Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Indie Cooties (Or Why You're Not a Real Writer)

Well, I thought the bullshit about indie v. trad publishing had died down, but it's back in full-force.

At the beginning of the month, horror writer Lisa Morton wrote a piece called "Ten Questions to Know If You're a Pro." If the article had been on Lisa's own blog, I doubt if it would've made that much of a wave. Lisa claims she was frustrated with associates who did not take the craft or business as seriously as she did, that it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Reading it a certain way, I can see this may have been her intent. Unfortunately, because of her word choices, the piece comes across as serious and not funny at all.

To add to the situation, Lisa is the vice-president of Horror Writers of America, and her article appeared on the Los Angeles chapter's website.

Another horror writer and fellow HWA member Brian Keene did not find Lisa's piece amusing and wrote a rebuttal.

Here's my two cents: I don't know either Lisa or Brian. In fact, I never heard of Lisa until I read Brian's piece, and I've been following Brian's blog for several years now. I can see what she attempted. I can see why he felt dissed by this list. I'd like to point out at no time did Brian attack Lisa personally.

And then like the whole Sue Grafton thing last year, the stupid situation went viral. You know it's bad when Neil Gaiman is making fun of the list.

Forbes contributor Suw Charman-Anderson wrote a thoughtful piece on the issues raised by Lisa's article, asking the real question of what makes a writer a "professional."

Some bloggers, such as Marie-Claude Bourque at Musetracks, have tried to start a serious discussion on the matter. And that's when the trolls came out, spewing the usual crap that self-published writers are not professional because they haven't been vetted.

Here's the thing: the publishing industry AS A WHOLE is totally UNREGULATED. Other than common law contract issues, we can do what we want because guess what? WE MAKE UP SHIT FOR A LIVING!

Anyone can start a publishing company. Anyone can be an agent. Anyone can write.

Do you really want to see stuff censored by a self-regulating industry? I sure as hell don't. It would stifle creativity.

Is there stuff out there that I despise? The Saw movies come to mind. And all the Harlequin Presents books.

Do I have a right to stop someone else seeing, reading or writing this kind of stuff? Only my underage son, and frankly, once he's eighteen, he can watch, read or write whatever he wants.

The other side of the coin is that if you as a writer are not producing things people want to read, you're probably not going to sell jack shit. You can make all the nasty comments about E.L. James and Fifty Shades of Gray you want, but at the end of the day, people read and liked those books.

Just because something isn't your taste, or someone does something in a different way that you would have, does not make them wrong.

As if that weren't enough, here's how Merriam-Webster defines "professional":

a : of, relating to, or characteristic of a profession
b : engaged in one of the learned professions
c (1) : characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession
(2) : exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace

a : participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs
b : having a particular profession as a permanent career
c : engaged in by persons receiving financial return

3: following a line of conduct as though it were a profession

According to one of the most noted dictionaries of the English language, I am a professional. For the rest that don't agree with that, well, I hope you have fun with your hobby.


  1. I forget where I saw that list first, if it was Scalzi's blog or a mailing list or what, but I remember thinking that the person who wrote it was an elitist idiot drowning in her own ego.

    And if she's saying now that she only meant it as humor? [huge freaking eyeroll] Sure. That's about half a step above "It was a social experiment!" She's a writer -- supposedly a professional writer -- and if she can't clearly communicate the intended tone of a piece, or her intentions, then she's failed at a pretty important part of that writing. I hope her books aren't as wildly "misunderstood" as this blog post.

    Re: the people ragging on indies, that's standard, yeah. Clearly none of them have thought about the consequences of legislating the non-pros out of the market, but I agree with you; that'd be burning down the house with the baby in it, because you think the fire would evaporate the bathwater and prevent you from having to lug the pan over to the sink to dump.

    My philosophy is that I don't care what idiots think, so I'll continue to ignore people like Ms. Morton and the anti-indie people, and get on with my own business.


  2. Angie, I'm not disagreeing that Lisa failed as a writer on this piece. That's why I mentioned her word choices.

    She should have followed Sue Grafton's response last year to a major faux pas with a mea culpa and an apology. But as you pointed out, she came up with a lame excuse instead.

    Answering 'yes' any of her items other than #4, questions your social skills at best, makes you a candidate for a cute, white jacket at the worst. And when you have writers like Neil Gaiman and John Scalzi failing her so-called "test," it became hysterically funny.

    My problem with Lisa's piece lies in that the whole indie v. trad writer controversy had died down over the last year. Other than the occasional squeal from NY publishers and agents, most writers were accepting of a "whatever works for you" philosophy. Now, the trolls are coming back out of the woodwork. *sigh* The climate of hate in public discourse is so unnecessary.

  3. For me a professional writer is someone who gets paid to write. Period.

  4. LOL That's always been my opinion, Whisk, but some people feel they write lit-AH-ture and are too pure to seek money for their work.