Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Monday Musing: But Wait

Over the weekend, an article appeared in The Guardian about a self-published author who turned down an offer of publication from Amazon’s Montlake Press. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this. It sounds like she had a better deal, and more control, as an independent than she would get from Montlake. Currently, her book is available for Kindle and Nook, and as Print-On-Demand via CreateSpace. The deal she was offered would make it Kindle only. Turning down Amazon/Montlake seemed like a pretty good decision on her part. What struck me, however, was something she said in the interview:

It was hard for me to say no. Ever since I was a little girl I’d dreamed about being a ‘published author’

Wait, what?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that what she is? The moment she hit ‘upload’ or ‘publish’ or whatever it is you do when you self-publish, she became a ‘published author.’ Or so I thought.

I threw that question up on the Absolute Write thread discussing this story not really expecting an answer. I suppose I was aiming for irony, the sort of mildly-amusing one liner you take note of and pass by. However, I got two answers, and I should have seen both coming. “Validation,”* said one. Then there was “some feel that ‘published author’ = ‘actual books in actual bookstores,'” and things started churning in my head.

I understand those answers. Honestly, both are part of why I’m choosing the path of so-called traditional publication. I found myself drafting and redrafting a response, and then scrapping them, because I couldn’t quite think of a way to express myself (some writer, huh?). I even went to the blog post of the author in question, seeking explanation, and I found another quote that just made things worse for me.

This deal was Kindle-only, so I wouldn’t be getting the benefits of paperback publishing, which to me is one of the greater advantages of a traditional publishing deal.

What I do understand from her post is that she’s getting a better deal right now. Her book is available via Barnes&Noble and Amazon in e-format, and as Print On Demand. Financially, she’s apparently making more money NOW than she would under the deal. It’s all sensible. That stuff I get. What I don’t get is this: If she doesn’t consider herself ‘published’ because she’s not ‘traditionally published’, why did she self-publish in the first place?

Please note this is not a knock against self-publishing. It works for many people, and it seems to be working for her. I guess I just don’t get why a person who wants one thing, i.e., traditional publishing, would do something else. While ‘discovery through self-publishing’ is on the rise, it’s not the norm, and it’s not something you’d want to hang your future on. Or maybe I’m just hopelessly behind the times.

17 Responses

  1. Her choice of wording is interesting. I'm currently leaning toward self pubbing for a variety of reasons (which I'll probably share in a blog post one day) but if I do I would definitely consider myself published! 🙂

  2. I read that article too, and she probably made the right choice for herself. I think validation is still the thing that distinguishes traditional publishing from self publishing for a lot of writers. Some authors feel they need that industry stamp of approval to consider themselves "published". But if she's selling at a rate that beats Amazon's offered advance of 5K and she's finding readers, she's doing pretty good.

  3. I get what she's saying. I too dreamed of being traditionally published and I think despite self-published success she is still that little girl who wants a traditional publisher to pick her book. Heard about this last week and I think she made the right decision. Too many publishers want to take up authors for as little money as possible.

  4. This is a great post, and I found it really interesting since I also chose to go the traditional route.

    I read your blog regularly, and have it saved to my favourites. I nominated your blog for The Leibster Award. You can check it out here:

  5. I can really understand the want for validation when it comes to self-pub vs trad-pub. I think self-pub authors who are successful are great and that self-publishing is a great option for everyone, but I think I get why trad-pub is seen as a 'better' way of going about what we writers do. I guess it seems more professional with trad-pub and more elite, because anybody could self-publish their work. But good on her for knowing how to make the most of the situation for herself, even if it means sticking with self-publishing instead of signing up for traditional publishing. Great post, JeffO. 🙂

  6. I agree on all counts. I see I left the '*' in my original post–there's a post on 'validation' coming up one of these days.

  7. I think she made the right decision, too. And I do understand that desire, but not why she went self-pubbing if that's not what she really wants.

  8. Thanks, Carrie. I am curious about your decision, why you made that choice, and how it will work out. (Great future blog post, hint, hint).

  9. *Some* indies are rocking this world. I do find myself curious about all the folks who have flopped.

    Times have definitely changed, and it's great that she (and we) have more options than not all that long ago.

  10. Thank you on both counts, Meghan. There are obviously horror stories on both sides of the publishing realm–good luck in your pursuit of the traditional route.

  11. Thanks, Bonnee. I think she's made the right decision for herself in turning down Amazon/Montlake, and I'm not sure I'd even call their offer 'traditional.'

  12. I've chosen the traditional route too, but that's partly because I feel I'd have a greater chance for a wider distribution and, more importantly, I also feel I could learn so much from those within the traditional industry. Selfpublishing is still publishing, just a different approach.

  13. *shrugs* It's possible she meant 'traditionally published author' and just misspoke. But if not, I agree with you. That's an odd thing to say. I consider any published author to be a published author, no matter which route they take.

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