End The Ignorance

I’m from Mississippi.

Most of you who’ve been around for a while know that, as I’ve mentioned it before.  There are a lot of things I really love about my home state (stuff that I had to leave and come back to appreciate)–the food, the fact that random strangers smile and wave or say “hi”, that we have an often slower pace than big cities, that we have one of the best conferences in the SEC, that you can still rely on the kindness of strangers rather than expecting you’ll be mugged at every turn.  Those are aspects of MY Mississippi.  The things that I want to show when I finally write about it, be that through my Kitchen Witch series or my Mississippi-based romantic suspense.

Why?  Because being from Mississippi, I’ve faced astounding amounts of ignorance and prejudice about my home state.  People who think the Civil War was fought entirely over slavery (um, no, it was fought over states’ rights, and 98% of the soldiers down here were fighting to protect their land and families, not the 2% of jerks who had slaves–and for the record, the flag everybody keeps waving around saying is a Confederate flag is NOT the Confederate flag–it was a battle flag of a particular unit–not that the revisionist history they teach above the Mason-Dixon line actually covers that).  People who’ve never been here who think that we’re still a bunch of asshole, racist, rednecks and missed the fact that the Civil Rights movement actually happened.  People who seem to think we’re still segregated.  Who think we’re stupid.  On a school trip to Chicago once (where we all had to wear the dumb t-shirts proclaiming we were from a school in Mississippi), I got stopped on Michigan Avenue by some ignorant ass and asked why we were wearing shoes.  There are honestly people out there who think that movies like Oh Brother Where Art Thou are accurate about how life is down here today.

When I was in college at Ole Miss–yes, that Ole Miss where integration was first pushed through back in the 60s–we elected our first African American student body president.  It was a huge deal.  He was a friend of mine and brilliant and did wonderful things for our campus.  CNN came down to cover it.  And while they were there, some STUPID ASSHOLE threw a rock through a dorm window with a piece of paper that had a racial slur written on it.  That’s what CNN chose to show about Ole Miss.  Because they just HAD to give that sensation-seeking asshole, exactly what he wanted.  The world, it seems, DOES NOT want to allow any proof of the fact that Mississippi has MOVED ON.  And yeah, it still infuriates me.  Because, of course, if you come here looking for evidence of racism and prejudice, you’ll find it.  But guess what?  It exists EVERYWHERE ELSE TOO.  The KKK capital of the U.S. is in Indiana, not here.

My point here today is not actually to talk about my home state and educate the ignorant.  I’m giving all this as background because I see a huge parallel in the ignorance floating around about self publishing.  Now certainly, most of the peeps who follow me here are among the educated.  I’ve got a big indie following that includes the contingent who believes in putting out professional work to rival New York.  We’re made up of intelligent, hard-working people who have been fighting tooth and nail to overcome the stigma associated with self-publishing.

And yet the ignorance is so wide spread.   And it’s not at all helped by having otherwise intelligent, respected individuals make posts that hold up the speshul snowflake who was rejected by New York and doesn’t believe in editing their opus as an example of us all, and if they mention the professionals at all, it’s in a dismissive “oh they’re flukes or outliers” kind of way that wholly denigrates everything we hope to achieve.  They use language that perpetuates the stereotype and look to the comments of agreement by other traditional-hopefuls as “proof” that they’re right–even though they didn’t take the time to research the topic they’re talking about.  It’s the ignorant leading the ignorant.  I can think of 6 posts I’ve read in the last 2 weeks that fall into this category.

Do the speshul snowflakes outnumber us?  Hell yes.  But that’s not limited to self publishing.  Take a dive into any editor’s or agent’s slush pile and you’ll see obscene quantities of the same.  There are thousands upon thousands of people who think they can write a book because they don’t know the truth–that writing professionally is freaking HARD WORK.

So I issue a challenge to anybody out there in blogland who wants to talk about self publishing.  PRESENT A BALANCED ARGUMENT.  You wanna talk about the speshul snowflakes, FINE.  They exist, and I won’t deny it.  But do your research and show some of the examples of all the hard working indie authors who are DOING THE WORK, BEING PROFESSIONAL, who are GOOD EXAMPLES of everything the indie movement hopes to be.   That will go a whole lot further to help eradicate the prejudice surrounding self publishing, and might actually inspire some of those speshul snowflakes to join us.  It doesn’t threaten anybody who still wants to be on the traditional path.  What we want has nothing to do with you.  Our dreams are not necessarily your dreams.  And that doesn’t lessen what you want OR what we want.  But by God, recognize that though we are a smaller group, we’re growing and stop insulting us by pretending the good ones don’t really exist.

