Literature is Dead, Long Live Literature

The other day someone in one of my online writing groups decided to be an asshole about self publishing. Here I’m using Yorkshire definition of “the other day” which can mean anything from “yesterday” to “three years ago,” but I digress. I won’t name the group or the guy, cos he doesn’t deserve the attention honestly, but this dude was of the opinion that literature is dead, and self-publishing has killed it.

Literature is dead, long live literature

Literature is Dead, Apparently

I mean, the guy was actually way ruder than that. Among other things, he said that self publishing is a “literary flea market” and that those who self publish are “arrogant know-it-alls” who produce “sludge” that has “killed the market overall”. Let me tell you reading that was an awesome way to sped my afternoon. It didn’t set my depression off at all.

Wait. Strike that, reverse it.

To add insult to injury, this prize asshole was commenting on a someone’s plea for advice on the best course to take. Even if he is as against self publishing as is own words suggest he is, that was neither the time nor the place for a diatribe like that. There was literally nothing helpful about any of the (many) comments he left that day.

This is not the first time I’ve come across this brand of asshole, far from it. There are always people who have a chip on their shoulder about something, and they hang around writing groups, discouraging young and novice writers for no reason other than they can. These people Have An Opinion, and boy do they want you to know it.

Funny how many of these assholes seem to be straight white dudes.

Or not, if you’ve ever encountered any straight white dude online.

From reading this guys comments, it looks like he’s a book store owner. He’s used to authors coming to him, begging him to carry their books and turning them away.

In other words, he’s used to being a gatekeeper in the industry, and the ease of modern self publishing has taken away a bunch of his power. Dudes like that don’t like losing their power. Gatekeepers who have lost their power to turn people away never do.

I also strongly suspect there’s another reason this guy is so mad about self publishing. From what I can tell he’s a straight, cis, white dude. He’s used to seeing people like him form the majority of characters on literature.

Long live literature

Self publishing gave a voice to marginalised groups who were previously turned away from the industry in droves. It gave people who didn’t normally get a chance in the publishing industry to get their books to readers, and many of them are doing very well for themselves by self publishing.

I have a sneaky suspicion that part of the reason this guy thinks self published works are sludge is because a lot of them feature people who a Not Like Him. How tragic, not seeing yourself represented on media as often and being asked to sympathise with characters who aren’t like you. Is the sarcasm coming through yet?

Marginalized folks have to do that all the time.

The fact that self publishing has allowed people who’s voices are normally silenced are given an equal chance is one of my favourite things about the model. Like, a ton of the writers I see having success with self-publishing are writing stories about and featuring LGBT+ folks, disabled characters, neuroatypical characters and more.

And often they’re writing about those characters because they are those characters.

It’s part of the reason I write the characters I do as well. I mean, who else is gonna write stories about fat queer ladies with mental health issues if not me? Other fat queer ladies basically.

And that’s the beauty of self-publishing; it’s given those of us who would likely struggle in traditional publishing a greater chance of having our voices heard. Because let’s be real, talent and the quality of your work are not the only requirements for success in traditional publishing. It really helps to be a middle-class straight, white, cisgender dude writing about middle-class straight, white, cisgender dudes and their dicks.

Self-publishing has massively levelled the playing field by allowing stories by and about marginalised folks a greater chance of being read. In many ways the traditional publishing industry is still struggling to catch up, but it’s getting there. Despite the wailing and moaning and hindrance of de-fanged gatekeepers like our friend from the writing group.

Is self-publishing easy? No it really isn’t, but that’s a topic for another time.

Is self-publishing perfect? Heck no. It has issues, some of them large and deeply embedded within the industry (is starts with A and rhymes with glamazon). There are legitimate criticisms so be made of the model for sure, but they weren’t the subject of our friend’s little diatribe.

To say that literature is dead and self-publishing killed it is not only grossly unfair, it’s just plain wrong.

But there are guys like that everywhere online, and the vitriol they spout can be discouraging to writers who are just starting out.

So, to counter the assholes who are telling you you shouldn’t and you’re a monster for even trying, I say: fuck them.

Say it with me, nice and loud: Fuck. Them.

These people aren’t helping anyone, or saving literature. But you are

They’re not interested in helping you hone your skill and make your dreams come true, they’re not interested in helping anybody. All they’re interested on is maintaining status quo and their position within it. Because it makes them feel good about themselves.

Write anyway. Write because shitheads like this tell you you shouldn’t. Write the stories you want to see and fuck anyone who tries tell you stories shouldn’t be written like that.

Write with all of that fire deep in your belly and scream it out onto the page.

Because writing like yours now has as much chance of getting into the hands of readers as the writing of a white guy whose only concern is his penis. I know whose writing I’d rather read: yours.

So keep writing anyway, and I promise I’ll do the same.

Because not only are we not killing the publishing industry, the publishing industry needs our words. The world needs our words.

And anyone saying otherwise is just screaming that the world is ending as we remake it stronger. They don’t have a part in the future of the publishing industry, but we do.

We do.

Literature is dead, long live literature!

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