In response to John Green on self-publishing.

So, now that’s I’ve ‘come out’ as someone about to self-publish, I feel like I’ve taken a side in the Us vs Them war that is publishing. People send me articles about self publishing and expect me to come out, fists flying, in defence of my fellow ‘indie*’ publishers.

Which is why, I guess I was sent the link to the piece about John Green in the Guardian.

In his recent address to the Association of American Booksellers Green made his opinion on self-publishing very clear. It’s not something he will ever do as he believes it “threatens the overall quality and breadth of … literature.”

Green has clarified his comments on his Tumblr, stressing that he wasn’t attacking self-publishing. “Many great books are being self-published, and that has been the case for centuries.” What he was doing was criticising Amazon who he feels are pedalling “the lie that a book is created by one person

Firstly, if I were John Green I wouldn’t consider self publishing either. Primarily, because I could write a shopping list and someone, somewhere would pay me to publish it because I was, well, John Green. So it’s an easy position for him to take.

Secondly, while I couldn’t disagree more with his point that self-publishing is “peddling the lie of mere individualism” I do agree wholeheartedly with his suggestion that anything done in isolation is going to be a bucket load of crap.

A book is not, and should never be ‘the creation of an individual soul labouring in isolation’. It is and it should always be a collaborative thing. But here’s the thing – anyone doing self-publishing well knows this.

I know this. It’s why I hired an editor. It’s why I’ve hired a cover designer. It’s why sent the book to my agent. It’s why I’ve had a host of beta readers scour the text and provide feedback. And it’s why I am appealing to the kindness and tireless enthusiasm of bloggers and my social media friends to help me get the word out.

In fact, self-publishing GLAZE has already been, in many ways, more collaborative than when I published SHIFT. Because without the distribution power of a traditional publisher I need more support and more advice than ever.

I too wouldn’t be able to publish GLAZE without the “tireless and committed collaboration” of that team of people.

I’m pretty sure that Amazon know this too. Whether they care that the greater collaboration = greater quality, I have no idea. But I do know that they are changing the publishing landscape, and I for one am excited to see what opportunities that creates.

Green takes umbrage with the idea that publishing is bloated and inefficient. And yet, this in the same week that while one writer got an 8-figure deal a survey has revealed that most writers earn less than £600 a year. When compared to the advertising industry (which I have worked in for over 15 years) publishing does appear bloated and inefficient and often frankly baffling. I hope, perhaps naïvely, that this is because it is an industry driven by passion rather than by the bottom line.

Like Green, I love traditional publishing, and owe everything to it. His disruptive approach to storytelling is an inspiration to me. I just wish he were open to disruption on all levels.




*Please, please self-publishers, stop calling yourself ‘indie’. You’re not kidding anyone.



3 thoughts on “In response to John Green on self-publishing.

  1. I understand what both sides are saying, but I *do* think that you have done and are doing MUCH more than many people who self-publish. There’s some really junky stuff out there. John Green is railing against that drivel, not against the hard work that people like you do, who invest time and energy and resources into making sure their book is incredible. It’s more of the people who write some crappy thing, think it’s amazing, and start selling it online.

    Cheers to you, though, for doing self-publishing the right way!

    (I am an author who just got her first book deal with HarperCollins, and I’m using an alias above.)

    1. Thanks for the comment! John Green did say he wasn’t attacking self-publishers, but rather Amazon who he believes are promoting the idea that publishing is a solitary thing. But I’m not sure I agree with him on that. Of course, you’re right, there is loads of crap up on Amazon. But some might say there’s loads of crap on the shelves too. It’s just not a black or white issue. There are people working hard on either side of the divide.

      Huge congrats on your book deal. I wish you all the best with it!

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