An Open Letter to Militant Self-Publishers

Dear Militant Self-publishers:

It’s time to lay down your swords. The war has been won. Very few people care any more if the books they read are self-published or not. There are probably more self-published authors making a living by writing than traditionally published knightwriters, which mean you sell a whole lot of books.

If someone accidentally or even purposely impugns all self-published writers, let it go. Stop brandishing your swords as if this is some sort of war or civil rights movement. People have a right to their opinion. Some readers have been burned by buying poorly edited self-published books, and it is their prerogative to stay away from self-published books if they wish. There are way too many books on the market for anyone to read them all, so each person has a right to set their own parameters. It is also their prerogative to say so publicly.

And oh, while I’m at it, please stop comparing yourself to Dickens and John Grisham and other iconoclasts. These self-published authors from previous eras went against the flow of publishing, arranging to have the books printed and selling copies by hand. Being self-published today is about going with the flow. There are millions of you. You are an army with no enemy.

So just lay down your swords, take off your armor, and enjoy what you have accomplished.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

20 Responses to “An Open Letter to Militant Self-Publishers”

  1. bardconstantine Says:

    I agree. The fact of the matter is that there are still uncountable stacks of poorly written and edited manuscripts self published every day. Fortunately longevity and great writing. will eventually separate the authors from the writers. But as far as the stigma involving self publishing, I think readers really only care about if the story captivates them or not. The avenue from which it came is becoming more and more of no consequence to the discerning reader.

  2. rami ungar the writer Says:

    Okay, I’ll take off my armor. It was getting heavy anyway. Can I keep my sword though?

  3. chuckcollins86 Says:

    Bravo Pat!
    The real enemy is the fading popularity of reading in the traditional sense. While we are reading more than ever, long forms such as novels and general non-fiction sales are hurting. Add to that the crowded field and there is the rub.

    As far as the big houses, they are quaking like a Chinese coastal highway. Have you seen the editing treatments given b-level authors with decent back lists? I was shocked by the lack of editing tenacity. I have talked to some of them personally in my radio interviews. They are just as surprised. Still, they tend to sell what In my opinion is often an unpleasant reading experience.

    If you have a good story and great composition; if you work on your craft until it is crystal clear and as near perfection as possible then you are just about halfway there. Marketing is a fast-moving target and that is where most self-published authors with good products fail. I have experience in both worlds and frankly you might be better doing it yourself. BUT be ready to be your own shop. It can be an investment (you must look at it that way) and a real time commitment. The good news is building an engaged community, while not easy, is very doable in 2013-2014.

    How about this, instead of considering yourself self-punished, why not make yourself a publisher? I created my own imprint and that’s who will publish my first non-fiction next month. In reality it is a step up from the small indie publisher to took on (with minimal effort) my current novel.

    So my friend Pat is spot on. Forget the labels and certainly forget blame. Create the best work possible and get ready to market the – well, you know – out of it and yourself!

    My 2¢

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      My books are published by an independent publisher, but I’m still the one responsible for my promotion. Too bad I don’t know how to do it!

      A lot of self-publishers set themselves up as a publishing company, but it’s easy to see the truth if the publishing company has but one author. Actually, self-publishers no longer call themselves self-publishers. They call themselves “indie authors,” though traditionally, “indie authors” were those published by small independent publishers. Not only has the name been taken from them, but authors published by independent presses are being squeezed between the juggernauts of the self-publishers and the big six. But the real problem, as you point out, is the crowded field.

      Best of luck with your new book!

  4. ROD MARSDEN Says:

    I think self publishers are their own worst enemies. A good writer can edit someone else’s work with success but he or she is better off getting someone else to edit their own work. My books are published through a small publisher who is also a writer in her own right. There are a dozen writers in her stable including yours truly. Sigh! I am also responsible for my own promotions and I am not the best at that sort of thing. Yes the field is crowded.

  5. Holly Bonville Says:

    Just a note from the editing side of the argument. It is a long and slow process and is not financially rewarding. I worked for a publishing company for over a year, edited five books, and never saw a penny. Although I enjoyed it, put in long hours and read the same books over and over. To have a book published, even thru an electronic publisher, it is a long, slow process, and most people don’t want to wait that long, abide by the rules, or give up any of their income.
    I am a voracious reader, at least one book a day, sometimes two, I can tell when a book has been edited or not. I have even stopped reading poorly written books, which is a personal no-no for me. Once I start a book, I like to finish it even if I don’t like it.

  6. Kathy Says:

    Oh wow! I didn’t realize there was such a war. I’m a hybrid – published with and without publishers. The biggest knock I see out there is the traditionally published still ranting about the poorly edited self-published books. As a trained editor in the publishing world for 30 years, I’ve seen errors in almost every book. If there is an enemy, it’s the sheer number of writers. G.K. Chesterton said a couple of centuries ago that we need more readers – not writers. 🙂

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Some self-publishers stomp on anyone who they think is saying anything against self-publishers. I wouldn’t say anything bad (except about lack of editing) because there is a chance that one day I will become one. The odd thing is, their comments sort of proved my point that some self publishers have no regard for grammar rules. (Explained in my post: Ah, the Difference a Comma Makes! — The comments I cited were the least inflamatory.) It turns out they don’t even know the rules. I checked out the books of the guy who said he obeyed the rules, and oh my. One of the worst I’ve seen.

      And yes, the problem is the sheer number of writers.

    • ROD MARSDEN Says:

      I have seen the occasional spelling mistake, etc in Penguin classics so even top editors sometimes get it wrong. Top editors, however, will get most of the garbage out and that’s why they are needed.

      • Pat Bertram Says:

        Besides taking out the garbage, editors know grammar. They know punctuation. They know storytelling. Many self-publishers who proclaim they pay attention to the rules only pay attention to the rules they know. They don’t even know what mistakes they are making.

  7. Paula Martin Says:

    Well said, Pat. I’ve read good and bad self-published, just as I’ve read good and bad mainstream published. Some writers, however, seem to think self-publishing offers a short cut to ‘being published’ and don’t have a clue about polishing and editing. But then 50 Shades was published – and is actually in dire need of professional editing!

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