When author Ros Barber declared on Monday that she would rather choose poverty than self-publish a book, she ignited a firestorm of debate and criticism.
Paul Mackintosh responded by publishing a passive-aggressive open letter on Teleread, Ed Renehan described her arguments as "cogent but incorrect (and utterly elitist)", and the debate society at The Passive Voice blog took her arguments apart while heaping scorn on her head.
The followers of TPV responded with hostility both because they disagreed with Barber's position and because they dug into her online footprint and discovered that she is herself a self-published author.
Barber has self-published two nonfiction books on Leanpub, and she has a Patreon to support her writing. Those two facts led some to label her a hypocrite, but the real situation could be more complicated than that.
For starters, a close reading of the intro to the article reveals a subtle clue that tells us this is not a straight-forward hatchet job:
... The blog was widely shared on social media, and viewed by nearly 10,000 people in its first week. The shock, agreement and commiserations were followed swiftly by people telling me what I really need to do is self-publish.
Now, I understand that “indie publishing” is all the rage, but you might as well be telling Luke Skywalker to go to the dark side. Despite royalty rates of 70%, I think self-publishing is a terrible idea for serious novelists (by which I mean, novelists who take writing seriously, and love to write). Here’s why.
That final sentence sparked my curiosity, so I followed up and asked Barber on Twitter whether she could explain what she meant. "I wasn't attacking self-publishing. I self-publish non-fiction. The article was about why I don't self-publish my lit fic," she told me in a tweet, adding that "Which doesn't mean other people shouldn't, or that I judge anyone for self-publishing. That would be stupid since I do it!"
That clarification would tend to negate the hypocrisy label, but does it affect the validity of her arguments, or lack thereof?
In my opinion, no.
To name one example, Barber argues that if "you self-publish your book, you are not going to be writing for a living" while blithely ignoring the fact that this statement is equally true for the vast majority of traditionally published authors as well. She then goes on to commit a post facto logical fallacy when she argues that "self-publishing can make you behave like a fool" (one does not cause the other, obviously).
And that's just a few of the more obvious problems; what did you think of the piece?
Do Barber's self-published books change your opinion of her view?
image by Trinity