I don’t usually get too serious on here, but today was one of those days. Especially after reading this article on The Guardian: Ros Barber’s Supercilious Meltdown (ok I made up that title).
At first I worried Ms. Ros Barber’s unquestioned genius was being both under-appreciated and underpaid. Then I thought it through a little more.
I take exception to a great many of Ms. Barber’s assertions on the business, quality, and ambitions of self-publishing. Much of her proffered “evidence” is anecdotal at best, arbitrarily contrived at worst. In either case, her positions are misleading to anyone considering self-publishing as a possible avenue for getting their book to market. They also insult indie authors with the implicit accusation that we don’t care about the quality of our work. I disagree. We write because we love it.
Ms. Barber contends self-published authors spend 90% of their time promoting. This “fact” comes from some anonymous someone who posted on her blog. I’m sure the experience is different for everyone (a position not seemingly shared by Ms. Barber), but I spend hardly any time promoting. I post the occasional tweet. At present, Ms. Barber’s “pinned” tweet, from April 5, is her promo for her book “Devotion.” I write an occasional post on my blog. The header on Ms. Barber’s blog is presently, again, a promo for her book “Devotion.” There’s simply not much of a difference in the effort, but one thing that’s clear is that Ms. Barber finds value in time spent promoting herself and her works. I presume she wouldn’t be doing it otherwise. Neither would a lot of other authors, traditional and indie alike.
Ms. Barber also contends that indie authors don’t make money. In support, she offers the anecdote of a writer who wrote seven books and made money (less than 100 pounds) on only one, and concludes that “70% of nothing is nothing.” While her math is correct, her facts are not. Sweeping accusations and gross generalizations about a publication path that has given us the likes of Michael J. Sullivan, Anthony Ryan, and Hugh Howey simply don’t work. There are plenty of self-published authors who make money doing it. Heck, I do–my book earned enough in a month and a half to qualify me for membership in the SFWA. Am I quitting my day job because of it? No, but the vast majority of traditionally published authors aren’t doing that, either. Including Ms. Barber. We write because we love it.
Most of Ms. Barber’s remaining points are various forms of insult, claiming those who self-publish haven’t spent time learning how to write, don’t take writing seriously, or are mysteriously compelled to act like twitchy tweet monkeys on social media. I know several self-published authors, and a few traditionally published authors as well. These points apply to none of them. Rather, the arguments are specious and one wonders if they serve any purpose other than elevating Ms Barber’s ego.
We write because we love it. We care about our words, we care about our stories and the worlds we create. We put our books on the market because we hope others will be moved or entertained. For people who care truly about their work–who take it seriously–it doesn’t matter if the work gets to market by indie or traditional means. And it doesn’t matter if the work makes millions or wins the Man Booker.
We write because we love it.