Anonymous
Anonymous asked in Arts & HumanitiesBooks & Authors · 1 decade ago

Does being published carry any real weight these days?

On this forum I have witnessed many people (teenagers and early 20 somethings especially) asking about how to get their manuscript published. In conversations with a friend of mine we briefly touched on the merits of what being published really means today and whether it has any real value.

There are some who boast of being a "published author" and are often self-published. Some have been published by traditional publishers, most not yet they still brag about being "published".

With POD sources like Lulu and iUniverse or vanity presses that charge obscene amounts, anyone can be published these days. Hell, the trailer park queen can publish a memoir about her days drinking cheap whiskey and smoking cheap cigarettes. It doesn't make her good or an established author.

Before anyone can jump in and accuse me of being jealous others are published, allow me to note I am a published writer with at least 70 articles and other content.

Writers (serious and not so serious): Does being published mean anything anymore? Does it make sense to even brag about it? I especially want to read from more more serious writers who have been writing for years (meaning serious writing for over 5 years not counting high school fluff).

What are your thoughts?

Update:

Cath: Your assessment of my attitude being borderline jealous of novel writers is way off. They are writers who specialize largely in fiction, I specialize in non-fiction copy. I am proud of the work I have done and done well thank you.

Jealous? Hell no. In fact I commend any writer for completing a full-length manuscript and getting it published through traditional means.

For the rest: Thank you for your input. Choosing a Best Answer will not be easy.

17 Answers

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
    Best Answer

    The idea of publishing is certainly changing, but to me it still means that what was produced is being consumed by the public.

    Most book being produced by the vanity presses are not purchased by the public, so I'd have a difficult time considering that publishing. Some are. Also, all self-publishing is not POD and all POD is not vanity publishing. I know someone who self published and committed to a run of 1000 traditionally printed full color books on a niche subject and sold them all at the retail level. He made 30% of retail on every unit sold. Not many authors working with publishing houses do that well on full color books.

    Some print on demand self-publishing is also not through vanity publishing, but rather through companies that accept print ready files that have been properly edited, and formatted by the author/publisher and the only fee is legitimate printing costs. This is where I disagree with one of your comments: Lulu for example will simply print books without having to purchase vanity packages. I just looked at their page and can print a single proof copy of a 200 page B&W book for $5.50. Volume costs even less per unit. I think that's hardly obscene. I'll add that of course something printed is not something published.

    In my mind the ultimate judge of an author is the quality of the book as determined by readers. Most POD or other self published books will not make this cut, but some will. I don't think one should necessarily think less of an author who has both the ability to author and publish a book.

    Generally speaking, traditionally published books are better written and better selling than self published books, but one always needs to be careful with generalities. Generalities are rarely universally true.

    Update:

    This is a really interesting question and has been on my mind. One question asked was should one brag about publishing? I don't know that one should ever brag. However, I think people can feel good about all sorts of various accomplishments. I can perfectly understand how a first time self published author might feel just as proud for having a book picked up by a handful or retail stores as a best selling novelist for selling their 20th novel that sells millions. Does this mean the self-published author feels they are as good or that the general public sees no difference? I think not. I think most people realize not all publishing is the same.

    I also think your point about the vanity publishing being largely young people is an interesting observation. However, for me the concern isn't that they are going to have "bragging rights" for something that never really reached the public. My concern is more that these young people with limited financial resources and little knowledge of the publishing world are truly being led to believe that their $1,500 or more on some publishing package will lead to a good book and profit. The problem isn't that they are buying into vanity publishing for the bragging rights, the concern in my mind, is they don't realize they will be parting with their money for nothing more than vanity.

  • 1 decade ago

    KK Please note that I am editing and rewriting this post, as I feel that the argument I presented last night was written poorly. The question is a good one and worthy of a well-thought argument, rather than the few random thoughts I came up with last night.

    Does being published carry any weight anymore?

    Let me start my pointing out that I had a MS accepted for publication when I was 19 and was eventually published about a month before my 21st birthday. I thrilled about it at the time and definitely consider it to be among my greatest achievements. And I wont pretend that I'm ashamed of being a published author - seeing my book in the window of a bookstore in Adelaide was a wonderful moment for me. Perhaps the biggest moment of my career. (Yeah, I know. Where is Adelaide, exactly?)

    Of course and am older and wiser and know quite a lot more about the publishing industry at 27 than what I did at 19. Anyone who thinks that getting their first MS accepted is a challenge should try going through the hell of getting a second one published - or the humiliation of having it rejected.

