Snobbery in the publishing industry.

In one of my Facebook groups I’ve since left, there was a gal, let’s call her Ella. She was a traditionally published romance author, but she said due to burnout, she hasn’t written for quite some time. I know how real burnout can be–especially in romance where publishing three to four books a year is the norm.

But throughout some discussions that I lurked in on, I realized one thing. Burnout hasn’t kept her from writing. Snobbery has.

You see, Ella stopped writing when her book deals dried up and she refused to indie-publish further books.

When I made this realization (and maybe it’s a realization she herself hasn’t come to) I sat back, stunned.

Of course, I don’t speak to Ella and her real reasons are all my conjecture at this point, but it’s worth talking about.

Snobbery in the publishing industry is real. There’s snobbery against indie publishing, there’s snobbery against romance in general, which makes Ella’s reasons for not writing anymore all that more laughable because she’s writing in a genre that is looked down upon more than any other genre on the planet. If we gave in to snobbery, there wouldn’t be romance (considered fluff by many) erotica, for sure, or most genre fiction. We wouldn’t have comic books (considered a low form of “reading” by some). We wouldn’t have audiobooks (listening is not reading!) and so much more.

Ella’s bitter because she blames indie-publishing for stealing her book deals and won’t contribute to a system she feels is beneath her. But we all know the traditional publishing industry is broken–the mid-list didn’t disappear overnight, and it’s no one’s fault but the big houses’ that indie authors stepped up and filled that gap.

But let’s say Ella has a point. What can she do?

*She could pivot. Being capable of adjusting is vital with any career choice. (I have an HR degree, and I shudder when I think about all they have gone through with COVID and work-from-home protocols. Not once in any of my HR classes did we talk about a pandemic.) She could switch from romance and write literary fiction. She could spend the next five years writing the next great American novel. She could then query, obtain her precious book deal, and watch her book sell a thousand copies, maybe win an award, if she’s lucky.

*She could write women’s fiction which seems to have a little more meat than straight-up romance and grab a book deal and hope to become the next Jennifer Weiner. Or she could write women’s fiction, swallow her pride, and build a following like other women’s fiction indie authors (see: Jane Davis and Jessie Newton), and hope to gain a “respectable” and “sophisticated” audience.

*She could keep writing what she loves and indie-publish because after all, there is no better marketing than writing the next book and her front list would sell her backlist (the books she’s most proud of, I guess. Shrug.).

So instead of letting bitterness about something she has no control over dictate how she writes, Ella does have choices. Instead she chooses to let snobbery and resentment win.

Maybe she’s tired. The system can be disheartening at times, and in this business, it’s important to understand your WHY. Why was Ella writing in the first place? For the glory of the book deal? The validation (good reviews?)? To reach readers who love to read romance? She can still reach readers indie-publishing. More, in fact because she’ll have complete control of her books. She can run ads, host giveaways, build a newsletter, and she’ll share less royalties than if she were still traditionally-published.

I’m not a snob, though sometimes I may sound like I am. I believe there is room for every genre, every story. My problem is I wish authors would take a little more pride in their work, and maybe in the end, that’s all Ella’s problem is too. Books that are unedited or poorly written because the author published before her skills were up to snuff. We’ve all read that one book that had potential but just wasn’t quite there. I mean, there’s snobbery and then just wanting to see a bit more quality in the industry. That’s nothing to feel bad about–as authors, we shouldn’t be asking readers to part with their money unless what you’re giving in return is a good, enjoyable read.

I feel sorry for Ella, that her snobbery, resentment and bitterness keeps her from doing something she loves. If I’ve learned anything about the industry in the last four years I’ve been writing and publishing is that anger and resentment have no place here.

A couple years ago, I heard something funny. When we talk about quality in the inde-publishing space a saying that you might often hear is, “Cream floats to the top.” Meaning, the best books will rise to the top despite what everyone is publishing. Then I heard something I hadn’t heard before, the rejoiner: “Yeah, and so does sh*t.” It made me laugh. You can say books like Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight are the sh*tty books that have floated to the top, but it just goes to show that there is space in this industry for everyone.

I hope Ella finds hers.

