Several months ago, for a few days various highly inflammatory articles appeared across the internet voicing differing opinions regarding independent writers, claiming that they were not professional in their approach – whatever that means.
Certain commentators delivered vitriolic attacks accusing independent writers of being nothing more than an editor’s worst nightmare and a monumental pain to deal with. When they were quite rightly challenged for making such statements, they immediately went on the offensive, under the illusion that attack is always the best form of defence. By reacting the way they did, they instantly lost the argument. Apart from venting their spleen, what was the point? I suspected when I read the articles at the time that the attackers were probably jealous of the sales success of some independents. Of course I couldn’t prove it.
These days, whether editors like it or not, how a writer chooses to publish their work is entirely up to them. If they are taken up by a publishing house – good luck to them. If not, going it alone is fine. Getting sniffy with a writer simply because they choose independent publishing over traditional doesn’t mean they are any less professional in their approach if they are serious about their writing. To say that the whole sorry saga did more to polarise the entire writing community at the time is an understatement.
On one side of the argument sit those who firmly believe that the only way to produce a worthwhile book requires it first be written by a known writer before being processed by what one article’s author refers to as professional editors and gatekeepers, an extremely elitist point of view. In the other camp sit those who prefer to go it alone, some employing an editor, some not.
While deliberately choosing not to be drawn into the argument, I was bemused when reading the often heated debate. It was plain to see that both sides were entrenched in their personal beliefs regarding professionalism. Whose argument was right? Whose was wrong? What all participants in the often extremely heated argument failed to appreciate was that publically lambasting the opposition serves no useful purpose other than to expose their own lack of professionalism, in the context of the argument.
In this particular war of words there were no winners. Both sides believed they were right. While those involved in the argument continue to name call or throw insults at each other from time to time, the rest of us are far too busy writing, and watching our bank balances improve each month.
Whether or not your work was made available to the reading public via a known publisher, or by using one of the many software packages available to independent writers, doesn’t matter in the least. All that does are your sales figures. If your book isn’t selling, don’t take your frustration and anger out on everyone else. It’s not their fault – they didn’t write, edit and publish it!
If you consider yourself to be a professional simply because you are a writer working through a publishing house, you really need to get out your copy of the Oxford English Dictionary and look up the accepted definition of the word professional in the context of writing.
Its not that long ago since two so-called professional writers, Stephen Leather, a successful thriller writer, and the established crime writer R.J Ellory, both employed by a prominent publishing house, were publically exposed for using a particularly low self-promotion technique known as sock puppeting. For those who don’t know, it involves writing glowing reviews of your own work while at the same time writing derogatory ones involving your opposition, using aliases on various internet social media sites and book outlets.
If that is an example of what some within the snobby traditional publishing world consider to be a professional approach, I want no part of it. I’ll remain an independent thank you very much.
If like me your only goal in life is to write and be read, whatever label people use when talking about you doesn’t matter one iota. In the world of the written word there is no room for the social climber plagued with an enormous ego, or unbridled jealousy. The whole argument over whether or not a writer is a professional is a complete nonsense these days. To be classed as a professional writer means that you receive regular payments in the form of royalties. If you don’t believe me, the Oxford English Dictionary defines a professional as being engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as an amateur. Nowhere is there any mention of approach. It’s got damn all to do with whether or not you publish independently, or are under contract in one of the traditional publishing stables.
If you can’t compete fairly in the marketplace, maybe its time for you to do something else. After all, the world of words does not need this kind of petty, childish nonsense.