Jerks & Irks XVII: Shame On You, Sue Grafton!

Recently a fellow author/blogger spotlighted this article on Facebook and everyone weighed in and vented their outrage. If you don’t know her, her work is well-known (I hope you all know I admit this begrudgingly). I won’t list any of her titles here because, at this point, I don’t want anyone to buy her frickin’ books. I don’t have much power, but I can do that much. Also, a good friend of mine just moved to Kentucky, where Sue Grafton is from. Venessa Richardson, if you’re reading this, please find this woman in your spare time and throw shoes at her. Thank you.

If you don’t feel like clicking on the hyperlink above and reading the whole article because doing so would feel wrong and dirty, here are the high points. Well, actually, I guess they’re low points.

  1. In response to the interviewer asking if she had any advice for young writers she had this to say: “Quit worrying about publication and master your craft. If you have a good story to tell and if you write it well, the Universe will come to your aid. Don’t self-publish. That’s as good as admitting you’re too lazy to do the hard work.” First of all, I’m sure the Universe manages to miss more than a few well-told stories. Agents and publishers don’t always get it right, either. That’s life. But now there’s another option and this woman has the nerve to call those who take advantage of it LAZY?  Nevermind that Indie authors have to find their own cover artists and editors and do their own marketing, all while trying their best to keep putting out fresh content. But, yes, we’re lazy for that. Right on, Sue.
  2. The interviewer then questions her advice and mentions that a “growing percentage of each best-seller list [is] being filled out by “indie” writers.” Grafton notes that Indie success stories are the exception, not the rule. Guess what? The same goes for traditionally published authors, lady! Not everyone with a publishing contract becomes the next Ann Rule. Or the next Sue Grafton. (Again, I’m begrudgingly admitting her success.)
  3. In the same response, she goes on to say that Indie novels are often “amateurish,” and that “wannabes” shouldn’t be able to publish a novel without “bothering to read, study, or do the research.” Excuse me, I’m sorry, she must not have Twitter. And if she does, she must not follow any agents. Agents constantly tweet about the dumb mistakes they find in the entries they receive, just as they praise the entries that show promise. Some people read, study, and do research. Some don’t. The Indie authors that don’t will get weeded out by poor reviews and lack of readership. But don’t lump us all in the “lazy, uneducated, wannabe” category. (I was going to call her a nasty expletive here, but I remembered that some people think I’m classy. Let’s keep it that way.)
  4. I compare self-publishing to a student managing to conquer Five Easy Pieces on the piano and then wondering if s/he’s ready to be booked into Carnegie Hall.” This is most unfounded piece of hyperbole I’ve ever laid my eyes on. I refuse to dignify this comment with any further comments.
  5. I believe the interviewer is on the side of Indie authors. This is evidenced in his responses, such as the one quoted above, and this one: “I believe many indie authors resent the stereotype that they haven’t spent years honing their craft.  Thank goodness sales numbers & reviews are so easily accessible now.  Bad books have a way of weeding themselves out of the marketplace.” Thank you Leslea Tash.
  6. The interview switches gears a little and good ‘ole Sue provides this gem of a quote: “I couldn’t write in a public setting. To me that always looks like a form of exhibitionism. (Sorry ‘bout that for those of you who love to toil away in coffee shops…)” She elaborates somewhat to include that she can’t write in strange surroundings. Fine. I can’t pee in strange surroundings. But do I think that those who can pee in public bathrooms are exhibitionists? Do I they’re they all “Look at me! I’m peeing!” No. Because that’s ridiculous. Much like Sue Grafton’s other opinions.




27 thoughts on “Jerks & Irks XVII: Shame On You, Sue Grafton!

  1. I particularly love the comment about peeing in a public restroom 🙂 I have never bought a book by Sue Grafton and I now never will.

    I am grad student in literature and an indie author. I have written for a newspaper and have published an article in a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal. I, like so many indie authors, worked for YEARS on novels before publishing one. The first one I wrote will never be published, because it’s NOT up to quality, and I realize that.

    How DARE Grafton call us lazy????

