(ye gads, y’all knew this was satire, right??)
Some professional writing organizations have opted to admit self-publishing writers at an alarming pace, insisting three or four or five years is plenty long enough to spend debating the issue. It would be best to invest another two or three years at least, but the push just won’t stop. Under such pressure to act in haste, it’s important to understand the reasons self-publishers should be kept out.
First, it’s always been understood that who pays the author is of upmost importance. Purchase decisions made by thousands of readers—even tens of thousands of readers—should not be deemed equal to the decision of a single third party that has been properly vetted and approved. The approval of one or a few readers with proper job titles is what marks the professional.
And the money. Unless the money comes from readers instead. Then it shouldn’t count. Obviously.
Second, self-publishers make their own decisions. But everyone knows a primary indication of a writer’s professionalism is granting artistic and business control to others. And the true professional knows questioning that is the sign of a novice whose bad behavior will later be discussed as a cautionary tale at various “How Not To Land An Agent/Publisher” panels. One shouldn’t be deemed a professional writer if one insists on choosing one’s own cover design.
Unless one of those single third parties mentioned above decides the writer should have input. That’s different. Obviously.
Third, a writer who hires publishing professionals–perhaps even the same freelance editors and artists as the approved third parties mentioned above–still cannot claim to be a professional. The mark of a professional writer must instead be an utter lack of personal monetary investment in the creative work.
(Exceptions: Professional authors who choose to invest in marketing materials, book tours, websites, agent services, or any other expenses associated with writing are exempt from this condition. So are professionals who later choose to self-publish. Obviously.)
Yes, musicians invest in and sell their own work. That’s different. Yes, artists display and sell their own work. That’s different, too. IT’S ALL DIFFERENT BECAUSE WE’RE TALKING ABOUT BOOKS AND WRITERS, OKAY? OBVIOUSLY!
But what, you might ask, would be the harm in accepting self-published writers anyway? Why not establish some earning thresholds for membership, pretend not to notice their independent hiring of industry professionals, and just smile kindly when they speak of controlling their own creative work? What damage could it possibly do?
We’ve seen this sort of disruption before. Years and years ago, online magazines (aka ezine, e-zine, ‘zine, etc.) began clamoring for “professional” status by claiming those who read stories on computers rather than on paper should be considered actual and equal readers. Writing organizations eventually caved in, and deemed online magazines practicing certain standards of payment and publication to be just as “professional” as paper magazines. Now we’re stuck with markets like Strange Horizons and Tor.com and all the rest. Worst of all, stories “published” in those markets have won awards!
If we’re not careful, the same thing will happen with self-publishers. Those people are different because they’ve been paid differently for their writing, and that difference could utterly destroy proper, professional writing organizations. Everything will be different. Everything like… Like, you know what I mean, right? Everything.
So it’s time to take a stand. After all the years of debate, after all the discussions, after all the attempts to school self-publishers on the arrogant folly of reaching readers without the control of a single third party, we cannot now throw open the gates to a flood of self-publishers we all know must be waiting with breathless, starry-eyed anticipation to join the ranks of our professional organizations. Obviously.
Hopefully, my known and actual stance on self-publishing is equally obvious.
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