    I've also come to regard the publishing industry as a funny beast. I live in a country where the industry is limited and extremely competitive. In Australia the publishing industry is based mainly in the wealthier eastern states, and you're far more likely to get published if you have the right contacts. And if the publisher is certain of the book making the top 10 best seller lists. Publishers are also a lot more likely to favour celebrities, such as soap stars, sports people and politicians and offer them obscene amounts of money and the services of a ghost writer in order to make a juicy and controversial best seller. In fact there is even one literary agent in Sydney (Selwa Anthony) who specializes in this genre. And some call self-publishing vanity press.

    Self-publishing is a strange medium of its own - traditionally self publishers have charged a lot of money and offered very little, apart from the book in published form in return. The author is left to market a book on their own, which no bookstore will stock. Print on Demand has made these services far more affordable. As you have stated, the trailer park queen can now publish a memoir about her days drinking cheap whiskey and smoking cheap cigarettes. That, obviously, does not make the book good. I have used POD myself, but not as a commercial venture. I do not count it as a PUBLISHED work. (I have my reasons and if anyone feels it is an important point, they can email me and ask.) I think POD useful for anyone wanting to publish a family history or a family cookbook, perhaps as a unique and unusual gift. But I think that anyone who uses either medium to brag about being a PUBLISHED author succeeds only in making themselves look ridiculous.

    So is there any value in being a published writer? Well it's something that I've done and enjoyed doing very much. But when a sports star can get their autobiography published because the also happen to be a controversial media slut, or when the trailer park queen can self publish her memoirs, then no. It is not something that deserves the high esteem that it is often given. I don't think that anyone who is trying to sell a MS that is written to the best of their abilities but cannot find a market needs to feel unworthy as a writer. Also, contrary to what others have said about me on Y!A I do not place less value on the opinions or careers of others because I have published a novel, whereas they have not, or do not want to. I just see someone who has has different circumstances, different choices, different opinions.

    These are my thoughts on the matter. Excuse the heavy re-editing.

  • 1 decade ago

    With exception of a few cases, PODs is vanity publishing, simple as that. Thus of course someone who using PODs is more likely to brag. Okay, I do understand that some great authors are turned down from the major publishing houses, but turning to PODs doesn't do much either. As you pointed out the fees on PODs are ridiculous, the quality of the editing is often extremely lacking compared to the publishers, and a no return policy makes them too high of a risk for bookstores. I'm not a writer, I suck at creative writing. However, if I could write I would rather just bind a few copies with a spiral bind and give it to the four people who would bother to buy it in the first place. Quite frankly that's all PODs are evenway. They take the text that is submitted and bind it, I really don't see how it is even classified as "being published". All the author is doing is paying for the book to have a fancy cover and gaining a bigger ego.

    I hate people who brag. Writing should be about the what's on the page not about being published or not published. It's one thing to promote your own book, another to run around saying I'm a published author. Even before I knew about PODs I shyed away from anyone declaring that. Call me fickle but I'm a doubting thomas. Show me a good summary and a review from a trusted source and I'll look into it. Tell me you're a published author and I'll dimiss it in an instant.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I'd have a lot of respect for someone who has sold their novel to a publishing house and it is available to buy in hardcopy in bookshops.

    POD? Not so much. Vanity publishers? Less than nothing, especially if they then brag about it.

    Articles and stuff? I beta-read for several people who make a bit of money this way. They write well, but I wouldn't say they write significantly better than I do. And to be honest, your attitude _is_ bordering on jealous of novelists here. You've written a few articles and been paid for them. Well, I've written a computer manual for money. It has an ISBN number and everything. Does that make me a published author with all the associated kudos? Is that something I should brag about? I don't think so. It's definitely a step down from being a novelist with a contract and advances and all that sort of stuff.

    So would I brag if I did eventually get that big contract and my books on the front shelves (heck, any shelves) at Borders and Waterstones? No. But I'd sure walk around with a grin the size of Manhattan for a while :) And yes, I'd put "author" on my resume under the "jobs" heading. Right now I have "writing" under the hobbies section. That's the difference.

    • .
      Lv 7
      6 years agoReport

      Cath, nobody is bragging

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  • 1 decade ago

    The term "published" is very broad. Don't forget medical journals, legal journals, newspapers, etc. Columnists/reporters are technically published every day. Attorneys and doctors can be published. Without a strict definition, anyone can consider themselves published, even though it's only been in an editorial column.

    I do still think that being published is an achievement. But being published should not be the standard by which we measure all writers. There are a great many talented writers out there who haven't been discovered, while a whole host of crap has been on the best seller list. Go figure.

