Yet another traditionally published author, Laurie Gough, blundered into a firestorm of controversy by penning an ill-advised and tactless article disparaging self-published authors.
The article, “Self-Publishing: An Insult to the Written Word” which appeared December 30, 2016, in the Huffington Post Blog, really takes Indie publishers to task. Here are but a few of Gough’s “pearls of wisdom”—
- “I’d rather share a cabin on a Disney cruise with Donald Trump than self-publish.”
- “From what I’ve seen of it, self-publishing is an insult to the written word, the craft of writing, and the tradition of literature.”
- “With the firestorm of self-published books unleashed on the world, I fear that writing itself is becoming devalued.”
- “The only similarity between published and self-published books is they each have words on pages inside a cover. The similarities end there.”
- “And every single self-published book I’ve tried to read has shown me exactly why the person had to resort to self-publishing.”
Ms. Gough is of course entitled to her opinion. Our much-celebrated First Amendment rights to free speech empower her to shout her opinion in the public square. But for me, her insensitive and thoughtless comments brought to mind the quote; “But when you try to dictate what to do to others, remember this—It is better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt!”
Nothing wrong with having an opinion. Sometimes, however, wisdom dictates that we keep our opinions to ourselves. That’s especially true of those like authors who have chosen a career entirely dependent on earning the goodwill of potential readers.
Due to the ever-burgeoning popularity of Indie publishing, Ms. Gough, evidently inhabiting some sort of “I’m traditionally-published” bubble completely untethered from reality, failed to recognize that many of the very people she so vigorously insulted were likely potential customers for her prose that she has now permanently alienated.
The truly ironic thing about Laurie Gough’s Huffington Post article was that she used a quote from author Sue Grafton to buttress her argument that “self-publishing is an insult to the written word.”
For those unfamiliar with Grafton, she too committed a similar faux pas, insulting and offending Indie publishers during an interview back in 2012, published by LouisvilleKY.com. Grafton quickly walked back her remarks after receiving the same sort of career-killing blow-back Gough is apparently now experiencing.
Perhaps Gough would have been better served to have done a tiny bit of research into the consequences of Grafton’s unfortunate remarks rather than just cherry picking a quote that seemed to support the premise of her article. She obviously was completely unaware of the backstory behind the quote.
I admire authors who have been traditionally published. Those intrepid souls were willing to jump through all the hoops and to suffer through the endless delays to being published imposed by the formerly formidable literary gatekeepers; agents, publishing houses, editors, national, and international reviewers.
I easily imagine that having your book traditionally published gives one a great sense of pride and accomplishment. But as the old biblical adage goes; “Pride goes before a fall.” When pride results in a person becoming so out of touch with reality and the general public that she believes a caustic condemnation of people who choose a different path to authorship than the traditional one will be well-received, that’s a problem.
Obviously, self-appointed Indie publisher-critic, Author Laurie Gough, has experienced a reality check. She has already walked back the misguided, and foolhardy statements she wrote in her article like her hair was on fire, just as fast as Sue Grafton did in 2012. You can read the full text of her apology on her Facebook page if you wish. But given Sue Grafton’s experience, the apology is likely another case of too-little-too-late.
Although I’m one of the self-published authors Gough disparaged, it isn’t my intention to take her to task. Truth be known, I’d never heard of Laurie Gough before I read her Huffington Post piece. A person must first earn a place in my insecurities before her opinion about self-published authors or anything else for that matter has the power to offend me. Yet I think Gough’s imprudent decision to write the article is a cautionary tale for other mid-list traditionally published authors who may be tempted to follow her lead.
Gough may have had some valid points had she written her article a decade ago, but to quote the legendary singer and songwriter, Bob Dylan, “the times they are a changin’.” Yes, it is true that there are some terrible self-published books out there, but more and more that is becoming the exception rather than the rule.
The truth is, the best self-published authors today are every bit as good if not better than their traditionally published counterparts. Equally true is the fact that there are some awful traditionally published books. I started more than a half dozen such books last year that I couldn’t be bothered to finish because they were either poorly written or mind-numbingly dull. A dull book, perfectly edited, pushed by a literary agent, and duly approved by a big publishing house is still dull.
Traditional publishing is rapidly becoming the past whether its adherents wish to face that reality or not. The decline of traditional publishing and parallel advance in self-publishing doesn’t mean the disappearance of gatekeepers. It only heralds a change in who fills that role.
Indie publishing casts the reader in the role of gatekeeper which is actually as it should be. Readers will neither read nor buy poorly written books regardless of how the books are published. Thus, poorly written books fade quickly into obscurity and certainly do no harm to the craft of writing or the traditions of literature.
To everyone I offended with my Huffington Post article on self-publishing, I am so sorry! As I explained in the comments…