Why Sue Grafton can suck it

This morning, a fellow, fabulous author friend Jen Tucker posted an article in which bestselling author Sue Grafton was interviewed. She was asked her opinion on self-publishing. Here is an excerpt:

Do you have any words of wisdom for young writers?
Quit worrying about publication and master your craft. If you have a good story to tell and if you write it well, the Universe will come to your aid. Don’t self-publish. That’s as good as admitting you’re too lazy to do the hard work.

In light of our Louisville neighbor John Locke’s blockbuster indie sales, and the growing percentage of each best-seller list being filled out by “indie” writers, do you still feel that advice is solid? I know it was the standard advice a few years ago, but is it still good advice?
If so, what hard work are indie success stories too lazy to complete? Is it possible that indie publishing is more effective than querying agents & publishers, for the new writer? More and more agents and publishers seem to be treating indie books as the new slush pile.

Good questions.  Obviously, I’m not talking about the rare few writers who manage to break out. The indie success stories aren’t the rule. They’re the exception. The self-published books I’ve read are often amateurish. I’ve got one sitting on my desk right now and I’ve received hundreds of them over the years. Sorry about that, but it’s the truth. The hard work is taking the rejection, learning the lessons, and mastering the craft over a period of time. I see way too many writers who complete one novel and start looking for the fame and fortune they’re sure they’re entitled to. To me, it seems disrespectful…that a ‘wannabe’ assumes it’s all so easy s/he can put out a ‘published novel’ without bothering to read, study, or do the research. Learning to construct a narrative and create character, learning to balance pace, description, exposition, and dialogue takes a long time. This is not an quick do-it-yourself home project. Self-publishing is a short cut and I don’t believe in short cuts when it comes to the arts. I compare self-publishing to a student managing to conquer Five Easy Pieces on the piano and then wondering if s/he’s ready to be booked into Carnegie Hall. Don’t get me started. Oops..you already did.

So, why is this important? Because she's not only irresponsible, she's ill-informed, and her statements are outrageously ignorant. Forget that she's egotistical. I can live with that. But the fact that she could be swaying someone's choice on whether or not they should take a chance on their dream - after they've more than likely spent years writing and trying to find an agent is reprehensible. Self-publishing is a gift to authors who are overlooked by the industry or don't have the required connections to get there manuscript in the door. And MANY more than she estimates have become wildly successful.

But I think her biggest crime is her lack of support for aspiring authors. Her comments show complete disregard for those writers who have 'done the hard work' but can't seem to catch a break. Self-publishing is their break.

And last time I checked, the NYT Bestseller list, it was littered with indie authors. 


  1. Nope. Grafton is right. Just because the evil greed-mongers at Amazon.com have lowered the bar in terms of publishing (the Kindle revolution) and enabled shoddy writers to crash the market with their god-awful self-publishing; doesn't mean its right. And: the New York Times bestseller list? Seriously, is that an argument? Just indicates NYT is slipping in quality; like everything else. Heck, they're hanging on by their fingernails in a country obsessed with vampire fantasies.

  2. Wow. Just. Wow. I would have thought someone as established as Grafton would be a little more sympathetic to fellow writers. The publishing world has reallllly changed (from what I can see, anyway) since she first got published. Sure, some self published novels are quite amateurish - I've read quite a few myself. But I've read just as many excellent novels that have been published by the author. It seems to be the way the industry is moving towards - that self publishing is the first step. These authors work just as hard as those who are going the traditional route. Again, it's been a long time since Grafton had to query so I think she should watch what she says!

  3. Yay, Anonymous, my first naysayer! You disagree with me, I disagree with you, obviously. Sue Grafton is not only wrong, but she's old fashioned, out of touch, and ignorant to the significant changes in the industry that have made her a star. She's being irresponsible by generalizing, and she's delusional. Her advice to aspiring authors is to tell a good story and "the Universe will come to your aid." Sound advice.

    My example of the NYT list is not an argument. It's simply a point that readers are now the arbiters of what becomes popular, not publishers or agents. And if a writer has a story to tell, be it about vampires, or S&M fueled erotica, they should be encouraged by other authors to make their work available if given the opportunity.

    I'm not sure why you're so bitter towards Amazon, but the bottom line is whether or not you've taken a chance on reading a self-published title (I'm going to go out on a limb and say you haven't), they are offering writers an amazing opportunity. And in my opinion (since it is my blog) other authors should be supporting each other, not name-calling and tearing down their choices and options.