23 thoughts on “End The Ignorance

  1. Absolutely right. I used to one of those people who thought “traditional or bust – I’M not going to self-publish”. It’s actually you yourself who has shown me that there is a happy medium, that you don’t have to pay a vanity publisher a fortune to publish paperbacks which will then sit around your house for an eternity because you haven’t got time to go out and hassle pretty much everyone to buy your book.

    Indie publishing is an excellent route to take. As you say, it doesn’t rule you out of traditional publishing, and as you have recently shown, while you are making money independently, you are building a platform which can get you noticed and taken on the traditional route, if that’s what you want.

    Indie isn’t a completely divergent path, just a different way of getting where you want. And it’s probably quicker too. You can publish an e-book when you are ready, not two years after a large publishing house thinks you are ready.

  2. Well said.

    Also, out of the many many many people in this business or aspiring to be in this business, indie OR trad… only a very few have what it takes: the talent, drive, persistence, willingness to always grow and get better, and professionalism to make a long-term career out of this.

    The fact is that… ESPECIALLY in romance, there is a LOT of infighting and snobbery and this group looking down their nose at that group and making assumptions. And it’s part of why I have no interest in ever joining RWA. Once someone told me: “The bad thing about self-publishing with no goal toward a NY pub is that you can’t ever really climb the ranks in RWA.”

    I said: “So?” My goals have nothing to do with whether RWA approves of me and my business model.

    I AM an indie and I’m proud to be one, but I no longer draw the battle lines between trad and indie… I draw it between amateur and professional. There are plenty of people who treat this like a hobby who are trad pubbed and plenty of people who treat it like a business who are indie pubbed. Trad or indie, I drift toward the people who are professionals. Anyone who doesn’t know me, who has time to stereotype me based on my business model, most likely doesn’t fit in the group of people I want to associate myself with anyway.

    And yeah, I have pulled back a lot from “indie” as a primary identifying label, mainly because I don’t want to be stereotyped with the people who put out their rough drafts. I want my work to stand and speak for itself.

  3. Hi-5! I’ve been surprised at the amount of ignorance out there about indie publishing. In fact, I had a similar conversation with two writers at my local dive bar a few months ago. I think/hope that my knowledge and experience helped them see that indie is not ALL about the speschal snowflakes, as you so elloquently put it. I even threw a few names around (you, Zoe, Susan) in the hopes that they’d look them up and read. Well put, dear! And I adored your rant regarding Mississippi! 😉

  4. Love this! No I’m not self/indie published, and yes, I’m still pursuing the NY model, but… BUT… I’m thrilled to know that there are options. I’m of the opinion that once I know my work is “good enough” for traditional publishing, *that’s* when I’ll have to make the decision of which path will better get me to where I want to go. So in a way, I’m using the query system to test myself.

    And I think Zoe got it exactly right: it’s about professional vs. not. Either you take it seriously and you’re always pushing yourself to improve, grow, learn – or you’re not. Those who are professional deserve their success however they get there.

    Thanks Kait, let’s hear it for Mississippi folk! 🙂

  5. My dad’s been pushing me to go indie for years. I’ve seen the growth of self publishing and like what I see. My husband wants me to go the traditional route. Either way is viable now and I’ve seen more and more traditionally published authors also do some indie publishing as well. I’ll probably try the traditional route first, however will leave my options open. Watching and learning from you and others is really helpful. There probably will always be the us versus them mentality. Unfortunately its just something we have to deal with in life. The more we educate, the better it gets. Or least we hope it does.

  6. Hi Kait,
    Thanks for your words of wisdom. I’m very adamant that no one should ever be held back, in publishing or any other pursuit for that matter, because someone says, “You are not good enough.” That’s certainly not the American way. And that’s certainly a motivating force for many writers to step it up a notch.

    The creation of eReaders is a perfect example that in a free market, technology will rise and defeat the systems of the slow moving, slow to change Goliaths of the publishing world. Amazon and Smashwords, among others, has capitalized on the market for cheap ebooks and indie authors have every right to take advantage of that market as well. Right now the market is swelling with ebooks, many of which are junk and many are good, but the market will stabilize and recognize the winners. The crappy writers will begin to scratch their head and wonder what happened to their masteriece. They will either work harder to improve their ninja writing skills, or they will give up in frustration. In the meantime, the writers who are disciplined and determined will keep writing quality work, continue to hone their craft, see their sales increase, gain a following, build their platform, become a successful indie, or gain big 6 recognition.

    Either way, an indie author who is practicing the art of writing and publishing will be an asset to any publisher if he or she gets the call from upstairs. In my opinion, indies are no different than minor league baseball players. And no one looks down on them! The problem seems to be that a lot of writers are running out on the publishing field making a lot of bad plays. The crowd boos when they do that, but they still cheer when an indie hits a home run!

