Orna Ross, the Pudding Would Like a Word — @Porter_Anderson
The recipe I've found for Yorkshire Pudding calls for "four fresh eggs." Have you ever wondered why recipes always specify "fresh?" Would anyone knowingly go for four stale eggs? Never mind. Not the point of our time together here.
No, the point of our time together here is to bring you a trying incident I encountered a bit over a week ago during BookExpo America in New York City. This link is to the Epilogger I created for my coverage of the event, should you like to review the big trade show's 47,000+ tweets.
The global-conference-trotting Porter Anderson, who always has his finger on the pulse, was on hand...and we had one of our friendly spats as we watched the action unfold. Porter, who writes not one but two excellent industry analysis blogs, is one who is concerned about self-publishing flooding the market with "amateur" work. I on the other hand delighted to see these six very different writers come together, not so much to promote their own books -- though that too of course -- but also to say “look at us, we are here, ask us how we did it...”
But there's a line missing. When Ross published her piece, she also wrote:
Porter...is one of those who holds the wish that this self-publishing lark would just stop.
A day later, that line had disappeared. Which is good. I asked about it. Ross wrote to me in a tweet "Yes. Felt I'd over egged the pudding. Written on the fly. You OK with it?"
You are reading my response to her now.
I do not, of course, hold the wish that this self-publishing "lark" would just stop. And to be clear, self-publishing is no lark. It probably is, in fact, the sharpest edge of the dynamic that will, in ten years' time, have completely reshaped publishing.
This glancing blow appears to have lived on the official ALLi site for perhaps as long as 24 hours before it was quietly removed. Those who already had seen Ross' post, of course, are left with that erroneous statement in their minds.
Even after removing the line, Ross has imposed a bad juxtaposition, making it appear that something I'd said about amateurs relates in any way (it does not) to the six best-selling entrepreneurial authors who together took Booth 966 at BEA. These authors, whom I now hashtag as our #Indie6, have more than eight million book sales between them. And my unrelated comment to Ross about amateurism was based on the fact that the writings of novices these days are deluging both self-publishing and traditional publishing, alike.
Ross might have missed my Writing on the Ether: The Indies Are Coming to BEA! at JaneFriedman.com in which I previewed these six authors' plan to create Booth 966. She may also have missed my follow-up at Publishing Perspectives, in which I again held up our self-publishing authors for managing to outdo BEA, which had no AuthorLounge powered by Authoright for our writing community as Earls Court had. That one is headlined Ether for Authors: How London Beat BEA’s Pants Off.
But had she asked any of the six authors who were at Booth 966—Bella Andre, Stephanie Bond, Tina Folsom, Barbara Freethy, Hugh Howey, and CJ Lyons—about my position on self-publishing, I think she would have come away with a happier impression. In fact, if she'd asked ALLi's own Joanna Penn or Roz Morris or Mick Rooney or Ben Galley or Dan Holloway, I like to think she'd have heard something different.
Few of us can allow falsehoods about us to stand uncorrected, especially when placed on the official pages of an organization by its leadership.
But what's important in incidents like this is for all of us to remember that our words, our expressions of opinion, can be hurtful, wrong, unfair, damaging. It's incumbent upon us to be careful.
A tip from the long-lost arts of journalism: None of us knows what another is thinking, feeling, believing, or wishing. A good journalist never writes, "The police believe the Pudding was one egg short of a true Yorkshire." Instead, he writes, "The police say they believe the eggs were not fresh but stale."
Had Ross taken a moment to write, "Porter says he wishes this self-publishing lark would just stop," she might have realized that she'd never heard the Pudding say any such thing.
By sterling comparison, here from Ross' own group is ALLi member Roz Morris, author of that rarest of reads, a self-published work of literary fiction, My Memories of a Future Life. She is a best-seller in her own right as a ghost-writer and a highly regarded teacher of writing craft, with two books, Nail Your Novel and Nail Your Novel: Bring Characters to Life. And she has a forthcoming novel—literary again—Life Form Three. Her NailYourNovel.com has been named by ALLi a Top Website for Self-Publishers.
In Strength in Numbers: How ALLi Members Are Changing Minds about Indie Publishing, Morris includes the ironic subhead "Setting the Record Straight," precisely what your faithful Pudding is doing here.
Writing of what she calls "the power of ALLi," Morris tells us:
We can make sure issues are discussed sensibly and in a balanced way. We can show where authors are struggling, even though the world is brave and new. We are all part of a publishing industry, and we need it to thrive so that we can continue to make books and have places to sell them. By speaking up when we see these misconceptions, we can contribute knowledgeably and usefully to its evolution.
Compare that to Ross' comments, written after she and I ran into each other at a joint signing at BEA by those sixself-publishing authors. Never mind that I was also in London with her group as she and Morris and Galley and Lyons and Rooney and Holloway and one of those "Indie Bestsellers," Lyons, launched ALLi's book in April at the London Book Fair. I wrote up the launch of ALLi's Choosing a Self-Publishing Service 2013 as part of my London on the Ether (Part 2) column for The Bookseller in April, as a matter of fact.
The Pudd—like others who work daily to cover and analyze the industry! the industry!—seems damned if he does and damned if he doesn't, no?
It's okay. The Pudding is bearing up. It's the discourse we need to consider.
Let's end this in the fresher air of the sea.
You know the phrase "loose cannon." I'm intrigued to read, in phrases.org.uk's discussion of the term, this line: "As with many nautical phrases, the use of 'loose cannon' owes something to the imagination as no evidence has come to light to indicate that the phrase was used by sailors in the days that ships actually carried cannon."
Authentic to its era or not, we all know that the proverbial "loose cannon" fires off in all directions, slamming unintentional insult and injury at targets undeserving. A loose cannon is precisely what you don't want heading up an organization which has the important chance, as Morris writes, to enable and demonstrate "the diversity of our expertise and talents—both to publishing folk and to readers."
Because Ross didn't egg a side dish. She egged a person.
The proof is in the Pudding.
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