant as well. I think it’s a ridiculous argument. Here’s why.
If I create anything, I’m the author of that work. Wether it’s a painting, a story, a business plan or a song. It’s irrelevant if it’s been sold, bought or validated by some professional ‘gatekeeper’. The art didn’t exist. Now it does.
You are the author. End of. You are the author of your life, your successes and failures. If you have the guts to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and write something that exists in a complete and public form, you are the author of that as well.
How it becomes public does not devalue the authorship. The act of creation defines the authorship. You create. YOU are the author.
Arguing that writers are devaluing the word ‘author’ by having the temerity to self publish makes a simple mistake.
Some self-published books are rubbish. That’s true. It’s untrue that ALL self-published books are therefore rubbish as well. What is true is that all – the good and the bad, the sold and unsold – had authors. How could they not? These works didn’t just wink into existence. They were created. The good and bad. The funded and unfunded. To argue only ‘good’ writers are authors is a fallacy. There’s enough bad ‘pro’ authors in the world to sink that argument.
There are some awful self published books. That’s a given. There are also some appalling professionally published books. Books that have earned some author a nice little advance while felling entire forests to produce books that nobody wants to read. Unloved and badly reviewed books that fill discount bookshops throughout the English speaking world until finally pulped and recycled into (maybe), more bad fiction. In this ‘professional’ model, where is the quality-control? Here is a model of writers made ‘professional’ – to become ‘authors’ and produce appalling genre copycat unsellable rubbish.
So clearly, just being published by a dead tree publisher never was and never will be an arbiter of quality writing.
Another argument is that there should be an income threshold that a writer must declare before they can call themselves a ‘proper’ author. Michael Kowlosozki cites membership rules for the American Society of Publishers and others that stipulate an income threshold before you can join. Fair enough. These clubs can have whatever rules they like.
Well, so what? It reminds me a bit of ‘old school’ golf clubs that won’t let you in if you’re wearing blue jeans. Even though the jean wearer may well be the next Tiger Woods, membership is limited to the genteel non-jean wearing membership. A nice cosy Gentleman’s club for ‘real’ golfers – or ‘author’s.
I’m afraid I’m a bit like old Grouch Marx on this one.
There’s a lot wrong with this argument is well. That an artist, unless they are earning money from that art, have no right to call themselves an artist – or author. That would immediately discount a very long list of writers who were rejected over and over and over again by the gatekeepers of dead tree publishing.
Writers like; George Orwell, Jack Kerouac, Stephen King, JD Salinger, HG Wells, JK Rowling and more recently, self published e-book success stories such as Hugh Howey – author of the phenomenally successful Wool science fiction series. (For an entertaining list of writers who should not be called author’s check out literaryrejections.com)
Here’s the thing, and I’ve always argued this. The good things that a traditional publisher can bring to a writer is simply editorial input, design, quality control, brand and marketing. The new independent writer needs to do all of this themselves to become an author. Independent writers must take on and ensure quality control and hire people with the right professional backgrounds. If a writer has something to say, a story to tell, something to teach and an audience interested in reading and paying, then it is the self published authors responsibility to ensure quality control is right up there with any book published by major.
An independent writer/author, must also wear a marketing hat and do all that is possible to grow a tribe and get their book in front of an audience. If they do all that and still have no audience, well, into the digital remainder bin they go. They still have the right to be called an author. Just like any other contracted writer with zero sales whose book ends up in the remainder bin.
Who are we to say that one book is more worthy than another only because of its means of finance and production. Authors produced them all.
I’ll leave the last word to the dictionary definition of author.
A writer of a book, article or document. That’s an author. The means of production is irrelevant. eBook. Publishing contract. Authors all.
What do you think? Are you concerned whether a book is self published or professionally published? And what’s that even mean now?A self published author can be professional. And the ones that are remain the ones that stand a chance of finding in audience and forging a career in this brave new world of eBook Publishing.
Leave a comment below. Do you self publish? Are you an author?