  7. Man, I go to work for a few hours and you UNLOAD this monster of an awesome post. It’s awesomeness has nothing to do with my indie aspirations, but because it’s written eloquently and intelligently. You know, like a pro? I pity the fool that takes your challenge.

  8. Kait, being a GA native (though born on the South Carolina coast), and immersed in my own evolving relationship with digital publishing (since one of my publishers, Dorchester, traded in their mass market paperback business for digital/trade), I frequently run into similar ignorance. Just after Dorchester’s unexpected shake up last August, everyone associated with their business was getting hammered hourly all over social media, most often by folks who were enjoying the shock of the moment but knew absolutely nothing about what they were ranting about.

    I respect any author who talks about her business as openly as you do, and anyone’s opinion about the facts once they’re made clear. It’s those who want to join in the “fun”without paying their dues or checking their facts first that drag us all into the mosh pit. Authors helping authors, writers helping writers, all of us moving forward together and embracing change for what it is, rather than ranting about why what once was is no more–that’s how we’ll get ahead of the current wave of instability rocking the publishing world.

    Thanks again for adding your voice and experience to the conversation. I’d love to hear your thoughts on my blog’s “Publishing Isn’t for Sissies” thread. I’m talking weekly about my Dorchester experience, and I’ll be sharing details about their innovative plans for my upcoming digital/trade release. Several of their associates will be guest blogging over the next few months, giving readers/writers insights into the creative, cutting edge ways they’re implementing their new business model.

  9. Thank God for indie writers! I’m not nor will I ever be an author. I am an AVID reader and proud of it! I had not heard of indie writers until I got my Kindle and started looking for more places to buy Ebooks along with Amazon. I have found many great indie writers! To the point that almost all I read are indie authors. I’ve been quite tired of the repeatitive story lines that are found in traditional publishing. I have noticed that most of the NY authors that I’ve read for years seem to be putting out books that are the same story type/line but with characters of different names. They have become boring. An author I’ve read for 20+ years lost my interest when the last 3 books written were virtually the same. What I enjoy most about indie authors is the uniqueness and variety each story has. There is always a book for whatever mood I’m in and I really appreciate that. I have been quite vocal with my friends who are now just starting to get their own Ebook readers, encouraging them to check out the indie authors and not to stick with just traditionally published books. You don’t know what you’re missing when you bypass this group!

  10. This is why I like you so much. You’re so full of southern fire & grit. I myself–having been a Northern Girl for most of my life–find the south fascinating. The pace in the Northwest has struck a weird balance between fast-paced northeast and slow-paced south. It works well enough, but there’s something about the south…

    I also can’t abide bigotry. If someone’s an a-hole, I don’t like him or her. If he or she is not, I do. The color of skin doesn’t matter to me–in fact, being neon white, there are some days where I might greatly envy their coffee-and-cream or chocolate-colored skin while I’m slathering myself with self-tanning lotion and hiding in the shade so I don’t turn the color of a baboon’s arse. I don’t understand racism at all.

    And hooray for standing up for the indies. I’ve read some GREAT indie works, yours & Susan Bischoff’s among them, and I’ve read some utter crap turned out by New York. I’m a very discerning reader, too–I don’t necessarily follow trends. I read King & Koontz because I like their writing style and genre. If King wrote like, say, James Patterson, his books would not line my shelves regardless of who touts him as the King of Horror. I like the off-beat authors, the ones that aren’t the first ones you think of when you think “great author” (Robert McCammon is my favorite; Richard Russo a close second–“Straight Man” is an absolute delight).

    I’ve read some articles recently–and some of the nay-saying comments, too–about the fallacy of publishing yourself. It makes me angry, because of course there’s crap out there being self-published. There’s crap being published in New York too; I’ve read some it. Just because it’s carried on the imprint of one of the Big Six doesn’t mean you’re getting your money’s worth.

    BTW, do I have to wait until I actually release my novella to join IBC? 😉 It will be out sometime this year–we have an anthology to pub first. And speaking of… I’d like some reviews on the novella, preferably by indie authors. So if anyone wants to step up to the plate, I will give a free ad or or include a sample chapter of their works at the end of the novella. Quid pro quo.

  11. Yay, Kait! I love how you compare the ignorant prejudices toward the South with the ignorance shown toward indie authors. I live in the southeast, too, and I know exactly what you’re talking about. As for indie authors…I can’t believe the ignorance of people who spew this stuff about how bad indies are. To be honest, I’m finding a lot more good indie books out there than trad published books. There are a few trad authors whose books I’ll continue to read because they are exceptional. But I read a LOT more indies. And I love it when I find a new indie author who is really awesome. And, of course, you’re one of them! 🙂

  12. I have noticed that a lot of the people bashing self publishing also have an indirect (or direct) stake in seeing the old guard continue. For example, I have noticed quite a few ‘for hire’ editors talking about the lack of editing in self published books. I can see right through their rhetoric, but I don’t think they can.

