Tag Archives: when self-publishing was rare and costly

Insensitive Things to Say to Authors

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What with self-publishing so common nowadays–it used to cost a fortune–there aren’t a lot of people who remember how blisteringly, punishingly hard it used to be to get a book published by someone who would actually pay you for it. In fact, it was just this side of impossible.

Not that many people understood that, at the time.

When I finally got a novel published, it was only after enough fruitless work to sink the Bismarck and enough frustration to discourage Hercules. Understandably, I couldn’t fight the urge to tell everybody that I’d finally accomplished this.

When I told my next-door neighbor, his eyes lit up and he blurted out, “Wow! When’s it gonna be a TV movie?” Not, “Where can I buy a copy?” Not even, “I hope it gets made into a movie.” No–he wanted a TV movie so he wouldn’t have to pay anything, perish the thought that he should buy the book.

Then there’s my hometown library. When the library director was my friend, she used to make sure the library purchased each of my books as they came out and displayed them in the Young Adults section, where people could see them. But then came a new director who knew not Joseph, and next thing I knew, my books weren’t there anymore. I searched, and finally found them exiled to the Local Authors ghetto, one step up from being hidden in a crypt under the floorboards.

I asked the new director if my books could be moved back to Young Adults where I thought they belonged. She gave me the kind of look one generally keeps in store for cranks and twaddlers and answered, “You’re self-published?”

I’m afraid that hit me on a raw spot. “No, I am not self-published. I am a real author. I am paid for my books.” Like, I only wanted some respect. Didn’t get it, though.

Sorry–didn’t mean to diss any of you who have opted for self-publication. But I come from another time when self-publication was not an option unless you were rich, or prepared to shoot off your life savings to publish a volume of your poetry. Really, when I started writing, it was virtually unknown. To me, it just isn’t real, the job just isn’t finished, until I’ve been paid for it.

I don’t go to the freakin’ library anymore.

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