Home > Writing > The Ill-Informed Snobbery–It Burns, It BURNS!

The Ill-Informed Snobbery–It Burns, It BURNS!

“What, me read that crap? Surely you jest!”

Perusing the ever-erstwhile blog The Passive Voice, I came upon this particular post, which in turn led me to the original article, located here at LouisvilleKY.com. It’s an interview with Sue Grafton, she of the Letter Mystery Novel Fame, and I want to alert interested readers that Ms. Graftom was interviewed by none other than the irrepressible Red Tash, who also had the misfortune to interview me last year.

Of course, Grafton’s interview was much more polarizing than mine, likely due to surely well-intended but needlessly incendiary bon mots like this:

Do you have any words of wisdom for young writers?

Quit worrying about publication and master your craft. If you have a good story to tell and if you write it well, the Universe will come to your aid. Don’t self-publish. That’s as good as admitting you’re too lazy to do the hard work.

(Bold by me.)

Ms. Grafton then apparently went on to ignore the lifeline extended in the following question while simultaneously shutting down her internal censors so she might continue with:

In light of our Louisville neighbor John Locke’s blockbuster indie sales, and the growing percentage of each best-seller list being filled out by “indie” writers, do you still feel that advice is solid? I know it was the standard advice a few years ago, but is it still good advice?

If so, what hard work are indie success stories too lazy to complete?

Is it possible that indie publishing is more effective than querying agents & publishers, for the new writer? More and more agents and publishers seem to be treating indie books as the new slush pile.

Good questions.  Obviously, I’m not talking about the rare few writers who manage to break out. [Knight Sez: Yeah, because EVERY trade-published writer breaks out… right?] The indie success stories aren’t the rule. They’re the exception. The self-published books I’ve read are often amateurish. I’ve got one sitting on my desk right now and I’ve received hundreds of them over the years. Sorry about that, but it’s the truth. The hard work is taking the rejection, learning the lessons, and mastering the craft over a period of time. I see way too many writers who complete one novel and start looking for the fame and fortune they’re sure they’re entitled to. To me, it seems disrespectful…that a ‘wannabe’ assumes it’s all so easy s/he can put out a ‘published novel’ without bothering to read, study, or do the research. Learning to construct a narrative and create character, learning to balance pace, description, exposition, and dialogue takes a long time. This is not an quick do-it-yourself home project. Self-publishing is a short cut and I don’t believe in short cuts when it comes to the arts. I compare self-publishing to a student managing to conquer Five Easy Pieces on the piano and then wondering if s/he’s ready to be booked into Carnegie Hall. Don’t get me started. Oops..you already did.

(Again… bold by yours truly.)

Sometimes, I just can’t contain my annoyance at folks who can’t read the writing on the wall… especially when they’re supposedly writers. One presumes reading would be an important implement in their writerly toolkit (or perhaps “trollkit,” in this instance), but apparently I’m farther out of touch with the whole “us versus them” matchup than I’d thought.

As one of the unwashed hoi-polloi, I hang my head in sorrow… until I remember the income projections from my writing this year, then I perk up and I haz a happy.

And oh yeah, my reviews are better than Grafton’s. I guess I can smirk about that one, as well.

  1. Steve
    August 9, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    As someone who’s firmly embedded in the traditional publishing world and has been for some time, you would pretty much expect Grafton to make comments like that. That said, it’s not so much that what she says is wrong as it is incomplete: Most of the self-published stuff I’ve read by authors I’ve never heard of is crap, one way or another. I’ve been lucky enough that most of the self-published books I’ve read only suffer from poor editing (usually copyediting), but there’s a lot out there that’s crap because, as she says, the writer hasn’t done the work. No sense of story, poor character development, etc.

    People like you, Hugh Howey, etc are an exception, as you well know.

    (BTW: Never read any of Grafton’s books. Maybe one, long ago.)

    • August 9, 2012 at 5:24 pm

      There’s some merit to what she says, but she’s painting with the Big Ol’ Broad Brush. She doesn’t know there’s a distinction between self-pubbed authors, beyond that St. Martin’s or Hachette isn’t paying them an advance.

  2. August 9, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    Well done. Applause.

  3. MarcW
    August 10, 2012 at 4:42 am

    While there is a grain of truth in what Ms. Grafton said…. RE: doing the hard work and accepting the rejection letters… but that only pertains to an author honing his/her craft. She is way off base when suggesting a publishing house is the only way to go. I read as many books from “publishing houses” as self-published authors via Kindle. Lately, I’m reading more self-published than the other. Now, simply because there are more of them out there than the others slowed down by “the process.”

    Yes, there are a lot of turds in the self published mix but those can be quickly weeded out by simply sampling the first few pages of the book. But there are a hell of a lot of gems. Gems produced by authors with talent and care for formatting/grammer/spelling etc, not to mention a good story.

    I have to say it breaks even for me as far as books I enjoy which are produced independently vs. self published…. actually, lately more in favor for the independents because their story isn’t watered down or tamed somewhere in the publishing process.

    And as for other turds… well, the established publishing companies have churned out many too. Yes, they might be grammatically correct turds but turds nonetheless because the story and “grab” factor wasn’t there.

    I have a feeling there will be a lot of “Ms. Grafton”s changing their minds in the near to moderately near future. Those folks still hold onto the idea that good authors are vetted by publishing companies. After a while, more and more of them will come to realize that authors may equally be vetted by raw results. In my book, a self published book with high ranking reviews is just as good as a “published book” that has the weight of a publisher behind it. After all, a poor self-published book rarely gets past 10 or 15 positive reviews (after the friends and family have been exhausted.)