Another article about the midlist from The Guardian: ‘There’s no safety net’: the plight of the midlist author

If you’re interested in hearing an interview with Jane Davis, Joanna Penn interviewed her a little while ago, and you can listen to it here:

14 thoughts on “Snobbery in the publishing industry.

  1. I’m going to say this in the most professional way possible, Vania:

    Please do not shame books like “Twilight” or “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

    Just don’t.

    Do you know the millions of people who have been introduced to the world of books through these two books? And with that, who knows? Maybe their reading scope broadened the more books they read? Maybe they even picked up a book of yours? Or would you rather they not pick up a book of yours because they happened to love 50SOG or Twilight?

    So please don’t shame books, especially in a genre you say gets looked down upon. You just did in the worst possible way. On your blog, on your platform.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have to comment here. Vania was not dissing those two books. If anyone has been reading her blog over the last few years, they’d know that Vania has enjoyed FSoG story.

      I’m pretty sure that she meant that a lot of people trash those two books a lot in the public, especially considering how FSoG was written. She used those as examples for her point, which was to point out that “Ella” shouldn’t discredit the industry just because other books out there are selling when she (Ella) doesn’t think they should.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Her point was well taken and understood. However, she did not have to name these two books (or any book for that matter) to do it given how she lamented how romance is already looked down to begin with.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I love Twilight. I wasn’t bashing it at all. The general opinion is that the series is bad, but the Twilight books got me through my mother’s death when I had to spend two weeks away from home burying her, sorting through her estate, and selling her house. When I couldn’t do anything in the evenings, I read those books. I was the first to buy Midnight Sun. I can’t say I’ve read 50 Shades, but I watch the movies all the time. I bought them on Prime. I chose those because they are the most picked on, and you’re right–there’s no need to name books that’s why I didn’t choose from other books I haven’t enjoyed in the past month or so. If I shake my finger at anyone, it’s indies who put out subpar work and know they do and don’t care.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. A really interesting article Vania.
    With regards to the above comment- while I neither condemn or endorse- (wow get splinters in your ass much? FROM ALL THE FENCE SITTING!!!). I feel the same way as you but about the Harry Potter books. I found them so tedious. BUT having said that one cannot deny a huge amount of people loved them (wished they loved mine even a fraction as much), so I am in the position that I will never denigrate Rowling as a author- because of all her achievements- singlehandedly saving the YA magical fantasy market – even though I do not particulalry care for her as a writer.
    I view my attitude akin to a form of superstitious behaviour. As my old mum used to say- You gotta believe in God- coz athiests have no luck. Maybe in my case I need to belive in JK and you in 50 Shades of Grey (although from what heard it weren’t exactly no lit fest either)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I go by this: if you don’t enjoy a book, you weren’t that author’s audience. I enjoyed Twilight for the books they were. Even back when I read it, I was too old for it. (It is YA, after all.) 50 Shades, too, probably. I never read Harry Potter. I can’t think of a series I want to read less. I am not her audience and I’m not going to read a book I don’t want to read because everyone else is. I just feel bad for that woman who’s letting something she has no control over dictate if she’s going to write or not. It makes me sad she’s shunning an avenue where she could find her niche.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I know as a writer that I have voiced my concern with how over saturated the market has been. But I agree with you. The more I think about it, I can’t sit here and blame an over saturated market, when in truth…me writing right now and how I’m doing it has nothing to do with the fact that anyone and everyone can publish these days. I can sit here and make all the excuses I want, but the truth is…if I want to be a writer, I need to write, regardless of what’s going on in the publishing industry.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Thanks for this post, Vania, and thanks to all those who commented. I’ve learnt something in these past five minutes or so that I spent on this blogpost. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You nailed it. I’ve seen similar situations even in my short time in the writing world.But my issue is this – if “writers gotta write” for their passion, creativity, and love of the written word, but are stopped for lack of a traditional publishing deal, are you truly a writer or just a content provider?

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I really don’t understand the snobbery in the publishing industry ..for that matter I don’t get why people still want traditional publishing deals. I mean why willing give 65 percent of your royalties to somebody else. I just don’t understand some people’s thinking when it comes to business and their creativity babies.

    Liked by 3 people

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