Published: What does it mean?

The other day I was in the store debating which Febreeze to buy when someone called my name. I looked up and there was this older woman who looked kinda familiar. She introduced herself as the mother of a friend of a friend. We chatted for a bit and she congratulated me on publishing my book. I said thank you, feeling both pleased and curious if she knew the genre in which I’m published.

She said she has a friend who wrote a book that will be published later this year. I asked who she was published with and she said, “Oh, she’s publishing it herself.”

I said, “oh.”

She went on to say how her friend says it’s so hard to publish a book.

You know what? I was angry. And damn it, I felt cheated. Quite frankly, the emotion surprised me so I took some time to think about it.

If she’d said it was hard to write a book, I’d have simply agreed. It is hard to write a book. But that’s not what she said. She said it’s so hard to publish... a self-published book.

I realize this is a touchy subject for some and this blog isn’t meant to draw any lines in the sand. Believe me, I’m happy being Switzerland. But with that little phrase, she diminished the months of querying, synopsis writing, looking for an editor, submitting, waiting, the rewrites to make the book good enough for that editor and publication. And the satisfaction of knowing I’d done it, I’d gone through the gauntlet and was now a published author.

The years of looking for an agent, the partials, fulls, hope and ultimately, so far, rejection all diminished with that one phrase.

The querying part of publishing can take over a year. Over a year out of my life spent attempted to be published when I could have just sent it to any of the self-publishing tools and voila! Published.

You see the difference? Anyone can send a finished manuscript to a self-publishing company. I don’t want to be anyone.

Yes, I know that any good writer will send his or her book through beta readers galore, and there are edits, and edits, and frustration and joys in that process, but that’s only the first step of publishing, or it used to be.

I also realize I’m an e-book author and some of those published by NY, in print, might think the same thing about me, but you see, although the road to publication is shorter in e-publishing, it’s not automatic. I just skipped the agent step. In e-publishing, I have never run across an editor that accepted less than the best. But then again, I don’t query the e-publishers that would.

I am not saying I’m better than someone who chooses to self-published. I’ve read some damn good self-published books, but I’ve also read awful books.

The publishing industry is changing, we all know that. And if you want to skip straight to published and bypass the agent/editors, you’d be among thousands that take that road. Some would say skipping the agent/editor step is a good thing. Industry professionals make mistakes. And they do, they're human. They are also the filter on the publishing industry. They are the gauntlet that I choose to run, because I believe it's necessary.

I was sure my first book was publish-ready. If not a NY Times best seller than damn close. I read it now and blush.

The second book was a winner. I look back on the agent comments, which stung at the time, and I have to agree.

I want the gauntlet because even though I may emerge bloody and bruised on the other side, I'll also be a much better writer.


J.A. Saare said...

Damn it, I just wrote this entire response only to lose it because Blogger is stupid. *shakes fist at Blogger* And as a forward, this comment is bound to piss someone off...

My biggest issue with some vanity published authors are those who seem to believe that because they have done everything “on their own,” that they deserve more credit/praise/respect than those who are traditionally published. That kind of attitude demeans the efforts of authors I speak to and respect. In fact, it’s been my experience that while traditionally published authors don’t bash those who choose to go “indie,” vanity authors have no qualms about touting why their way is so much better, to the point that it borders on insulting traditionally published authors.

Proper respect needs to be shown to those who feel sick each time they submit a query, wait for a response, and keep trying when they get the dreaded “R.” It’s not easy and it’s not fun. Which, to be fair, a majority of self-pubbed authors probably know about and is the reason they decide to do it themselves.

Great blog topic. ;-)

Cecile said...

Okay honey... I am not that in depth in this conversation. If I did, you know I would be talking to you about this. So, my Ma'am said if you don't have anything (nice) to say then don't say anything at all... And I don't know that much to say...

So, I will pop over over here to send my hugs honey!!!!

April Vine said...

I completely agree with you Lynne and Jaime!

I can say without the slightest hesitation that if the only route in existence to publication was through self-publication - I, personally would not be a writer. Part of the appeal of finishing a book, is the angst of selling it to a company whose sole business is buying books. I WANT to go through those rigorous channels of rejection and dejection. I want to throw up on my editor after countless editing stages. Bottom line I want expert approval on my book before I put it out there, and that's why I write - for the chance to sweat blood to get it bought by an expert and why I won't stop.

That's my two cents - more like five cents, still it is MY five cents worth - purely a personal opinion :)

Great topic, Lynne!

Marianne Arkins said...

There are many reasons to self-publish and some of them are valid. That said, I think *most* people who self-publish do so because they either don't want to run the gauntlet of agents and editors (and you DO end up bloody!) or have run the gauntlet and been told no a hundred times, yet are still certain their book is a winner.

They might be right. We've all heard the stories about books like "Eragon" that were self-pubbed first before going on to be picked up by a NY publisher and become a sensation.

Sadly, most self-pubbed books are not good quality. The sad thing is, some ARE, but the bad ones have put such a bad taste in my mouth, I tend not to give any of them a chance anymore.

But then again, I don’t query the e-publishers that would.

Amen to THAT, too. I know several folks who started sending their queries to the bigger ePublishing houses, got rejected, moved down a bit, got rejected, .... and finally either signed with a house that was brand new or not exactly the best quality. One of them actually ended up self-publishing instead.

If you're being continuously rejected, there's usually a reason.

Oy... I'm on my soap box and monopolizing your comments.

::::steps down and zips lips:::

Eleni Alexandraki said...

I think this article on made some excellent arguments for and against self-publishing. Among the topics are how self-published authors are regarded by traditional authors and why it's all about being humble and not introducing themselves as "a published author" but as an author. The querying process it hard. I'm going through it right now and it's awful, but I'm learning a lot. But I'd suggest you go through it for over a year before making the choice of going through a vanity publisher.

I like to think of it this way; you're training for a race in six months. You've worked really hard when somebody wants to run with you two weeks before the race. Day of the race, they drop out in the middle of it, not able to finish. You, on the other hand, get a trophy because you earned it. Your friend comes over next week and has gone to a trophy shop and purchased an exact replica of your trophy and says, "See? I've got a trophy, too." It's that kind of sting and annoyance that I can see in the publishing world of traditional writers and self-published.

At least make the effort for a year to get published traditionally before you choose the self-publishing route.

Lynne Roberts said...


While it didn't inspire this blog post, a recent interaction with a overly-agressive, self-pubbed author made me go ahead and post it. I'm not sure if it's "I'm going to strike you before you strike me" attitude or not, and I know all self-pubbed authors are not like that. Like I said, just as I didn't have to run the same gauntet to e-publish as opposed to NY pubbed, self-publishing skips a few steps.

LOL and forgive me, I'm still a wee bit jet-lagged.

Lynne Roberts said...

Thanks Cecile! I've missed you! I'm going to have to hop on over to your blog. ; )

Lynne Roberts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lynne Roberts said...

Thanks April,

You can add your two or five cents anytime. Even if you don't agree with me. ; )

Lynne Roberts said...

Hi Marianne,

I agree. There are some good reasons to self-publish. But if there is one thing I've learned over the years, it's that I'm not the best judge of whether my book is ready for publication. It's my baby and no matter how many CPs I have look at it, they're not editors. It's not their job to know what's publishable.

Yes, the publishing industry gets it wrong sometimes, but they get it right more often.

I thought they missed a golden opportunity with my first book. I read it now and thank Heaven it didn't get published.

Thank you so much for your comment.