What’s the point of a qualification?
If anyone had asked me that question before today, I would probably have answered something along the lines of it being a combination of a) proof for an employer either that you already have the knowledge and skills needed to do their job, or that you’re generally bright enough to pick them up; and b) a sort of pat on the back to yourself for spending time and energy learning something new. It can be both of those things, or one or the other, and either is fine. But basically, that’s what it’s all about.
That was until today. Because today I heard about the University of Central Lancashire’s new MA in – wait for it – self-publishing.
Now I’m not going to come over all Michael Gove here. If someone wants to do a doctorate in the evolution of the daleks, or the plot structure of Hollyoaks, or how that fairly thin woman without luggage managed to take up the entire corridor all the way between the Jubilee and Bakerloo lines at Baker Street this morning, that’s fine with me. Hell, my degree was in Egyptology, so you’re not going to find me throwing stones in that particular glass house. All of these topics come under the general heading of “self-fulfillment” in my book, and if you can afford the time and money, why not? Who knows, you might even stumble across a shiny new logarithm to prevent tube station corridor-hogging by skinny women in leggings.
But self-publishing? Really?
I mean, presumably the way you demonstrate you’re up to the requirements of the course is – I don’t know – to publish something? And if you’ve gone to the trouble of writing that something, wouldn’t getting it out there for the world to see be reward enough? Wouldn’t wanting people to read the thing that you’ve pored over and sweated over and drained your very lifeblood into be kind of the most important thing? And wouldn’t the best possible indicator of how well you’ve done the job be, not a certificate and a photo of you wearing a silly cap, but the number of copies you sell?
As for impressing a potential employer… Imagine the conversation – sorry, monologue:
“Well when I’d finished writing The Amazing Adventures of Millicent Muckraker, I naturally considered self-publishing. So I took myself out for a coffee, and I was really impressed with my vision for the book. I was nice enough too, and I obviously had my best interests at heart… But when it came down to it, I just wasn’t happy with my credentials. Anyway, a year later, I got in touch with myself again and this time I had this great qualification – oh yes, from the University of Central Lancashire – and I thought: yes, this is the self-publisher for me!”
And before people tell me I’m underestimating the new market in assisted self-publishing, that’s not how this course is selling itself. There’s no mention of “assisted” in the title; no reference to dealing with authors who refuse to have their work edited, or to accept that they might not meet with the success of Fifty Shades of Grey. Needless to say, that doesn’t mean the marketing team haven’t mentioned E.L. James in the blurb, for they have, the not-so-subtle implication being that fame and riches await those prepared to shell out a little upfront investment in the other UCL. After all, says course leader Debbie Williams, gamely attempting to maximise her market, “Everyone has a book in them.”
A course in self-publishing I can get behind. Everyone I’ve spoken to who has any experience in it says it’s bloody hard work, and giving people the skills to do it well seems a perfectly legitimate endeavour. But the idea of self-publishing as an end in itself? An MA – a post-graduate degree, no less – not because you’ve managed to produce anything worth reading, but because you’ve got something, anything, published on Amazon? That seems a pretty hollow enterprise to me.
Let me know what you think! Am I being narrow-minded? Perhaps there’s nothing wrong with a self-publisher getting an extra couple of letters she’ll never use after her name when she’ll be doing all the work anyway? Add your comments below…