    I didn’t click to the actual interview with Ms. Graften. I had read enough on this blog alone to get the point. Graten still holds onto old school thought. But that is quickly changing before our eyes. There is so much talent out there and readers are learning that they don’t need a third party to filter them out for us. Problem with that filter is that so much talent had been denied to us in the past simply because manuscripts didn’t pass each hurdle within of the industry. And to be snide, how many of those hurdles were controlled/filtered by failed writers. What is the cliche? If you can’t write, become a teacher or publisher…

    Readers are savvy enough to weed out the garbage from both sides.

    I have to say again, I have a feeling there will be a lot of “Ms. Grafton”s changing their minds before too long. Stephen Knight is only one in the long list of self-published authors I’ve enjoyed. Contrary to what Ms. Grafton states, finding good authors who are self published are far from the exception. Though I have to say that Stephen’s books are far up on that list of exceptions.

    And BTW, this post is why I’m not a writer…. wish I knew how to be more brief. 🙂

    • August 15, 2012 at 8:03 am

      Brevity isn’t required here! 😉

      You know, about the misspellings and typos and the like, I have to mention that there are installments of two zombie series that are occupying high slots on the sales charts… and they’re FULL of typos and incorrect mechanics, some of which would have been caught just by a spellcheck. But readers gobble this stuff up, and they reward uncorrected works with 25-50,000 dollars a month. So hey, if I had that kind of exposure, maybe I wouldn’t go the editorial route either! 😀

  4. August 11, 2012 at 8:39 am

    Some of these old dinosaurs are so out of the loop. I sort of feel sorry for them. Sort of. There are many, many traditional pubbed authors who turned indie just for the sole reason of earning better royalties and more creative control. What about those folks? And I know some of them and some of them are old enough to be my grandparents and they continue to keep up with the changing tides. That’s the problem. Grafton is like one of those old school doctors who doesn’t read the latest research and medical journals and loses out on years of new technology because they “think” they’ve learned it all and they “think” they’re a great doctor. A great doctor wants to become a better doctor, a more informed doctor. Part of their routine is keeping up with science, new medical strides. Grafton shuts her eyes to this, flips her head back and sticks her nose in the air. Total snob. And she makes herself sound very shallow and ignorant. And like someone said, there are tons of crappy traditionally pubbed books as well. Reading the sample helps wade through the crap, whether it is traditional or indie. I’ve been experiencing this kind of treatment from Big 6 publishers for YEARS at writer’s meetings. One writing convention I went to actually placed the small press authors at the back of the room with their backs turned to the readers at a big multi-author signing. And those weren’t indie authors…I was a small press author back then. Even those authors were treated like dog crap. It is going to take a very long time for this stupidity to go away. Back then, there was this silent anger coming from NY authors who didn’t think we belonged at their signings, though I will say that they were not ALL like that. It was always just a handful of old snobs who had this attitude and it looks like some of them are still around and opening their mouths making silly, ridiculous statements. Sure, reject the indie way if you like. Submit your book for years. If you DO get a contract, have fun waiting for 2 to 3 years for your book to release. Your editor may contact you in six months and act like iike editing your book is rocket science and it takes forever. My editor NOW doesn’t take forever. What are some of these slow ass NY editors doing? I’ve been at traditional publishers before. Some of them take weeks to respond to emails. Are they in Central Park having coffee? Today some of these NY editors and agents may be in the unemployment line, hungry like some of the indie authors were in the past. If I see any of them, I’ll toss a quarter their way. I really do feel sorry for some of them. Congrats on your success, Mr. Knight! I always enjoy your books and I can honestly say they are better than many, many traditional pubbed books I’ve read.

    • August 15, 2012 at 8:04 am

      Nice, huh? And what’s with the “Mr. Knight” stuff? Dude, I KNOW you!

      • August 15, 2012 at 9:22 am

        Ha ha!!! Yes, it is NICE and I love your books, Stephen! I was just talking about you yesterday while working out in my Aqua Fitness class..ha ha…imagine that…we were talking about zombie writers and I talked about the success of your book and how you are one scary dude..or your writing rather!

      • August 15, 2012 at 10:29 am

        “you are one scary dude…”

        Hey, no need to drag my looks into this!

  5. August 16, 2012 at 11:25 am

    i was going to leave a comment here and on the next 2 posts you did; but I think I’ll just go to my blog here and rant for a bit. :p

    Haven’t done that ina while anyway 😉

    \m/ peace

    • August 16, 2012 at 11:30 am

      PAULIE G. LIVES! Good to hear from you again, my brother!

      • August 16, 2012 at 11:40 am

        Thanks Steve! Life’s been blastin me the last few months bro. Luckily, I got your new book before all heck broke loose. Although, right after—and I mean RIGHT AFTER– I read it the 2nd or 3rd time…all the crap started…you put a jinx on me for stalkin n houndin you for all those months??

        LOL just kiddin man..it just seems to cycle around every now n then, ya know?

        MASSIVE kudos on The Rising Horde again buddy…awesome freakin book

        I’ll get to the rant on my blog …hopefully today or tomorrow…but I’m definitely not gonna forget the comments and non-apologies I read in all the threads you left..

        \m/ peace

      • August 16, 2012 at 11:49 am

        Thanks man, I’m glad you liked it. The whole Horde thing took a bit of creative toll, and I’m sucking wind on the next project big time!

        Hope everything is getting better on your end. Hang in there, mano!

      • August 16, 2012 at 11:56 am

        i don’t doubt it Steve. Readin TRH sometimes I could feel your heart, soul, 1 kidney and a couple of toes in it.

        Too bad you can’t recharge off the energy and excitement your books give us fans. You’d already be done with the next TWO projects. 😛

        Take care you don’t burn out too fast Buddy. Hate to lose a talent like yours’…you definitely deserve a break my friend


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