  2. It’s beyond sad that Sue Grafton felt the need to go out of her way to condemn every single Indie author on the face of the earth as incompetent, rather than offering some genuinely useful advice to young writers.

    As for not writing in public – I’m assuming that’s because she’s such a modest and sensitive artiste. Unlike Herman Melville, Virginia Woolf, George Bernard Shaw, and more recently Harlan Ellison – all writers who’ve worked in public locations, be they libraries, bookstores, museums, or coffee shops. Bloody exhibitionist hacks.

    I hear Virginia even self-published. Guess that proves she wasn’t half the literary genius Sue Grafton is.

    • I love this comment! The snarkiness is unreal!

      I honestly think that she told young writers not to self publish because she didn’t want her last few Alphabet Books to be overshadowed by all the fresh, exciting series that we’re creating. Maybe once her Z is Zertec Poisoning book comes out, she’ll change her tune.

  3. I am not an avid reader, so I have never heard of Sue Grafton. I was shocked at her comments and decided to google her works. Based on wiki it looks like she writes for sesame street. ‘A’ is for another boring title, ‘B’ is because I didn’t wanna write about new characters, ‘C’ is for continuing these paint by numbers titles. If I was passing by these books in a store I would not stop but to ask if she died before writing X, Y, and Z. Seriously she has been writing the same story since 1982, not even the film industry could stretch out the final Harry Potter for that long. I think she should count her blessing that she started writing in an age when color tv

    • was considered fancy, because with 600 tv channels, netflix, xbox, the internet, ipads and kindles, her writing probably wouldn’t see the light of day. But I guess haters gonna hater!

      • Lmao @ “looks like she writes for Sesame Street!” And yes, the interviewer asks her something about how she feels about some critics blasting her for the titles of her books and if she regrets it, so we’re obviously not the first to mock her for it.

        Wow, she really has been writing the series forever, huh?

  4. I’m a Kentucky author- debut pubbed with a small press out of Louisville this year and I’m intent on self-pubbing my other work. I knew of Sue, but haven’t read her and I’m ashamed to say she’s another KY author. If she isn’t educated about the amount of work Indie authors do for themselves, then she should just bite her tongue and keep her book-snobbish opinions to herself. Until she’s walked in a self-pubbed author’s shoes and writes something more original than the alphabet, she really should keep her mouth shut.

  5. Well, Jordanna, membership does have it’s privileges, and she is a member of an elite few whose works have been published and have sold over one hundred million copies. This was an interview, not a personal attack on you or your readers. It would probably give you better insight if you read some of her other interviews, rather than rushing to judgment over an interview on

    That being said, I have to tell you, it makes me worry for indie’s that they are supportive of their peers without any regard to standards. I recently read some excerpts on Goodreads that other indies had given five star reviews, and most of what I read was trash. I mean, I wouldn’t have gotten away with some of those grammatical errors in seventh grade, let alone been published or given five star reviews. And, I’m not talking about dialogue, either. However, indies are willing to forgo basic editing standards in return for Facebook likes and Twitter follows.

    Right now, a lot of independently published books appear to have success because they are marketed peer to peer via social media without regard to content. By the way, most of their book stats are expressed in copies sold (which includes 99 cent and free downloads, as well), rather than income generated, and that’s misleading. In economic terms this is what a friend of mine refers to as a “Literary Ponzi,” which is being perceived as a self publishing boom, when, in fact, it is, rather, an e-reader boom and a self publishing bubble, and when the bubble pops who do you think will be the last one’s standing? The publishers, that’s who! Because for all their faults, publishers by and large insist on quality, and they exercise editorial control so they aren’t marketing garbage 24/7. That may be difficult to hear, however, it is accurate.

    Now, I’m not saying that all indie published works are garbage, but the great majority are just that, and I’m not afraid to say it! Amazon among others are happy to let you use their platform to create self published works because people buy their e-reader devices to consume that product, but in real terms of quality work generated, what we have is a market awash in garbage. So, Sue Grafton is right to encourage people to work at becoming good at what they do before rushing out to self publish.

