Ignore Name Calling (Be Proud of What You Choose to Do)

Hey Folks,

When my young son came home from school quietly wiping tears from his eyes one day, I asked what was wrong.

Turns out some of the other kids at school in our gang-infested town had called him a “bastard” as he was walking home. Not for any particular reason, but just to be jerks. Kids do that sometimes.

That word carries an unfortunate and untrue stigma, that a person born out of wedlock is somehow a lesser person.

Of course, it’s all foolishness, even idiocy. But as children are wont to do, my young son took it to heart.

My reaction? I just laughed.

I didn’t get angry or upset or call the school or confront the little smart-alec wannabe gangsters. The latter were their parents’ and society’s problem, not mine.

When he looked up at me, surprised at my reaction and the broad grin still on my face, I said, “Son, do you know what a ‘bastard’ is?”

He nodded, then quietly defined it for me.

I said, “So ARE you a bastard?”

He shook his head.

I said, “Then what does it matter to you what they think or what they call you?” Then, knowing me, I probably recited the “sticks and stones” rhyme.

He looked up and smiled. Everything was fine.

Flash forward to the present day.

Some adults say things just to be jerks too, though I usually use another term for them that evokes another name for “donkey” coupled with a depression in the ground where dirt is missing.

When adults say stupid, harmful things it’s usually out of a sense of inadequacy and inferiority. Pulling others down to their level is their way of making themselves feel superior.

Readers and even other writers do it all the time. Sometimes, self-published (Indie) writers even do it to the writer in the mirror.

Out of the entire history of humanity, traditional publishing as it exists today has been around only since the late 1940s or early 1950s with the advent of mass-market paperbacks. That’s right. TradPub has been around for only 60 or 70 years. Before that, pretty much EVERYONE was self-published.

Yet traditional publishing has always harbored that sense of inadequacy and inferiority. That and a desire to maintain their sense of power as “gatekeepers” caused them to attack those writers who choose to believe in themselves enough to write when and what they want and to publish their own works.

But the TradPubs went farther. They intentionally attached an illogical stigma to self-publishing. And for some inane reason, a lot of people — even writers themselves — bought into that stigma.

But again, it’s illogical. Think about it.

If a chef believes in himself and his abilities and decides to open a restaurant (or a mechanic or carpenter a shop or a lawyer a practice), nobody snubs their nose and refuses to patronize the place because it’s a self-started, self-funded business. And it’s the same with any other business you can name.

And if you aren’t ready yet to think of writing as a business, that’s fine too.

Because it’s also the same with the other arts. If a photographer takes and sells his own photographs (or a painter her paintings or a sculptor his sculptures or a songwriter or musician her songs) nobody so much as bats an eye.

Yet a writer is to his or her stories exactly what a sculptor is to sculptures, a songwriter or musician to songs and music, a painter to paintings and a photographer to photos.

Why should it be any different for novelists and short story writers who believe in themselves and choose to publish their own stories?

Of course, the answer is, it shouldn’t. Because it ISN’T any different. At all.

So how do I combat that stigma?

I proudly proclaim that some of my long works have been traditionally published but that I would never go that route again.

When they look surprised and ask why, I say, “Because now I believe in myself and my work enough that I don’t need some 20-something acquisitions editor making minimum wage in New York to validate what I do.”

Some of them even ask a question they would never dream of asking another business person or artist: “But do you make any money at it?”

Frankly, how much money I make is none of their business, is it? But to feed the self-critical monster that’s feeding them, I smile knowingly and say, “Enough that I’ll keep writing.”

Finally, if you’ve never had works traditionally published and choose to be an indie writer and publisher, so much the better. You haven’t wasted as much time as I did on tiny royalties.

So good on you. Be proud of who you are and what you do.

‘Til next time, keep your head up and keep writing!


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6 thoughts on “Ignore Name Calling (Be Proud of What You Choose to Do)”

  1. This is so true! I’m amazed at how many people STILL think “indie” or “self-published” means garbage. They don’t react that way AT ALL to photographers, painters, or another artists/crafters. We’re singled out for that attitude, for certain.

    Thankfully, I no longer care what they think. When I see that attitude, I just shake my head at their ignorance and tell them, “Wow, you have no idea what great books you’re missing.” If they’re obnoxious, I’ll even add in, “By the way, are you SURE the books you’re reading are NOT indie/self-pubbed. A lot of indies use small press names these days.” I love the wide-eyed looks I get from that. People like that are too much fun to toy with. LOL

    • I agree. Have you ever heard a new restaurant called a “vanity” restaurant? A new law practice called a “vanity” practice? A new carpentry shop called a “vanity” shop? (grin)

  2. I get where the name “vanity press” comes from. I was writing in the 1970s and saw the ads for the vanity presses in Writer’s Digest. Most of those were scams, preying on writers seeking validation, which has also been a problem that’s been around for a long time. Many of the books were the ones that get form rejects for good reason.

    When POD was developed, those writers moved into that. The scammers did, too. POD publishers said things like “Give your book the chance it deserves” because that appealed to the validation seekers. There were sites to help promote the books with sample chapters. I read many of those and felt like I was reading a publisher’s slush pile.

    But a key note about vanity publishing is that it did have a very specific audience: The unpublished writer. It was never for readers. If you went on a POD site, it was about how they were going to publish you and make your dreams come true. A lot of writers got scammed because they they thought the books were going to be in a bookstore and instead they got advertisements to sell books to their family or to buy copies to sell. There was also a lot of people scammed by well-meaning businesses who wanted to “help” writers, bought the rights, and then folded.

    It was only after epublishing came in that this dynamic changed. Now the professional writers could have control over self-publishing their books, and it became cost effective. But since epublishing can be done dirt cheap, people wanting to separate writers from their money have gone to developmental editing. I was told while searching for a copy editor, “Don’t you want your book to be the best it can be so it can have the chance it deserves?” The vanity part never quite goes away because there are always people seeking validation.

    • I agree, but everything goes to the writer’s belief in himself or herself.

      Also I’ll stand by my reply to Dawn. If I believe in myself and start ANY other business, nobody would dream of calling it a “vanity” venture. The term exists (as a slander) only in self- or indie-publishing.

      And as for those “vanity” publishers, there are still a ton of them out there, and they’re ALL scams. Incredibly, I’ve even heard some of them touted at writer’s conferences. My bottom-line advice to writers will always be “If they want to charge you an up-front fee to publish your book, the company is a scam, period.”

      As for vanity, I’m not ashamed to say I’m very vain about my own work. Not as a braggart, but in a self-assured, self-actualized way. I’ve learned (and continue to learn) about every aspect of writing, and I’ve practiced and become an excellent storyteller. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t still be writing and practicing.

      But don’t I “need” the validation of others? Nope. I write to entertain myself. Of course, I’m gratified when I hear from a reader occasionally that he or she enjoyed one of my stories, but that’s only the icing on a cake I’ve already eaten and enjoyed.

  3. … If I believe in myself and start ANY other business, nobody would dream of calling it a “vanity” venture. …

    That’s what always got me into trouble with the validation writers. They don’t think of writing as a business. They don’t even think of getting paid. Somehow, they make this leap from getting the idea and then they’re a best selling writer who never has to work again.

    • I think all beginning writers are that way, believing in the dream. Whatever. I don’t allow them to wrap me around their silly wheel. If they want to continue to do the same old crap that’s never worked for them before, what do I care? It doesn’t affect me or my stories, so I’m good with it.

      When I was speaking at a lot of conferences and one would approach me, I’d listen politely, then say something like, “Hey, when you’re right, you’re right” and go on about my business. (grin)

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