The Difference Between Published Author and Not

I’m an occasional reader of Chuck Wendig’s blog, Terrible Minds. Although I’ve had him in my blog reader for probably around a year, he really caught my attention last week with an interview with Margaret Atwood. Yes, the Margaret Atwood. I mean, wow.

Today he put out a request for interviewee ideas. However, he stressed that he was looking for ideas about other writers, big writers, that he could at least ask — not the average Joe Blow who put out his or her own book. In his own words:

I am quite unlikely to publish interviews with self-published authors unless you have other published credentials or some manner of kick-ass sales numbers or some other success story worth talking about. I apologize for this but the majority of those emails I had to (unsuccessfully) wade through were from self-published authors. It was… not pleasant.

That’s the difference between published and not published, plain and simple. Not that Chuck Wendig is the arbitrator of what’s good and what’s not. But you can imagine that of all those requests coming in, at least some of them had to be total crap. (I’m probably being generous here…)

My point is, the downside of self-publishing is that you automatically put yourself in a league with all those other people who wrote a book on a Sunday afternoon and uploaded it to Amazon on a Sunday night. There is nothing to differentiate you from the next. Even Margaret Atwood, if she had decided to self-publish before she became the Margaret Atwood, would have to slog her way up from the swamp.

Some people get lucky, like Amanda Hocking. Other writers — and there are bound to be other writers as good as Hocking who didn’t make it — will forever be slogging it out.

There is still a stigma to self-publishing and no matter how much that stigma may lessen over the years, I can’t foresee a time when that will become more prestigious than finding a publisher. Any (legitimate) publisher.

Prestige might not be your thing, of course. Sometimes you have to trade that for better sales or more control or whatever. But it is worth noting for those who do decide to self-publish, the onus of separating your cream from the watery milk below is solely on you. Nobody owes you anything. You in all likelihood will be cast in the same light as every amateur self-publisher, no matter how professional and published your book — until you prove yourself otherwise.

Here’s Wendig’s whole post (in case you’re looking for a place to get yourself profiled…)


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