A response to Sue Grafton’s angry words.


I guess you saw the comments by bestselling author Sue Grafton about self-published authors. If not, you should! During an interview with a local newspaper, she said- “that’s as good as admitting you’re too lazy to do the hard work”. The self-published books she has read are “often amateurish”, she said, comparing self-publishing “to a student managing to conquer Five Easy Pieces on the piano and then wondering if s/he’s ready to be booked into Carnegie Hall”. According to Grafton, Becoming an author is about hard work: “taking the rejection, learning the lessons, and mastering the craft over a period of time”. Having had her first three novels rejected, she said she sees “way too many writers who complete one novel and start looking for the fame and fortune they’re sure they’re entitled to”. She added “To me, it seems disrespectful … that a ‘wannabe’ assumes it’s all so easy s/he can put out a ‘published novel’ without bothering to read, study, or do the research,” said Grafton. “Learning to construct a narrative and create a character, learning to balance pace, description, exposition, and dialogue takes a long time. This is not a quick do-it-yourself home project. Self-publishing is a short cut and I don’t believe in shortcuts when it comes to the arts.”
Adam Croft, a British self-published thriller author who says he has sold 250,000 copies of his books in the last year, called Grafton’s belief that taking the DIY route was lazy “outrageous”. “The complete opposite is true,” he said. “Self-publishing means finding your own proofreader, finding your own editor, finding your own cover designer (or designing your own), doing all your own marketing and sales work, etc. Having a publisher is lazy as all you need to do is write a half-acceptable book and allow your publisher’s editor to make it sales-worthy. Self-publishers must do it all – we have no one else to pick up the slack.”
After the uproar which followed her comments, Grafton has since backed off, telling her local paper that she “meant absolutely no disrespect for e-publishing and indie authors” and that she was “uninitiated when it comes to this new format”.
As much as Ms. Grafton’s comments insulted all of us in self-publishing, we all also know she is not alone in these opinions. In truth many “old time” authors probably feel exactly the same way. This is exactly why indieBRAG exists – we are finding the self-published books that are in every way as good – and often better – than those traditionally published. It is a fact that most of us have read traditionally published books and found mistakes but by having the publishing “machine” behind them these error are not that frequent.
Here is the painful part – in many, perhaps most instances Ms. Grafton is right. As a company dedicated to shining a light on deserving self-published books this is not a pleasant thing to admit. Our indieBRAG reading teams have literally read hundreds of books and have found that only about 15% are worthwhile
There are 3 distinct levels of published books –
Traditionally published books
Self-published books that have been written by authors who have put in the time –and often money- to publish an enjoyable book well worth a readers time and money
Self-published books published because they can be – and shouldn’t!
It is our job now to educate authors and readers alike that self-publishing does not mean lazy and uneducated, it just means that those worthy books are often buried in the great heap of books that probably should never seen the light of day!
I hope you will all continue to support the work we are doing to provide a reading audience with well written, well edited, well conceived books that tell the kind of stories we love to read: the diamonds in the vast coal heap of self-publishing!

The full article at The Guardian

14 responses to “A response to Sue Grafton’s angry words.”

  1. Mary W. Walters says:

    Thank you for this, Geri. I have put a link to it on my blog article, which I just posted today, “Fiction in 2013: The Ugly Truth (and a call for patience).”

    Grafton provides a perfect example of one of the downsides of this transition era: the wedge some narrow-minded authors have driven between themselves and their colleagues (not all — many widely published authors welcome the new era and are very supportive of those of us who are working outside the traditional structures.) What are they so afraid of, I wonder? Perhaps Grafton is just jealous of the success of Fifty Shades, as the rest of us are also jealous of her success: I guess it’s all relative.

  2. Mary W. Walters says:

    (Meant to add a link to my blog post…. please add if you wish: http://maryww.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/fiction-in-2013-the-ugly-truth-and-a-call-for-patience/ Thanks.)

  3. Victoria T. says:

    Thank you. Well said.

  4. Hart Johnson says:

    Very well said. People on all sides of this debate can get so defensive, and you have the WHY of it exactly right.

  5. Derek Birks says:

    Unfortunately the self-publishing stigma goes with the territory. There are some terrific self-published books as we all know but because there are thousands of “others” it is very difficult to see the wood for the trees. The sheer – and increasing – volume of s-p’d books means that it is actually getting more difficult to establish yourself if you self-publish. There are very many reviewers who will not review self-published authors at all and those who do are inundated.
    I’ve just started on this road but I have resolved to enjoy the journey however it turns out. After all, I write to tell stories. If someone else likes the story, great.

  6. Michael Colyer says:

    Thanks for an interesting article Geri. I guess it’s a little dog eat dog out there. All new to me I’m afraid, and I guess I’m going to have to wise up fast. (Where’s that wonderful young secretary who protected me for years now.) I retired two years ago, and, like in the dream of a zillion others, wrote a book, and thoroughly enjoyed doing it. However, whoo boy, I only found out about all this other stuff after the fact. I’m learning, I promise I’m learning.

  7. Geri says:

    I think one of the things Ms. Grafton is missing out on is the great support that self-published authors seem to be willing to give to each other. There are so many blogs, discussion boards, twitter and Facebook pages by self-published authors giving information, advice and wisdom. You don’t see that in the traditionally published community. Too bad!

  8. Geri says:

    I think the fact that self-published authors support each other so often proves that it doesn’t have to be every man for himself. Both traditional publishing and self-publishing have their benefits and their short comings, Self-publishing is no longer the route of last resort.

  9. Geri says:

    It is an avalanche of self-published books! The very fact that you can now publish without the judgement of a higher court means that there is no control over the myriad of books that are poorly conceived, improperly edited or just badly written.
    Now is the spot for our plug! At indieBRAG we have considered nearly 1000 books and honored 100 (101 today!) proving that it is hard for readers to sift through the rubble.

  10. Geri says:

    you have to love the writing and dreaming because the rest can be pretty daunting and bitter. Word of mouth sells books. No matter how many hours an author spends promoting their book or thousands of dollars on ads, if the book isn’t one “readers” like- it isn’t going to make it. We all hope our book is that book they love and sometimes it is…..

  11. Henry Martin says:

    Thank you for this article and for everything you do.

  12. Geri says:

    Thanks so much Henry – it is nice to know we are appreciated!

  13. John Yeoman says:

    I can well believe that only 15% of books reviewed by the BRAG team are worthwhile. I’m surprised the number is so high! I have vast respect for self-publishing authors. The task of producing, promoting and managing a book for profit is far, far tougher than meekly submitting an ms to an agent and crossing one’s fingers. Yet I’ve given up reading self-published novels. Why? Every one I’ve downloaded to my Kindle has proved unreadable – even the novels of two gurus I dare not name who host illustrious writing sites. (No, neither of them is at BRAG Medallion!) Each novel had rave reviews yet each was amateur night. I welcome the great work that BRAG is doing, in setting an independent seal of quality in the self-publishing market.

  14. Geri says:

    I hope we will be able to change your mind about “good” self-published books! Tell me what you like and I will personally recommend one I know will be worth your time-

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