Saturday, June 26, 2010

Salon eMag is wrong about self-publishing

In a column in Salon titled "When anyone can be a published author, how do you find something good to read in a brave new self-published world?," Laura Miller wrote, "What happens once the self-publishing revolution really gets going, when all of those previously rejected manuscripts hit the marketplace, en masse, in print and e-book form, swelling the ranks of 99-cent Kindle and iBook offerings by the millions? Is the public prepared to meet the slush pile?

Laura is very wrong to assume that all or most or many self-pubbed books were previously rejected by traditional publishers. Many self-pubbers -- including yours truly -- PREFER to self-publish, but Miller and her teammates and cheerleaders just don't get it.

I've had books published by traditional publishers (including Doubleday) but I'm much happier with the quality, control and income I get when I publish my own work.

It's also FUN.

I enjoy playing with various cover concepts and title variations. I like to choose editors, designers and photographs. I'm weird enough to think it's fun to format the pages inside my books. I realize that this is not fun for everyone, but I do it out of choice, not desperation.

And as for the implied impeccable taste of the gatekeepers who work for the giants in the book business, their fallibility is demonstrated every day. Look no farther than the mountains of formerly-loved non-hits on the buck-a-book tables, or bestseller lists displaying titles allegedly written by (gasp) Sarah Palin or the latest 15-year-old anorexic, abused and soon-to-be detoxed media darling.

Try not to puke when you read this: Simon and Schuster apparently paid $2 million for the autobiography of Lindsay Lohan in 2008 (still not published), and offered a multi-book deal to Hillary Duff. Tell the Pullitzer people to get ready.

I confess that I probably would be willing to read the life story of Amy Winehouse -- but I doubt that she could sit still and concentrate long enough to write more than a few paragraphs.


  1. This article is also wrong about the consumer drowning in a sea of slush, unable to find their way to decent books. The truth is, people that are dismal at writing are most likely even worse at publishing, which means not only will their books look just as dismal beginning with the cover, but they will be near impossible to find in the first place!

    For the purpose of writing an article of my own, I tried to dig out a few of such title on Amazon, but then realized this is inherently difficult. Amazon limits its searches to 100 pages, while I was looking for much deeper than that. How do you retrieve with a search query titles that *would* otherwise come up last in search? I gave up after a couple hours. The deepest of the slush remains irremediably buried, beyond the reach of customers.

  2. Fo Muriel:

    Unfortunately "the deepest of the slush" is within reach -- if you know where to look.

    Here's a prized specimen from the lowest level of the slush pile:

    It's currently #9,119,385 on the Amazon (ahem) Bestseller List. I thougth the list bottomed-out at around 3,000,000.

    Could you imagine being the author of a book that has more than nine million other items selling better than yours?!?!