writing

It’s not self-published vs traditional published anymore, it’s professional vs unprofessional.

I came across an article called ‘How To Self-Publish A Bestseller: Publishing 3.0‘ by James Altucher. It talked about his recent success with his latest book ‘Choose Yourself‘, but that is not what I was mainly interested in. What I was interested in was that he mentioned today’s publishing isn’t divided between self-published and traditionally published books anymore, but divided between professional and unprofessional.

It got me thinking at how the industry has changed in recent times. While I’ve only recently come into it (last couple of years) I have not had the opinion that self-published books hold the stigma that seemed to come with self publishing simply because I entered at a time when there are good quality self-published stories that can be accessed by a large amount of people.

In the past people had the idea that the way a book was published dictated the actual narrative quality inside. But any person who reads a lot of books will come across traditionally published books and think ‘how did this piece of shit get published?’

I know I have.

It amazes me that such poorly written/expressed/edited or just plain terrible stories ever make it past the first round in a publishing house. Did everyone involved have a brain aneurysm or something? Come one guys! You have access to more resources than a single individual, and yet you somehow end up with dribble.

But in today’s world it is not where you publish or the platform that you publish on. It is how you publish it. Have you done it professionally or unprofessionally? Have you taken you time to edit and re-write bad sections of your novel?

Overall people now look at the quality of something, not where it came from.

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4 thoughts on “It’s not self-published vs traditional published anymore, it’s professional vs unprofessional.”

  1. Unfortunately, these days it really is all about platform. Success depends much less on how well you write than how good you are at marketing yourself. Certainly this is true in self-publishing, but it also drives the traditional publishing industry (which is how all those crap books made it through). These days if an agent is interested in your query, the first thing they do is find you online to see what kind of platform you’ve set up on social media. Do you have an author page? A blog? How many followers? How many re-tweets? They want to see if you will be up to the task of branding and marketing and just getting yourself and your work out there. You know, all those things that used to be done by, well, agents. Why should they work if one of the 1000 submissions that hit their inbox each day is already doing it? Same is true of editing. Agents used to set you up with editors and all sorts of developmental support, but not any more. They say they want to nurture an author’s career, but they also make no secret of the fact that, with so many to choose from, these days they only go with books that are already ready to go. In other words, they expect you to do all the things that you have to do when you self-publish. Is it any wonder why traditional publishing is dying? Oh yeah, and the biggest red flag of all when agents look you up on line? Complaining about agents and the current state of the publishing industry.

    1. Complaining about agents and the state of the publishing industry does send red flags about me, but then these complaints are relevant in current times. It’s true that publishing houses/industry are under stress especially since people’s reading habits are changing aka declining and their business model is showing itself to be outdated. Traditionally after a writer sends their manuscript to an agent it is then up to their capacity to determine if it’s worthy of sending to a publishing house. But on a whole (not always true) agents are motivated primarily by money as they get commission, so they are only looking for the next mass marketable book – the next Twilight, Hunger Games, 50 Shades etc, – something which publishing houses are also looking for. Both want something that covers a broad range of people but at the same time want to spend as little time as possible on it. With this criteria you end up with not only poorer quality material (in terms of editing, the story itself and even copy-cat stories), but a poorer expectation for future books and a lessening in respect from readers. Picking one or two stories to cover most people is easier to do instead of choosing many books to cover all of the market. True that some stories/genres will never be mass marketable or become bestsellers, but that doesn’t mean they should be overlooked or limited in terms of editorial/other effort. Every book has a market, but if all a reader/consumer sees when they enter a book store/department book isle is a swath of mediocre mass market stories, instead of potentially a variety of well-written, diverse and smaller market share books then how would you expect readers to view the current state of literary agents and the publishing industry?

      1. Just to be clear, I wasn’t particularly referring to you when I said that. Take a look at my site (robertpaulgmelin.wordpress.com) if you want to see “complaining.” Several people have told me I have irreparably poisoned my chances with agents because of my criticism of the current state of the industry and of YA fiction, and they may well be right. But I’ve said nothing that’s not being said by others, and if it’s true that agents will blackball you if you don’t pretend to love the horrible process they require you to go through (“Thank you, sir, may I have another?”), that’s just another mark against them. As a teacher, if I could drop every student who complained about English class on-line, I’d probably have no students left.

        I agree with your observations here, but would go one further: agents do seem to be looking for the least amount of work, but it’s really driven by the film industry, because that’s where the money is. They want something they can turn around and pitch to the film studios, which means high-concept and simplistic. It’s sad.

        I’m not blaming agents. What a lot of would-be writers don’t realize is that the agent is not our friend or collaborator. They don’t work for us. They get paid by the publishers, and we are nothing more than a commodity.

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