    Instead of seeing how they can take advantage of business opportunities in the new marketplace they instead decide to bash the authors who are gaining clout in the book industry.

  13. Um. *stands up and APPLAUDS* 😀

    I’m one of those who is choosing to go the traditional route, but I have a HUGE respect for the indie authors I’ve come to know, who work their asses off to product quality stories and create and connect with passionate readerships. Yeah, there are speshul snowflakes in the indie world. There are also speshul snowflakes in the traditional world, some of whom even manage to get PUBLISHED. There are racists, bigots, homophobes, and douchebags in the South, in the North, halfway across the world, just like there are good people in those places, too. You’re absolutely right that lumping all indies together in one “speshul” group is no different from making generalizations and bowing to racial prejudices due to ignorance and intellectual laziness.

    *still applauding*

  14. Oh, Kait. You’ve hit the bullseye. Prejudice.
    Take this comment someone left on my blog last month: “I can find 100 Indie authors tonight and be lucky to see one who understands grammar.”
    Now tweak it slightly. Replace “Indie authors” with any other stereotyped group and “grammar” with any stereotypical comment. See what happens:
    “I can find 100 women drivers tonight and be lucky to see one who understands traffic laws.” Or some such thing. The point is that any time you make blanket assumptions about a large group of people (Indie writers) based on one or a few members of that group (speshul snowflakes) you are being a bigot. Is it on the level of the atrocities leading up to the Civil Rights Movement? Certainly not, nor are you arguing that, as you make clear. But that doesn’t make this subtle bigotry less damaging.
    This issue tends to pit Indies against each other, too. It can be dangerously polarizing. I’ve seen useful discussions on Indie friendly sites devolve into mud-slinging contests as writers agree that yes, they’re Indies, but they belong to a handful of Chosen while everyone else produces crap and swill.
    Here’s how I decided to handle it:
    “This is a pretty common complaint leveled at Indie authors. I’m going to draw a distinction between Indie authors- who are individuals- and the Indie movement, which is the subject of this post. Some Indie authors may not understand grammar, but there are many who do. If you are interested in finding good Indie authors to read, and one of your definitions of “good” is an understanding of grammar, if you will provide me with a bit more information as to your genre preferences, etc., I’ll be happy to provide you with a list of Indie authors who do meet your requirements of “good.” I’ll even buy their books for you.”
    I never heard back. I meant it, though, and I’m going to respond like this anytime I encounter prejudice against our profession: by calmly calling attention to the stereotype, and offering to correct it by buying the finger-wagger one of the many fine Indie books written by authors we know.
    Also, I try to stay off certain blogs unless I know I can afford the outrage. And I thought the no shoes insult was just for Alabama! 🙂

  15. Very well put. It is actually a topic that I have touched very briefly in a post I have just written for another blog. I really couldn’t put the argument forward any better than you have done here. Anybody who reads this and finds it offensive as you commented in your latest post is probably using the Racism references as an excuse because they realise that they fall into the latter category of self-published authors and simply can’t face the fact that you need to work hard at what you do if you want to acheive. They need to realise that self-publishing is not the literary equivalent of a reality tv talent show, but rather a movement of very talented writers who are trying to make it on their own. It happened to cinema and now it is the turn of us writers to make our stand against New York.

  16. Self-publishing is about 5 years behind (just a gut feel, no research to back that up) indie music and about 10 behind indie-movies.

    And I think of some of the quality musicians out there without a label doing quite well for themselves (Zoe Keating springs to mind, not just because she is almost the entirety of my ‘writing music’ library) and realise there’s absolutely no good reason on earth for writers not to go the indie route either.

    Just as there are ‘horrible’ (I’m not going to name names) indie-musicians, there are cringe-worthy self-published authors. Quality sells. The reader – the person who will be paying to buy your self-published book – really doesn’t care if you have an agent, or a bricks and mortar publisher. They just want something they can’t put down, with characters that talk to them and a plot line that intrigues. Or, based on some of the top selling books on Smashwords, porn. But I can’t write that.

    Anyway, back to my point. My 70+ father is buying my 70+ mother an e-reader for her birthday. The floodgates are well and truly opening. Just make sure you put as much effort into the quality of your work as you would if Penguin was looking at it.

  17. As somone one who is taking the indie path in writing, it felt really good to read this story! I definitely dream of the day of letting go of my day job (being someone else’s minion is soo not cool!) and that’s something I try to hold on to when I’m going through my writing ups and downs! I’m definitely taking your advice and doing all the research I possibly can so I can down those mushrooms! 🙂

    Awesome post!

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