The time has come…


…to end the ridiculous professional versus amateur writer argument!!

For a few days several months ago 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 is supposed to mean.

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 when you’ve been caught out! By reacting in 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 independent writers. Of course I couldn’t prove it. But I’m pretty damned sure it was and still is the case.

These days whether the industry likes 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 also fine. Getting sniffy with a writer simply because they choose to independently publish 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 polarize 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 well 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 this day and age). 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 have to say I was sorely tempted 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 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, albeit slowly.

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 is the state of your sales figures. If your book isn’t selling, don’t take your frustration and anger out on other writers. It’s not their fault – they didn’t write, edit and publish it. You did!

If you consider yourself to be a professional simply because you are a writer working through a publishing house, or someone yet to publish, you really need to get out your copy of the Oxford English Dictionary and look up the accepted definition of the word professional within the context of writing. Adding the appellation to your name does not make you a successful writer. Hard work does!!!

It’s 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 form of self-promotion 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. We all get examples of the latter. I got one recently…

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 jobbing writer 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 to one of the traditional publishing houses.

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 unprofessional behaviour…


17 thoughts on “The time has come…

  1. Whether the OED’s income-based definition applies or not, there are certain standards of professional behaviour that really should be adhered to… and the examples given in your excellent article clearly do not consider that to be part of their remit as ‘professional writers’.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the post, Jack. ‘Luck’ plays quite a role in everything. As ‘only a keen scribbler’ (while in love with writing) way back in 1983, I was commissioned……(Me?) by Kogan Page Ltd. of London to write a book on hotel-keeping. As husband and I had just sold our hotel business in Bournemouth, my old boss recommended me and my m/s was accepted! RUNNING YOUR OWN SMALL HOTEL even went to reprint. I was over the moon and it gave me a kick-start. Another book followed and then ‘life’ intruded. Fast forward and oh, how publishing has changed! Oh, I have had more books published but not by mainstream publishers and the difference is cavier or bread and cheese…..

    Liked by 1 person

    • I started writing full time in 1995 Joy. But I never had anything I considered worth publishing until 2010. It was published by a small press. Then the editor/owner and I parted company. So I became an Indie. For a while 2012 – 2015 I was making a living just. These days I’m lucky if I sell a half dozen copies of any of my books…


  3. Hi Jack, You have my sympathy. I received two statements this week – not from Amazon but D2D. One for 50 centimos…and one for 30….I think that’s an insult! Don’t know what we can do about it, but ‘society’ has gone through some life-changing hoops in the last decade or two. Hope springs eternal. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

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