    Incidentally, you mention authors who have abandoned traditional publishing for e-book publishing and sales that they now do on their own, but, you see, their platform and market has already been established by their publisher, who, by the way, took all of the risk of printing hard copy books, and did all of the marketing, tour scheduling, and promotion. It’s not quite an equitable comparison to include e-book publication against that as there is no out of pocket expense like when you do a print run, or run a PR department charged with promoting those authors. For my money, I am happy to take Ms. Grafton’s wise advice, and hold back from self publishing or seeking an agent until I have a line of products that are well vetted by multiple editors and alpha readers, and that can offer me a reasonable chance for commercial success.

    Remember: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful,” so, I hope you take this in the spirit it was intended, dear friend.

    • First of all, I welcome all dissenting opinions as long as they are not in an attacking manner. Yours is such a respectful opinion. Sue Grafton, on the other hand, could have done better to express her opinions of Indie authors without sounding so venomous. When asked what her advice would be for new authors, she could have cautioned against self-publishing. But she also should have quantified that advice by saying something like “If you absolutely want to self-publish, do your readers the favor of putting out a novel that rivals that of traditionally published works. Hire a professional editor. Hire a cover artist. Etc.” Instead she sounds like a bitter old woman by calling indies lazy. It’s just not an accurate portrayal of all, or even most, indie authors, I’m sorry. And that’s why so many people are taking it as a personal attack.

      As for Indies supporting each other no matter what, I don’t follow that practice. In fact, I just reblogged a post the other day about authors (Indie and Trad) who trade five star reviews for each other. I thought that was an atrocious practice. I would never do that. I don’t even want my friends and family to review my book unless they’ve read it and if they have I would want them to be honest. And like Sue Grafton, I think you’re being unfair in stating that all Indies are “willing to forgo basic editing standards in return for Facebook likes and Twitter follows.” You can’t paint everyone with the same brush.

      I personally hate that Indie works are marketed peer to peer. In fact, I’ve been researching ways of getting my novels out to actual readers and not just other Indie authors. I’m sure I’m not the first one to think of this. More evidence that not all Indies are the same. As for your comment on misleading book sales, these are the fault of people like you and Sue Grafton. If it weren’t for people like glaring down upon us and singing from the mountaintops that all of our novels are crap, maybe more people would download our books without them having to be free. Giveaway promotions counter negative connontations. Once enough people have heard of you, then you can increase your prices, like Russell Blake and others. As long as there are people like me and my readers, insistent to change the minds of people like you, and there are readers out there willing to take a chance, Indie authors are here to stay. Publishers are going to have to adapt or disappear.

      You mention the publisher’s risk of promoting and printing and their out of pocket expense. Just like Sue Grafton, you’re assuming that Indie authors don’t have expenses. When all is said and done, I’ll probably spend more thant a thousand dollars to have my prequel and my novel published. I want a professional book cover. I want a professional editor. I want marketing materials. I want to put out, like I said earlier, work that rivals that of traditionally published authors. To do that, I accept my out of pocket expenses. It may not be dollar for dollar the same as that of a publishing house, but it is definitely proportionate to me and my husband’s incomes.

      Are some indie works crap? Sure. Are some traditionally published novels also crap? Absolutely. But just as there are great traditionally published books, there are enjoyable indie books out there too. I’ve read about 60 books so far this year. The majority of them have been indies. Only one series was prolifically peppered with errors and I made sure to mention that, along with how engrossing the story was, in my review. And it wasn’t a glowing review simply because she was an Indie. And maybe reviews like mine are akin to the rejections that you and Sue Grafton speak of as the “growing pains” necessary to becoming a successful writer. So, as long as we’re growing, who cares how we do it?

  6. Ironically, she talks about ignoring the haters *before* she starts the anti-indie rant. So in a way, she dismisses her own advice before she even gives it.

    I went indie w/o even trying to query an agent. It was a business decision, based on a cost+time vs. benefits analysis. I may try querying a trilogy, but I might not. It’s no longer a requirement, but it’s still an option.

