The One and Only Lesson Self-Published Authors Can Learn From M.R. Mathias

Not too long ago, self-published author M.R. Mathias went on quite a tirade at 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.

By B.J. Keeton

B.J. KEETON is a writer, teacher, and runner. When he isn't trying to think of a way to trick Fox into putting Firefly back on the air, he is either writing science fiction, watching an obscene amount of genre television, or looking for new ways to integrate fitness into his geektastic lifestyle. He is also the author of BIRTHRIGHT and co-author of NIMBUS. Both books are available for Amazon Kindle.


  1. Just posted this on Chuck Wendig’s blog; reposting here:

    @Stan: “I say we give this guy a break — unless he acts like this all the time ”

    He does. I had a run-in with him in a closed writing group about 7-8 months ago. It was a question posed about the effectiveness of hashtags; he jumped in and said all of his 17k followers loved his tweets (which use hashtags liberally, like “#check #out #my #bestselling #fantasy”). I asked, quite innocently, something along the lines of “how can you be sure they all do, or are they just ignoring the message and not bothering to unfollow?” not really knowing who the guy was. I thought it was a valid question (because honestly I have no idea if all – or any – of my followers love my tweets or just ignore them…does anyone?)

    His response started with “Listen ass hole” and went downhill from there. (His space between the words, not mine.) And he viciously went back and forth with others who chimed in, constantly throwing out how many books he sold, bestseller lists, etc.

    No, this most certainly wasn’t an isolated incident, but this was certainly his most public.


    1. I would only hope that was isolated, but after this…

      I understand being proud. Hell, I’d be proud. I’m an egotist. I have a Google Alert set up for my own name, for goodness sake. But every copy of a book or short story I’ve sold, I’m legitimately grateful for. And if I could shake all their hands, I would. To pay people back by being this full of rage and bile…I just don’t get it.

  2. Mark Twain was a slaver. I suppose you wouldn’t read anything he wrote because he was dick? lmao I never lied once. Search M. R. Mathias at Amazon, B&N, iStore, SonyReaderStore, Goodreads, Wattpad. What you will find is a whole lot of books with a whole lot of stars.

    I can be a dick because my books have sold themselves into the Amazon bestseller Charts. What I or you say about them wont change the words I wrote or how good they are. Just ask one of the nearing 175k people who have read a M.R.Mathias book. thats all you have to do.

    See ya in the Epic Fantasy top 100, when you get there.

    1. I’m not saying you lied. I’m saying you’re playing semantics and being a dick about it.

      And Mark Twain was a dick. I have no argument with that. The thing is, though, he was a funny dick when he was a dick. You’re just being belligerent. Which is cool, honestly. But you’re doing it to the people who you want to promote and read your book. It’s a big counter-intuitive.

      Some people like the whole “I’m a dickity dickbag” schtick. They get off on it. I don’t. Most people don’t. And saying that you have the right to be a dick because you’ve sold 175k books is absurd. That’s the worst kind of entitlement. They didn’t //have// to buy your book. They did, and you repay them how? By being their friend? By making them want to read? No! By telling them that you actually deserve their hard-earned money more than they do. That’s no way to make fans, man. It’s a way to make money, maybe, in the short term, but it’s awfully hard to make a career out of it.

      For every George Carlin/Andrew Dice Clay-wannabe out there, there are a dozen Dmitri Martins or Patton Oswalts–genuinely nice people who have fans and careers because they’re fan worthy. Not because they’re a train-wreck people watch out of morbid curiosity.

      If anything, your sales numbers should make you humble that so many people care about what you have to say. Not the other way around.

      I do wish you the best, Mr. Mathias. I do. I want you to make oodles of money off your books, the same way as I want to make oodles off mine. But I want people to like me when they see my name online. I want them to see an interview or a new book and be excited to see what I have to say. I don’t want them to cringe and think, “I wonder what the raging dickbag does to embarass himself today.”

  3. Great article & advice in general. I’d like to think most people would never have the problem to consciously try to not be a smbdb (screeching moon bat….).

    i gave the link a read as well and wow does that guy have an ego on him. arrogance is not something i admire…

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