Since I began independently publishing my books in 2012, I’ve encountered an attitude among the writing and publishing communities that absolutely baffles me. When some people discover that I’m self-published, they often react with a knowing roll of their eyes as if to say, “Oh, no, it’s another one of those aspiring author wannabes.” Imagine my disbelief when someone actually said that I as an indie author wasn’t a real author. Um, ladies and gentlemen, I have five books and over a dozen short stories published in multiple formats and available across five continents. How am I anything but a real author?
As far as I can remember, a person becomes a writer when someone publishes something that he or she has written and a writer becomes an author when someone publishes a book that he or she has written. If a piece of writing has appeared to the reading public in an easily digestible format (i.e. in a blog, newspaper, magazine, or book), it’s considered published. Consequently, the barrier to entry to be a writer is penning one published article. The barrier to entry to be an author is one published book. To be fair, in order to be considered a professional writer or author, you must be paid for the writing that you publish. Some groups will argue that there is a set amount of money that you should be paid to be considered professional, but money is money. When money is paid for a good or a service, that monetary exchange counts as a business transaction. Therefore, the writer who is paid that money is a professional writer, not an amateur writer and certainly not an aspiring writer.
When I worked as a market reporter and journalist for the Livestock Weekly newspaper, I was paid to write 30-40 articles every week for publication. Over a period of two years, that professional writing workload meant that I produced almost 1,200 published articles. My boss who was the publisher and owner of the newspaper also wrote articles for every LW publication. Those articles were then proofed by our editor, pieced together by our graphic designer, processed by our printer, and then printed on the printing press that we stored in the back of the office building. In effect, my boss Bobby was self-publishing. And he was self-publishing in one of the premier agriculture newspapers in the United States. No one would dare say that Bobby wasn’t a real writer just because his articles were published in his own newspaper. If anything, our readers’ main complaint was that they wanted more of our newspaper with all of its timely information even faster.
Now I’m a few years older and I find myself doing something similar to what Bobby’s father did in his youth: build my own publishing company and write my own published material. Unlike Bobby’s 10-person company, my press is so small that I have to contract out-of-house for everything from editing to printing. Even so, much of the process is the same. Each book is written, rewritten, beta tested, edited, proofed, formatted for print, formatted for electronic publication, proofed again, and sent off into the wild blue yonder via distributors and retailers for purchase and perusal by readers.
I’ll admit that the quality control process is more in-depth for books than it is for newspapers, yet I would never say that newspapers produce an inferior form of writing. After all, one of the world’s most prestigious writing awards—the Pulitzer—is given to journalists. Whatever the field, it takes a great amount of discipline and dedication to produce informative and engaging writing on a daily basis. Writing is not an easy achievement, but it is a crucial accomplishment.
I think the essential question in this debate is not whether indie authors are “real” authors, but whether indie authors write high-quality work. As in traditional publishing, the answer depends on the writing skill of the individual author in question, not on the method that author uses to achieve publication.
As for myself, I’m ecstatic to have the opportunity to write my best for my readers each and every single day. When I began my writing career, writing my best meant that I worked as a traditionally published journalist and fiction writer. I became an indie author when traditional publishing proved too slow of a system to help me get my books to the people who wanted to read them. Now I work as a hybrid author—constantly flitting back and forth between the two publishing methods. No matter which method I use to get my words out there, my incredible readers are my final indicators of quality. Their opinion is what matters most to me. No matter what anyone else says, it is my readers who make me a real author. Consequently, the only thing left for me to aspire to be is a better writer than I was yesterday. Love and thanks to my readers! You are all amazing!
Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better.
The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) blog is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with vivid fiction, deep love, and epic art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!