John Locke Responds to “Oh, You’re Self-Published!”
Please welcome John Locke as my guest blogger today. He discusses a subject important to self-published as well as epublished authors. I find, as an epublished author, that I get the same sideways glances and even dear friends refuse to read my work until it is in paperback. Unfortunately, in this era of publishing options many people assume you haven’t arrived until you’re in paperback. Welcome, John!
I decided not to identify myself on this post as an author or novelist because of a conversation I had a few days ago with a friend at my daughter’s lacrosse game.
Susan approached me saying, “I saw your profile on Twitter, and was shocked to learn you’ve written four novels!”
I nodded, aware that the parents seated nearby had heard her. When casual acquaintances hear you’ve written a novel, something magical happens. Your status is instantly elevated. Unfortunately, for self-published authors like me, these moments die a quick and brutal death. In fact, Susan and her husband hadn’t finished settling into their seats before she asked her next question, the one that would enable her to slap a label on me, so she’d know whether to regard me with respect…or pity.
I saw it coming, but was unable to stop it.
“So,” she said. “You’re an actual author?”
The question seemed to fill the air around me. I felt a dozen eyes move from the playing field to my face.
“An actual author?” I repeated.
“You know, a published one.”
“Yes, of course,” I said. “My books are available in hard cover, paperback, on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kindle… you can even download them onto the new iPad…”
“So, a publishing house paid you an advance?”
I said, “Three to two.”
“The score. We’re down three to two. The girls can’t seem to get the ball off the turf today.”
Susan nodded. She and her husband, and the parents around me, knew how to pigeonhole me in their memory cells: John Locke, the vanity author.
Based on the sneers and scornful looks I’ve received over the past two years, you’d think I’d go ahead and tattoo the word LOSER across my forehead. For some reason, society considers self-published authors to be so desperate, we’re actually held in lower esteem than if we’d written no books at all!
Of course there’s a natural assumption that if you have to pay to have your novel printed, it can’t be any good.
I disagree completely, but I acknowledge the fact that many people think this way. And believe it or not, it doesn’t bother me in the least.
Why? Because I’m an entrepreneur! Not to brag, but I’ve been very successful in several different fields. Not only that, but I’ve helped hundreds of others become incredibly successful, some of whom could barely read or write. And the one thing these people all had in common? They believed in their abilities enough to back themselves with their own capital.
That’s a good thing, right? I mean, it’s the American way, isn’t it?
So why are authors scorned for personally investing in their work? Other professions don’t seem to carry a similar stigma.
If you want to become a school teacher, or a nurse, doctor, lawyer, engineer, physicist, or electrician, you’ll need to invest a small fortune for the tools and training. Some people get partial or full scholarships, but most do not. Should we scorn those who pay for their own education in order to pursue their dreams? Are they vanity students?
When school teachers, nurses, doctors or electricians can’t find employment they act very much like unpublished authors: they send out resumes, the same way authors send out query letters.
But say an electrician can’t get a job, and decides to borrow ten thousand dollars from the bank to open his own business. Would he be considered a vanity electrician? How about the doctor who decides to put up his own money to start a practice? Should he be deemed a vanity physician? And is he any less capable because he made the choice to put up his own money?
I’m proud to be a self-published author. It proves I believe in myself enough to invest my own capital to underwrite my dreams. It also means I believe there’s a market for my work.
Am I good enough to be published by a major publishing house?
I don’t know.
I’ve never written the first query letter.
But if a major publisher ever does call me, I’ll refuse the advance. When I started selling life insurance at the age of twenty-one I reached into my pocket to pay for my insurance training and license, and I knocked on doors and worked on straight commission. To this day, nearly forty years later, I’ve never received a nickel in salary, advance or draw. So if a publisher calls me with an offer I’ll let them cover the hard costs of editing, printing and promotion, but I won’t accept a penny of advance money, or a penny in royalties, until the company has recouped their entire investment.
From a business standpoint, that only seems fair to me.
On the other hand, it doesn’t seem fair that I should be scorned for believing in my writing ability enough to fund it personally.
John Locke is the author of four books: Lethal People, Lethal Experiment, Saving Rachel, and Now & Then. He resides in Kentucky, where he is currently at work on his fifth Donovan Creed novel, Wish List. His books can be found on Amazon.com, and are available in most ebook formats, including Kindle, Smashwords, and iPad. John has found a self-publishing home with the wonderful people at Telemachus Press. Check out his website at www.lethalbooks.com
P.S. from Lisa:
John, epublished authors get the same sort of response.