It should be obvious to anyone who reads this blog that I am not a professional author. I have never made such a claim, despite the fact that I’ve written a bit. I’ve traditionally published nonfiction with McGraw-Hill, I’ve edited quite a bit of nonfiction, and lately I’ve independently authored/published two novels. And I write this blog which, I hope, occasionally doesn’t suck. All of which does not make me a professional author. I am a surgeon, and I write. But I am a professional surgeon, and I am not, in any manner of speaking, a professional writer.
I make this point as a matter of introduction. I read a bit about writing, since it is my hobby. Nobody who dabbles in this business can possibly miss the current controversy surrounding the seismic changes occurring in the publishing industry. The recent changes have allowed anyone with a computer to publish a book. I am, as I mentioned, a case in point. This has led to a great deal of distress on the part of the established publication industry, exactly paralleling the cataclysm which struck the traditional music industry a little over a decade ago. No surprise there. What is unique to this authorship revolution, however, is the angst that this revolution has created amongst professional authors. A case in point–
I recently read the blog post of Chuck Wendig at Terrible Minds.com entitled:
SLUSHY GLUT SLOG: WHY THE SELF-PUBLISHING SHIT VOLCANO IS A PROBLEM
At the risk of oversimplifying Mr. Wendig’s lengthy blog post, the gist of the problem as he sees it is that now that the barriers to publication have been dismantled, so many people are publishing so much bad literature that it is making it hard for readers to discover quality books and, in addition, that this lack of quality may lead to a backlash against independently published work. This is a point that Mr. Wendig has made many times and is a point made by many concerned professionals in the field.
I don’t agree.
Oh, I wholeheartedly agree that we are currently experiencing an unprecedented wave of terrible, awful, self-published books. Just like we’ve recently seen a surge of mega-best selling traditionally published dreck. Nothing new there. But I disagree with Mr. Wendig that this is a problem. It sounds an awful lot like, “Those damn kids with their rock and roll are ruining all the good music for the rest of us.” I don’t think Mr. Wendig has to worry so much.
You see, Mr. Wendig, you are a professional writer. You dedicate all your professional energies to your craft, which is your job, which earns you a living so that you can put food on your family’s table. That is not what I or these other yahoos spouting “the self-publishing shit volcano” do. We dabble. We emulate. And very often, we suck.
You should be encouraged by this fact. You should revel in the great discrepancy between your work and mine. Trust me, if you decided to take up general surgery as a hobby and start taking out a few gallbladders on your kitchen table just for kicks, I’m not worried. You are never going to approach my skill or professionalism in this endeavor. If you can convince some folks that your hobby-level gallbladder removing skills are good enough to get a few people to lay down for a cut-rate cholecystectomy, I’m not feeling threatened.
Your job, Mr. Wendig, is to be so much better than the rabble that your professionalism makes you stand out above the crowd. Your job, is to make sure that your work is valued and valuable, marketed in a manner that the audience/consumer finds desirable. The music industry analogy is perfectly apt. Believe me, Bruce Springsteen isn’t too worried that I can put out an album on iTunes using Garage Band. However, quite a few million music lovers got a little ticked off when Springsteen’s albums were costing $18 a pop for a CD that cost thirty cents to make. A lot of folks couldn’t afford $100 for a ticket to a concert in Madison Square Garden. That’s when we all started to look around and realize that the bands playing at the local theater for $10 really were pretty damn talented. So we went to see them perform, instead. And then we bought their albums, instead.
So Mr. Wendig, don’t worry that most self-published books are terrible. Just be professional. Worry when we start getting good at this stuff.