There's a difference, whether we like it or not.
Photo by Maggie Smith
I go back and forth a bit on e-publishing. On the one hand, it feels like a way to cheat yourself into a status you haven't really "earned," but on the other, it's a way to quickly get your voice out there when it's needed.
My biggest problem with e-publishing is that the channels are quickly becoming clogged with crap. Just like anywhere else online, the challenge lies with the potential reader to separate the diamond out of the piles and piles of coal. People who clearly will never could be published anywhere else can just publish themselves, maybe make a few bucks as their loyal friends and family purchase a copy out of the kindness of their hearts, and then the "book" just sits there forever, forgotten.
And it's mildly offensive to me to have someone claim that they are a published author when they just paid a fee to have their writing listed on a website. To use the same word to describe someone who went through that minimal process as is used to describe someone who went through the trouble of querying agents and publishers and finally had their book accepted, went through numerous edits, and so on and so forth is, in my opinion, cheating.
I have written a novel. I am not a published author. Even if I decided to self-publish, I would never feel right calling myself a published novelist. I would know the truth. I will be a published writer come March when the magazine featuring my article comes out, and I'm excited by that. But all the web content in the world that I posted myself does not make me a published author currently. Perhaps we need a new word. We all know what a "blogger" is. What can we call someone who writes and exclusively self-publishes?
Publication gives a piece of work a legitimacy and an authenticity. It was accepted and deemed "good enough" by someone in the know. When you are the one to authenticate your own work, there's a distinct difference. It's kind of like awarding yourself first place in a contest.
So how do I figure that e-publishing has its place? Well, because it does. Sometimes you have a controversial topic and no legitimate publisher would touch it with a 10-foot pole. Sometimes you want to get your work out quickly and traditional publishing would delay your work reaching its intended audience for a year or more. Sometimes you want to spread the word about something important and don't want people to have to pay a fortune for it. Sometimes you just don't want to go through all the frigging hassle.
This week has been a strange one. I've seen e-publishing used as a shortcut and also decided how I'm going to use it for myself. Normally I would be participating in NaNoWriMo right now. I'm not going to be working on that this year... well, sort of. I'm doing my own modified version. I have something very important to say, and I want to make sure I can say it on my own terms, as quickly as possible to as many people as I can, hopefully by the end of the year.
We'll see how it pans out. I can promise you this, though: When my book is for sale, I will not be referring to myself as a published author. I will refer to myself as "the author of _________ available for sale at Amazon.com." See the difference? I will not claim an honor I have not earned.