Friday, December 18, 2015

The Change I Want to See Next in Publishing

by Traci Tyne Hilton @TraciTyneHilton

The Change I Want to See Next in Publishing
Do you ever watch Antiques Roadshow? I loved it so much when I was younger I almost went into antiques and appraisals instead of writing.

One thing I saw over and over again was a great respect, love, and appreciation for outsider art. defines outsider art as “art produced by untutored artists working by themselves and for themselves.”

In a Huffington Post article,10 Outsider And Self-Taught Artists Who Use Art To Create Their Own Worlds, Priscilla Frank says:

“While each outsider artist works in a radically different mode, all outsider artists create art that seemingly emerges outside of time, space and history, at least outside the dimensions occupied by most humans.”

Outsider Art is not the work of trained people.
Outsider Art is not the work of trained people. They do not have the foundation of study behind their work that bolsters it, strengthens it, and makes it feel solid and trustworthy. In this way, it challenges the viewer. The work of an Outsider Artist asks the person who views it to judge it entirely on what is before them, and to put aside all of their preconceived notions.

Outsider literary art has always existed, but with the rise of our internet-borg-mind, outsider literary artists have found a way to distribute their work to the world at large.

However, right now, unlike the appraisers on the Antiques Roadshow, the literary world condemns outsider works of literature.

Terms like slush pile are thrown around
as a reason for self publishing.
Terms like slushpile are thrown around with the assumption that every self-publisher has deluded themselves into believing that their books would have gotten contracts. 

In reality, most self publishers don’t believe they would have gotten contracts. Those who come to self-publishing from the traditional world do so because they know writers are many and contracts are few. The others, the outsiders, often self publish because of their distance from the traditional publishing world. They don't know the process to try for a contract, and frequently don’t care.

Outsider artists are often thought of as deluded primitive geniuses—they are thought to believe that their work is the same as that of traditionally trained artists. Their delusion is seen as part of their mystique, and their work is valued, in part, because of the creators lack of touch with reality.

There are self publishers like that, as well. They think that they have a traditional polish when in reality they have that primitive genius that is more compelling than it would have been if the artist had been broken to the saddle.

I read anything, if the concept moves me. Some of these outsider titles, the unbroken writers, if you will, have been the most satisfying and most literary reads. They are often more challenging than formula, genre work, even if the production quality wasn’t perfect.

Someday when the dust has settled from the Amazonification of the publishing world, I hope to see outsider literature receiving the Antiques Roadshow treatment. People studying it, collecting it, loving it, and talking about it with respect. Because all art deserves respect, and all artists contribute to the culture of our country.


Traci Tyne Hilton is the author of The Plain Jane Mysteries, The Mitzy Neuhaus Mysteries and the Tillgiven Romantic Mysteries. Traci has a degree in history from Portland State University and still lives in the rainiest part of the Pacific Northwest with her husband the mandolin playing funeral director, two busy kids, and their dogs, Dr. Watson and Archie Goodwin.

More of Traci’s work can be found at


  1. At this year's ACFW conference, there was a good panel on indie publishing. Agents like seeing their clients go hybrid. I think the change is beginning.

    1. I enjoyed that panel as well! (I was on it.) :) I hope the change is beginning, but I think we are a ways away from people seeing non-polished works as books worthy of respect.

  2. Great points, Traci. I hadn't thought of approaching indie works as "outsider art" before. Wonderful insight!

    1. Thanks! As in all art, there will be people who never come around to an appreciation of any given style, and that's okay too. The pool of people passionate about outsider art is smaller than that of popular art, but I hope to see literature develop an audience that can appreciate work that doesn't look or feel "normal."

  3. "Outsider art" cannot be an excuse for poor quality, and I think there is value to gatekeepers (ones who love the art they serve, not the $). But otherwise I agree. You do not have to jump through the hoops to write and publish excellence. Or draw, or paint, or do pottery, or learn and perform music...all with excellence. I like the idea of "outsider art." It feels American, somehow.

    1. I feel like there is a disconnect between what outsider art is and what you are saying. It is art created entirely outside of the system and isn't subject to any gatekeepers and is specifically about the experience of "unlearned" art. Anyway, it's something I look forward to seeing embraced by connoisseurs of that kind of thing, in the future of literature.