So maybe I’m psychic. This morning in my Google Reader, I found a post from The Writer’s Helper describing the Self Publisher’s Place (click here to read the post). Of course I had to jump over and check out the website (Self Publishers Place). It’s a fledging site with the lofty goal of promoting and selling all self-published works listed on their site. They provide space for the writer to upload a book cover, a summary, and a link to the writer’s personal web page. They are investigating for-fee web hosting services to provide to writers who don’t have their own personal web site, and they also provide a forum for the usual community-building exercises. I plan to register and hang around the site and see how it goes. I’m also excited that there’s a website dedicated to self-publishing so I don’t have to keep surfing for info.
I caught a glimpse of a book reviewer in one of the forums and had an epiphany of sorts. Book reviews can often make or break an author’s reputation; but to be reviewed at all is a kind of acceptance into the publishing world. If an author’s book isn’t reviewed, then does that book exist?
But book reviews also help to filter through the good, the bad, and the ugly in books. I often rely on reviews to help me decide whether or not to purchase a book, although I do so gingerly since reviewers aren’t always an objective bunch. More reviews of self-published books could raise their level of legitimacy in the eyes of the reading public, as well as give that public a greater breath and depth of writing to choose from. One thing that truly annoys me with the current state of publishing is that one new book from one author will take up costly space in several magazines and newspapers, at the expense of any other author with a new book. For example, several weeks ago, I read a New York Times article about a certain author and his latest novel in the Sunday Arts and Leisure section. Then, the following week I believe, the novel was reviewed in the New York Times book section. Shortly after that, it was reviewed in the New York Review of Books, and somewhere amongst all this reviewing, the author was interviewed on Terry Gross’s Fresh Air. Were there no other new novels published around this time?
On the flip side, Rachel Donadio, in her essay in this Sunday’s New York Times (“You’re an Author? Me Too!”), describes one of the short-comings of self-publishing: that today there are more books being published than there are readers to read them. Rather than bemoan this “collective graphomania,” Donadio remarks that among all the noise, there is music. Again, I think that’s where book reviewers could really help, if they can stand the noise.
Of course, the greater challenge to print media, regardless of whether it’s from tried and true publishing houses or upstart PODs, comes from the ubiquitous, big-screen TV. I know I did a lot more reading before I got cable.