Not too long ago, self-published author M.R. Mathias went on quite a tirade at fantasy-faction.com about how his self-promotional forum post should not have been moved from the general books forum into the self-published/small press forum.
You can read the whole thing from Fantasy Faction’s perspective here: “The Man Who Thought He Was King.”
Now, I don’t bring this up to badmouth Mathias. I don’t know the guy, nor have I ever read his books. I followed him on Twitter until just recently, but never really interacted with him. So what I’m saying, I’m saying based entirely on the forum posts he left and the Tweets I’ve since gone back and read.
In a nutshell, Mathias argues that he’s not a self-published author because he uses pen-names, and “publishes” the work using his real name. These days, self-published authors are their own publishers. We’re our own marketing departments. Our own PR reps. We’re everything. We do in fact act as publishers—and everything else—in addition to being authors.
So Mathias isn’t wrong there. From a certain point of view.
The issue with Mathias here is that he’s being a complete and total dickbag. As Chuck Wendig puts it, he’s a screeching moonbat. He’s getting a lot of press, and I hope for his own sake that he’s selling a lot of books for it.
But here’s my take on the whole matter: you’re only as good as your name. Even in a day and age of pseudonyms and anonymous avatars, your name matters. People remember your name, and more than that, they remember you if you’re a screeching moonbat dickbag. You can hide behind fake names and faulty logic for a while…but as that one guy said a while back, truth will out.
So let this be a lesson to you, self-published and indie authors. Learn from this. Learn from M.R. Mathias. Know that there is only one rule of being a self-published author. (And no, it’s not write write write, though that help help helps.)
The number one rule of being a self-published author is simple: don’t be a dick.
If you learn that, live it, practice it, you’ll find readers. You’ll find more than readers. You’ll find fans. No, you might not make the big bursts of sales these kinds of controversies stir up, but you’ll make up for that in having a loyal fan-base that can support you in most, if not all, of your future endeavors.
Of all the authors I follow on Twitter, the ones whose work I’ll go back to over and over are the ones who actually respond and have conversations. They’re the Myke Coles, the John Scalzis, the Chuck Wendigs, and the Tim Pratts. They’re the Stacia Kanes and the Tobias Buckells. They’re the ones who will get my money.
And you know why? Because they’re not dicks.