Greatest Hits: The Meltdown of Indie Publishing...?
This post appeared on my original blog in March of 2011, so it's a bit dated. But it's a perfect post to follow my previous one, which deals with self-publishing, how to self-edit, and whether a professional editor is the key to producing a good book. As usual, my current thoughts will be in italics.
Every once in a while, across all industries, someone eventually implodes. There was Kanye West's infamous rant when he didn't win best video, storming the stage a year later while Taylor Swift tried to accept her award. There was Tom Cruise on Oprah's yellow couch, destroying expensive cushions with his tiny feet. And now there's Jacqueline Howett, an indie author who had a virtual meltdown in front of an audience of millions.
The scene of the crime was BigAl's Books and Pals, a blog that does indie authors a favor by reviewing their books and giving them a little exposure. Jacqueline Howett didn't like her review. She attacked the reviewer, then turned on commentators when they piped in.
When I stumbled across the link to this downward spiral, my initial thought was: bad idea. My second was: taking criticism is hard. And then I got angry, not on account of Howett's behavior (that's her grave, not mine), but because of a handful of comments that peppered the entry.
There's one by someone who claims to be from the publishing industry, insisting this is exactly why they'll never represent an indie author. There are a few by readers who say that Howett's book is a great example of why they don't read indie authors--because we're sloppy, thoughtless, unstable sacks of emotional disaster.
And then there's the comment that really gets me going: that nobody should publish anything unless they hire a professional editor.
Excuse me while I stew for a minute.
Let's get one thing out of the way: yes, absolutely every piece of writing that makes it into the world market should be edited. But it's the 'professional editor' that gets me. Professional, as in this is how they make their living. Let me tell you something, Bub... I've researched 'professional editors,' and they ain't cheap. (I address this in greater detail in my previous post.) They charge by the word. They charge by the 'level' of editing you want. Some of them charge upward of three thousand dollars to polish your work.
I get it... editing is a crap job. I wish I could completely avoid it. (It used to be a 'crap job' for me. But I outgrew that. I used to be all about creating new content. Now, editing a piece of garbage manuscript is, in my opinion, the most enjoyable part of the job. It's incredibly satisfying to polish a lump of coal into a diamond. I think, however, that love of editing comes with time. Younger, more inexperienced authors are all about banging out the first draft. Older, more seasoned writers understand that reading the first draft is going to be as cringe-worthy as a root canal.) But we're talking about independent authors, here. We're talking about a group of people who, like most artists, don't put money away in a professional editor piggy bank. (And, quite honestly, even if you're "successful," that kind of money is still a lot. I'd have to be raking it in to just throw three grand at an edit job, even today.) To say that you absolutely should not release a piece of work without a professional editor behind it is asinine. You may as well tell that author to bankrupt themselves before daring to put their work out into the world.
This all goes back to old school versus new tech — traditional versus self-published. The comment by the publishing industry person — the one that said they'll never sign an indie — of course say that. We're the enemy. We're the people that look that very commentator in the eyes and say 'we don't need you.' The reader that said they'll never read an indie: bullshit. They probably already have and don't even know it. (In 2019? Almost guaranteed.)
A lot of independent authors are worried that Howett's public meltdown will hurt the image of self-publishers. I say not a chance. An author stands on his own merits, and readers are far smarter than what some of those comments suggest. Readers aren't going to avoid indie because readers don't care about who's makes the money at the end of the day. Maybe I'm off my gourde, but I've never picked up a book that looked interesting only to think 'hmm, I wonder who published this.' It's a ridiculous concept — as ridiculous as suggesting that readers are going to sit in their high chairs, being spoon fed literature that the industry deems profitable, smile and say may I have some more? (Though, if we're being honest... I mean, am I right?)
It's a shame about Howett. Is her career over? Ah, the wonder of pseudonyms. Will she be successful? Only if she learned from her mistake... but that, dear reader, is nothing short of speculation.
(After being reminded of Howett, I did a little digging. She has a blog, but it looks 100% personal. Her last update was in the summer of 2018. The book that caused the meltdown was titled The Greek Seaman. It's no longer available on Amazon. She does, however, have two other books available, both published in 2011, neither of which have favorable reviews. I'm not seeing any information on a pseudonym if one exists. Howett has, however, won herself an entry on Wikipedia regarding the event. Can't say I don't envy that. I've yet to make it onto Wikipedia myself.)