More and more aspiring authors are abandoning the rocky path to winning contracts from publishers and are hopping on the bus to self-publication. If you haven't heard traditionally-published authors grumbling about that, you just haven't been paying attention. "That's not publication," one of my fellow Harlequin authors sniffed after learning that our mutual acquaintence had paid to have her novel made into a softcover book. "All she did was have her manuscript printed and bound."
But that is publication, albeit of the do-it-yourself variety. And what's wrong with that?
Plenty, according to many of my traditionally-published friends. "She's self-published," they'll sneer, implying that the writer in question is unworthy to call herself a published author. "Real" authors will scratch out the upstarts' eyes sooner than they'll make room on their pedestals for those who have "cheated" in the publication game and declared themselves winners.
Maybe we traditionally-published authors should get over ourselves. It makes our profession look ridiculous when we preen and all but beg to be adored. Our attempts to elevate ourselves in the eyes of the world by pointing out the unworthiness of self-published authors to share our pedestal is mean, and few things are as pathetic as our childish insistence on receiving the full measure of adulation we believe we have earned by selling books to traditional publishing houses.
So what if "just anybody" can call herself an author these days? How does that hurt those of us who get published the hard way? It's not as though self-published romance novels are going to knock our books off the shelves at Target and WalMart.
I am not endorsing self-published books. Self-published books are notorious for being poorly written and badly (or completely un-) edited. My neighbor's cat could write a novel tonight and publish it tomorrow--which is, in a nutshell, the reason I don't read self-published books. But I'll defend Fluffy's right to find her own way into print, and I won't bristle when she calls herself a published author. My self-esteem does not hinge on anybody's work but my own.
Maybe I'm sensitive to this issue because even before I started writing, I never put authors on pedestals. To me, they were professionals not terribly unlike dentists or schoolteachers. Yes, getting published the old-fashioned way requires talent, dedication and hard work. But aren't those the essential ingredients for success in most other careers? Being a traditionally-published author may not be as common an occupation as being an accountant, but in my experience, the only people who view authors as a higher order of humankind are authors.
I wish traditionally-published authors would stop lording it over the rest of the world--and by the rest of the world I mean those who aspire to be published and those who are self-published. If Fluffy the cat wants to print ten copies of her novel and call herself published, so what? I submit that any traditionally-published author who has a problem with Fluffy trying to horn in on our "glory" has an ego sorely in need of a little healthy deflation.