Check your Ego at the Door


In the last few days various highly inflammatory articles across the internet have emerged voicing differing opinions regarding the labelling of writers as either independent or professional – whatever that means, together with taking a professional approach to writing.

When certain commentators delivered attacks accusing independent writers of being lazy and unprofessional, when they were quite rightly challenged for making such derogatory statements, they immediately went on the offensive, believing that attack is always the best form of defence.

Why, what is the point?

How a writer chooses to publish their work is up to them. If they are taken up by a publishing house – fine. If not, going it alone is also fine. Choosing to be independent doesn’t mean you are any less professional in your approach if you are serious about your writing. To say that the whole sorry saga has done more to polarise the entire writing community in recent days is an understatement.

On one side of the argument sit those who firmly believe that the only way to produce a worthwhile book requires it first be written by a known writer before being  processed by what one article’s author refers to as professional editors and gatekeepers. In the other camp sit those who prefer to go it alone, some employing an editor, some not.

While deliberately choosing not to be drawn into the argument, to say the least I have been bemused when reading the often heated debate. It is plain to see that both sides are entrenched in their personal beliefs regarding professionalism. Whose argument is right? Whose is wrong? It seems to me there are plusses and minuses on both sides.

What all participants in the argument fail to appreciate is that lambasting the opposition serves no useful purpose other than to feed bruised egos. In this particular war of words there are no clear winners. Both sides believe they are in the right. While those involved in the argument continue to name call or throw insults at each other, in the real world the rest of us are far too busy keeping our heads down writing.

Whether or not your work was made available to the reading public via a known publisher, or by using one of the many software packages available to independent writers, doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, all that really matters is how many readers buy a copy of your work.

Whether or not you consider yourself to be a professional in the context of the argument is also irrelevant. If your only reason for entering the world of the written word was to artificially raise your own standing within your social set by boasting at dinner parties that you are a professional writer, editor or publisher – get out now.

In the last couple of days, two so-called professional writers, Stephen Leather, a successful thriller writer, and the established crime writer R.J Ellory, both employed by a known publishing house, have been outed for a particular form of low self-promotion known as sock puppeting. It involves writing glowing reviews of your own work while at the same time writing derogatory ones involving your opposition using aliases on various internet social media sites and book outlets. If that is an example of what some consider being a professional writer is all about, I want no part of it.

If like me your only goal in life is to write and be read, whatever label people use when talking about you doesn’t matter. What does, is avoiding these pointless angry debates.

In the world of the written word there is no room for the social climber plagued with an enormous ego, or jealousy. In the context of the current angry debate, the whole argument over whether or not a writer is a professional is a complete nonsense.

To clarify the word in the context of literature, a professional writer is quite simply someone who is paid royalties on the sale of their books.

Here endeth the lesson.

  1. Avatar of MystiParker
    MystiParker says

    I hate to see any division among us. And I have no ego, though I could probably use more. My low self-esteem has no bottom, it seems. Yet, if it takes stepping on people and resorting to such low measures as the authors you mentioned in order for me to “make it”, then I’ll just hang out in my pit a while longer, until I can climb up by my writing merits alone.

    1. Avatar of Jack Eason
      Jack Eason says

      In recent weeks, the notion of professionalism in the world of writing degenerated into nothing more than a vulgar shouting match, no matter which side of the argument people viewed professionalism from. Here’s hoping it has now ended and that commonsense and tolerance prevails Mysti.

  2. Avatar of Amelia Curzon
    Amelia Curzon says

    I have read a lot of these articles too, and cannot see any point in diving into the scrum.

    Anyone who takes their writing seriously, as opposed to taking themselves seriously, will continue regardless of the sniping.

    As for those you mention who have boosted their sales and reputation by fake reviews and spitting on the competition, I consider them, as I would any person from any walk of life using such deplorable tactics – undeserving of the accolade ‘professional’. There are certainly no professional ethics involved here.

    I totally agree with your penultimate paragraph, Jack. By defining themselves as professionals, is the suggestion here that the rest us are amateurs? The common or garden difference between amateur and professional in any context is the latter is usually paid. By that token I would assume we are all professionals.

    1. Avatar of Jack Eason
      Jack Eason says

      Amelia, the vicious argument which did nothing but attempt to divide and conquer has been nothing more than an exercise initiated by a few pretentious people who firmly believe their own opinions are the truth.

      Thank goodness the vast majority within the world of writers aren’t like that. 🙂

  3. Avatar of Derek Haines
    Derek Haines says

    Back in my days in sales Jack, there was an expression. It went along the lines that if you lowered yourself to ‘slag off’ your competitors, you were 99% towards losing the sale.

    I think this still holds true.

    1. Avatar of Jack Eason
      Jack Eason says

      That would certainly apply to some of the protagonists in the argument Derek 🙂

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