Monday, February 23, 2015

On Self-Publishers Should Not Be Called Authors

I read an article the other day and I suppose I’m using the term article loosely because it was an Op-Ed piece trying to disguise itself as information, but it was about why self-publishers should not be called authors. Self-publishers Should Not Be Called Authors Granted, it’s from last year, but I found it interesting enough to leave a comment on the Facebook page where I got it. Another self-published author had linked it.

I can tell you what I found interesting about it: it drew arbitrary lines in the sand about what the distinction between author and writer should be. I find this galling as well as unhelpful. Now, this is not to say that I completely refute their argument. I agree that distinctions might be helpful in discerning where to place our attention, but I don’t think the monetary limits or distribution by major publishing houses should be the limitations that we use in order to decide who can and cannot call themselves an author.

As a reviewer, I have been on the side of having to review books that were abysmal. I thought they were terrible and that even a good editor probably wouldn’t have been able to save it. These books were being packaged and sold by self-published authors as well as major publishers, so whether or not a book is good can’t possibly be the yardstick. I personally find it more upsetting when it is a major publishing house and the book is bad because supposedly they should have the resources to put out a decent product. However, my personal taste cannot be the yardstick by which all books are measured either. It’s too subjective.

I do like the point made in one of the comments however that it is readers who decide whether a book is good or not. Sales will tell the tale. If you can hook enough people, then there is something about your book that is good. Whether or not everyone agrees not withstanding.

The article puts forth some arbitrary and mostly monetary guidelines about who should and shouldn’t be able to call themselves an author. Considering there are self-published authors who make more than an advance per month and there are major publishing house authors who must keep a day job, those guidelines aren’t really all that helpful. It becomes a game of pick and chose very quickly. I myself have not sold a lot of books. Granted, I only have one book out and there are several more in the works, but I haven’t sold a lot. So my personal experience would say that according to his definition, I could not call myself an author. Considering that I have spent many hours toiling toward the goal of becoming an author, I find that upsetting. Thankfully, I’m not required to espouse or believe in the guidelines the article author presented. I choose to call myself an author because I have written several book length pieces all of which are in some form of being prepared to be published under my own name.

All in all, I read the piece, found it interesting enough to form an opinion about, and am now sharing that opinion with you, my blog reader. Form your own thoughts and perhaps even share them with me. What do you think about the guidelines the article writer put forth? I’d love to hear from you.

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