    • Ha! I didn’t even notice haters gonna hate portion! Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

      I also intend on going indie based on research I’ve conducted regarding both options. When I’m finished my FIRST DRAFT, I would have worked on my novel for years. And that doesn’t include the beta readers and editor phase. And all the months I plan to use for rewrites. I’m many things. Lazy isn’t one of them. (Unless you count house work, then I may be guilty of laziness, haha)

  7. Sorry, I have to chime in a bit here … I wouldn’t take Sue Grafton’s remarks too seriously… and keep in mind her age, she is in her 70s. It was true back in the day that indie publishing had a bad name, “vanity presses” they were called. I do think that the nature of publishing is changing, and has changed, and perhaps Ms. Grafton is not up on all the new fangled ways. Even now I know many writers who don’t want to publish their work in online journals–which I find ridiculous. After all most of the literary journals have very small distribution, so your work will only get read by a handful of people, whereas online your work is available to so many more readers.

    There are all kinds of indie presses too–from small boutique presses that are not the Big New York publishing houses, to hybrid companies that assist you to publish your work, to self-publishing presses through a platform like Lulu or Amazon. Certainly there have been successes from people who work hard at their craft and hone their skills and are willing to do all the PR and marketing necessary to sell some books… and there have been many many complete bombs from authors who just wanted something in print. Regardless, there is still a stigma about self publishing, and if you go that route, expect some will automatically, fair or not, judge your work by the imprint.

    Bottom line is I don’t think Grafton’s advice is bad (hone your craft regardless of your publication route is good advice) but perhaps she is a little behind the times.

    Finally, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I am a fan of Grafton’s work. Her early books were more simple, but over the years her characters have developed into fully layered complexly rendered people who have become like old friends to me, and her story lines have gotten more intricate as well.

    MY advice….. keep writing, keep reading, and success will come with the hard work you invest in yourself!

    • Thanks for your comment! I agree with her advice also, just not her delivery. Very venomous and condescending. I know she’s old. I know there will always be a stigma, even if it starts to dissipate it will always be there. I guess her interview was simply the first I came across that was just so blatantly rude about it. I know plenty of fellow author/bloggers that want to trad-pub for their own reasons, but I’ve never seen anyone ”put down” the option of self publishing so vehemently. Oh well. I’m confident in my research and my own writing journey. Sue can bite me at this point.

      As for her books, I recall picking up one of the early ones in a bookstore and not being impressed by the blurb. You yourself said her books were simple in the beginning. Yet she was still published. And then she grew better? Looks like her own precious process didn’t really work and she simply got lucky, huh?

      • Apparently Sue has gotten enough flak that she is backpedaling furiously now. There’s a follow-up to the first interview in which she pretty much pleads being ignorant of modern publishing realities and also having no clue when it comes to contemporary ebook technology.

        It’s entirely possible that she’s just a sweet little old lady who writes murder mysteries and doesn’t pay any attention to the world around her. Being as successful as she is, she could have a substantial entourage to handle all the yucky business details for her so that she can just sit in a sunny window seat and do nothing but write. We lazy indie writers should be so lucky.

        Here’s a link to the follow-up:

      • Thanks Lynn! I actually saw a blog post earlier via twitter that said she admitted ignorance. I don’t entirely buy it, but I guys there could be an INKLING of truth to it…

  8. Wow! This has got to be the most frustrating interview that I’ve read about in a long time. I am going to look for an agent for my books, but I have no problem with indie writers. In fact, it’s equally as tough to be an indie writer because you don’t have the benefit of someone reviewing your work and slicing out the dumb parts. Sue has allowed her success to make her…ummm stupid…is that harsh? Well perhaps she shouldn’t refer to indie writers as lazy.

    • Yeah, stupid ass pretty much sums it up. Thank you for being a person who intends to trad-pub and still understanding that self-pubbing is simply another option, not a short cut. People choose different routes for different reasons.

      • Self publishing is a great option for those who are ready. I think it is the people who use it as “the easy way” who are not really ready who give it a bad name. It’s a shame really

      • Absolutely! I tell everyone I can that if they’re going to go the self-publishing route then they have to put just as much traditional effort into their work. That means rewrites, research, PROFESSIONAL EDITORS, cover artists, etc. I know the others eventually get weeded out, but each time one of them goes down, they bring our progress down with them. It is a shame.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s