  • 1 decade ago

    Being self-published is different than being professionally published. Anyone can become self-published with enough money, which is so much different than earning the recognition from an agent and from a publisher.

    I think being self-published means next to nothing while being professionally published still has its value.

    I've also noticed the questions, and I don't see anything wrong with it... this is a place to ask questions, after all! Many people are asking how to get their "book" published when they have nothing more than a few chapters, or an idea. There's nothing wrong with letting them know how in-depth the process is. The would-be serious writers will end up learning enough, writing enough and working hard enough in order to get published, while those with delusions of grandeur will simply tell people for the rest of their lives that they're "writing a book" and never "I've published a book."

  • 1 decade ago

    The serious writers I know seem to define "being published" in a different way than some. To us, it's being PAID. Maybe the pay is low, but a publisher gave the author money for the rights to put a story or novel into print. That's real publication.

    People who have paid to publish, whether they acknowledge the term "vanity press" or not, are not really published, IMO. They have purchased a publishing service and are paying customers, not "published authors" as they seem to be so eager to call themselves.

    Since vanity presses are so popular, I tend to have a jaundiced view of anyone who pronounces himself or herself a published author unless or until I learn they were paid rather than made the payment themselves.

    Source(s): Published author ;-)
  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I think it does carry weight everywhere it matters. A legitimately published author can be recognized by his peers and readers almost instantly. Hell, I can usually tell when someone has at least been rejected a couple dozen times.

    There is a level of pride that comes with doing things the legitimate way. A character modifying affect in receiving the various levels of rejections, finally followed by the first minor credits. But there is also a lot of humility given when it's realized that even the very best work faces stiff competition; that there is always someone out there writing just as well as yourself and the difference between the success and failure of either party lies in the tastes and perceptions of an acquisitions editor with a hard job.

    You can spot an honorable writer a mile away. His ego has battle scars, his voice is graveled, and his style is as hardened and weather tested as Old Ironsides. Publishing, and true apprenticeship in the craft do matter, and they are noticeable.

    I like Dix's comment about writing for money, I'm similar but to a different end. I won't write something unless I feel it will demonstrate my desire for mastery of the art. If something is going to be sub par, or not a challenge to accomplish then it has no benefit for me. I want the challenge, and I want the success. The fruits of that success are, in no uncertain terms, how full and impressive the "My work has been featured in or is forthcoming in ..." section of your queries is. (Eventually, I hope this path leads to money!)

    **Vanity publishing** is a conundrum, and I'm gonna be accused of elitism or pretentiousness, but I don't even care if the book is good - if you paid for publication you aren't a "published" writer in my opinion. Maybe it can be turned around, but the lack of pride, respect for tradition, and implied greed of going that route is pretty hard to look past.

    So, yeah, publishing matters, but it can swing things both directions. If someone proves themselves in the market, actually walks their way through the desert it's a positive. But if someone tries to cut corners, to pass their competition below the yellow line then they're just lazy, likely incompetent, and leagues below an unpublished writer any day of the week.

    Source(s): ~Notes for clarity: I hope it's obvious that I was referring to traditionally published books that are well written, by talented and hard working writers. Some traditionally published stuff is pretty atrocious, I'd congratulate no one for that. And I mean **Vanity publishing** in the popular connotation, stuff that was published through non-traditional means because it didn't have the merit, value, or level of mastery to be legitimately published. There are exceptions to every classification, I fully realize that some have to publish outside the traditional industry due to micro-markets, subversive concepts, or various other legitimate reasons limiting the book's economic marketability.
    • .
      Lv 7
      6 years agoReport

      Carry weight with WHO exactly. You don't get paid anything. It carries no weight.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I guess it all depends on the content that's being published, which most often is just an opinion. Some things are total "crap" yet they're still published. *cough* twilight *cough* no offense, that's just my opinion, and others are very well written, but should being published also be worn as a mark? True, some wear it as an undeserved badge of honor, but others truly do deserve it, does that mean we should cast our eyes down at anyone who states they've been published? I don't think so. Personally I think it doesn't matter if your published, you better have something good published or I could care less.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I think it's lost at least some of its value nowadays. Everyone knows how hard it was to get published in the past, there were less publishing houses to start with, and a lot less people were "self proclaimed writers". Now, like you said, for the right amount of money, you can see your book on the shelves, pretty much regardless of its value. Not to be pretentious or anything, but you don't see people reading Balzac, Aldous Huxley, or even modern literature, like Ian McEwan, or Graham Swift anymore. Now, all the bookstores have "Twilight" (or something in this league) on display as "book of the month", because people have learned to settle for less.

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