Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Are You Legit?

By Andrew E. Kaufman, author of psychological thrillers

So lets say you decide to write a book.

You’ve always been a fan of the things, had a few ideas swimming around in your head, and have wanted to take a stab at it for as long as you could remember. Now, here you are, finally connecting with the courage needed to commit those hungry fingers to keyboard, passion to dream.

After X amount of time, your novel is finished, and then, BAM! Away you go, uploading your book to the KDP platform, ready to take on the world and be the next Nora Roberts or Stephen King or whoever you think is the bomb.

First question: are you an author?

Well, technically speaking, yes, because you’ve:

A. Completed a novel.
B. Published it.
C. Can call yourself whatever the hell you want.

And really, in this era of self-publishing, that’s how a lot of established authors got their start (myself included).

Next question: are you a legitimate author?

Here’s where it gets a little murky. Back in the day, it was all so black and white, the gold standard of legitimacy being whether or not an author had a publisher. But since authors can now do that for themselves (and not be called hacks), those lines have become blurred, if not completely tossed out the window.

That begs the question: what makes an author legitimate? Admittedly, in this era of self-publishing, the question feels a bit circular, trying to answer it much like nailing Jell-O to a tree.

But just for heck’s sake, let’s give it a shot, anyway.

Does selling a lot of books make you legitimate? Well, it might, but I’ve seen some horrendously edited, grammatical monstrosities reach the top tier of the bestsellers lists. Do we get to pull those authors’ Legit Cards based solely on that? In theory, I suppose we could, but since the readers have already spoken (and since, really, the market is driven by sales), you might find some resistance from the masses who have purchased those books.

Which brings us to the next demarcation: What about writing a good book? Nope, have to shoot that one down straight away, because good is a matter left to subjectivity, and unlike sales, there’s no unit of measurement to make a determination (Okay, there are ratings and reviews, but...well, never mind).

How about a level of commitment to your craft, or even better, your passion? Again, same as above: no quantifiable way to judge that. Except… there was the whole mood ring thing, but that blew up years ago, after it was exposed as a big thermochromic, flim-flam operation (oh gawd, did I just terribly date myself.)

On my quest for a more concrete answer (and again, just for kicks) I decided to ask The Google, which in turn, told me to ask The Webster, which in turn told me this:

Legitimacy: conforming to recognized principles or accepted rules and standards.

So there you have it, defined by Webster (the accepted authority on this sort of thing). As authors, and with respect to legitimacy, we are all hereby, created equal—that is, so long as we conform to recognized principals or accepted rules and standards. What are those? I suppose that’s a topic for another post.

As for me, I’ve taken a semi-praiseworthy crack at it. Anybody else want to give it a whirl?

In the meantime, while we wait for the comments to flood in, I've called on good buddy, MC, to  provide his spin on this weighty matter.

So without further ado, for your entertainment... It's Hammer Time! (Word).

Take it away MC!


  1. Interesting post!

    Maybe "legitimate" isn't the word we're looking for. It's more about amateur vs. professional, and even that isn't a straight divide but more of a continuum. When does an author pass over from the amateur to the professional side? It's probably a combination of all the things we've talked about here:

    Writing becomes a passion, something you have to do.

    The rules and practices of writing are important to you and you work to constantly improve your craft and pay others (editors, proofreaders, story consultants) to help you.

    Readers come to value, praise, and purchase your work.

  2. Great article, Drew, and thoughtful answers, Mr. Khalifa and Ms. Sellers. If selling tons of books and an overflowing bank account are criteria for legitimacy, you can scratch me from the list. If putting out the words, pasting butt to chair, slaving over revisions, learning craft, and compiling rejections are what counts, well, I guess I qualify. All we can do is best we can in our circumstances to follow our passion.

  3. I kind of like being an illegitimate rebel. I've never gotten to be one before.

  4. A legit author, in my view, is someone who not only uses all the right words, but uses them in the right order.


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