The bloom is off the rose

It’s Wednesday night, the pup is asleep at my feet, I’ve had a beer to get over the workday, so I guess it’s time to piss some people off.

Not that I will actually piss anyone off.  I’m too small fry for that.  (And a nobody.)

But let me share a few recent posts by publishing-involved individuals who are big enough to piss people off:

First, Chuck Wendig: Slushy Glut Slog: Why The Self-Publishing Shit Volcano Is A Problem

Not the first post he’s made about this, but the one that I added to my favorites.

Second, Donald Maass, The New Class System.

I regularly read Chuck’s blog, so I would’ve run across his post no matter what.  I found Maass’s post via a writing forum.

And what amazes me is the sort of foaming at the mouth denunciation of what they’re saying.  I really liked that writing forum when I first found it.  I thought, “Aha!  A place where people are excited about self-publishing and you can learn so much about how to do it right.”

But then I hung around a bit…

And I saw people complain about Amazon and other sales outlets refusing to publish certain content as if they had some God-given right to publish anything anywhere.

And I saw people rant about negative reviews like no one was allowed to have an issue with their books.  Especially not if it was about formatting or editing.

And I saw people complain about their sales while openly admitting that they have significant spelling and grammar issues.  And no one telling them to fix them.  No one saying, “Dude, you’re not selling anymore because no matter how great your concept is your execution sucks and you burned your reader base.”

And I saw posts about pursuing the latest hot genre, hot idea, hot whatever in order to cash in.

I saw all of that and I grew disillusioned.  Disappointed with the place I see as representing self-publishing.

(There are others, of course.  I used to follow Konrath’s blog and I stopped after one particularly one-sided, one-dimensional post.  You let garbage into your mind, it leaves a residue and I didn’t want to risk ingesting any more of that skewed perspective.)

So, here’s the deal.

I think it’s great that some self-published writers have done as well as they have.  I applaud them and I wish them continued success.


That does not mean that there aren’t people who are self-publishing who have no business charging people money for what they’re putting out there.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a quality issue in self-pubbing.

Or a discoverability issue.

It doesn’t mean that print publishing doesn’t still enjoy much wider distribution.

It doesn’t make the traditional route the devil’s route.

There is nuance.  This is more than black and white, yes and no.

Those who choose to voice concern about the flaws that currently exist in self-publishing shouldn’t be shouted down.  They should be listened to.  Not followed blindly.  I wouldn’t follow anyone blindly.  But listened to.

There is value to what is being said and I’m disappointed that the people who should be realizing that value aren’t seeing it.

Put aside that Maass may have put all self-publishers in his Freight Class bucket.

And in one sense he’s right to put them all there no matter how successful, because he based his classes on price point and most self-pubbers aren’t hitting the higher price points.  They’re Wal-Mart and he was comparing Wal-Mart to Macy’s to Prada.

(Nothing wrong with being Wal-Mart.  They make money, too.  But you don’t charge $1,000 for a pair of shoes at Wal-Mart.  And the CEO of Wal-Mart isn’t writing the CEO of Prada and saying, “You called my purses cheap, but I made $100 million last quarter so neener-neener.”  Wal-Mart knows it’s Wal-Mart.  That’s its strategy.)

Look at what Maass said about the different types of writing.  It’s valid.  And if a writer is self-aware enough to see what kind of writer they are then they can use what he said to target their publishing and pricing strategy.

Are you able to hit the sweet spot with readers over and over again and able to write fast?  Self-publish and sell cheap.

Wendig is a guy who has been there and done that.  On both sides of the fence.  He knows of which he speaks.  And he makes a good point.  Up the quality of the product and you will attract more customers.  Allow anything to go and people will seek out gatekeepers to protect them from crap.

(Or they will turn to other forms of entertainment.  TV, video games, movies…And once they’re gone.  Once people stop reading and starting watching shit, how do you get them back?)

Anyway.  My little Wednesday night rant.  I always have an issue when I see blind devotion or one-dimensional thinking.  And there really is a little too much of it in self-pubbing these days, which is a real bummer.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, frenzied markets correct themselves in time, so I don’t expect this will be an issue five years from now.

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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2 Responses to The bloom is off the rose

  1. Dave Higgins says:

    Discovery is probably the part of publishing that has been concerning me most for the last few months.

    The feedback I have been getting on Fauxpocalypse is good, and one Amazon review even talks specifically about it being well edited, so I am not concerned with the quality of the product. However, the sales are not inspiring so I am wondering whether it will just need time for the message to spread, or whether quality without a huge advertising push will achieve anything.

    At the moment I am still holding to my strategy of long-term growth: create more books, and let each book act as another reason for someone to look for more books by me; only worry about books that do not cover their costs in a reasonable period.

    • M. H. Lee says:

      From what I’ve been able to gather you have to have some sort of advertising push. Whether that’s getting noticed and reviewed on a big blog or getting a lot of attention on Goodreads or paying for a promo through Bookbub or one of the others (ENT I think is one), I think you have to at this point find some way to attract word of mouth. There are just too many self-pubbed books out now and too many quality issues to rise above the pack if you don’t. Two years ago, maybe someone would’ve taken a shot on a random book. Now? Not so much.

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