Georganna Hancock of A Writer’s Edge has an interesting post on what’s wrong with self-publishing. She makes some good points, noting that some self-published books lack quality in both writing and book design. Of course, I took exception to her general tone and just had to post a response. You can link to her post here. My response, in full:
“You note that “a lack of professionalism in most aspects marks self-publishing efforts, and this is what traditional publishing usually brings to the effort.” Although you provide the caveat that traditional publishing does not always reflect the professionalism that one should expect from it, I think you do self-published authors a disservice by tossing them in the trash. The technology for print on demand books is improving every day and more writers are becoming savvy to the pros and cons of self-publishing. The Writing Show with Paula B. has interviewed a number of POD authors who enjoy at least a modest success, and websites that review POD books are sprouting up (see, for example, POD Books and More), providing some gatekeeping for the discriminating reader.
Any author who wants to see her work in print and not be embarrassed by it should study closely the wealth of information on self-publishing in general and PODs in particular (for a start, she could visit my blog at http://www.1writeway.wordpress.com). At a minimum, she should retain an editor who can apply the necessary objective eye to her writing. Although chain bookstores usually refuse to place a POD book, small independent bookstores often fill that gap. With some effort (along with fortitude and an obsessive persistence), a self-published author might develop a fan base within her own community. It’s possible and it’s worth the effort of any writer who wants to see her writing in print but who has grown weary and disillusioned by the seemingly never-ending rejections from traditional gatekeepers. Should a dedicated writer never see her words in print just because traditional publishers shoo her away? What if John Irving had given up on The World According to Garp?
What bothers me most about the argument against self-publishing is the assumption that the gatekeepers of traditional publishing know what’s best for readers. They will ensure that we have access to only the best (in their opinion) writing. Unfortunately, what I often see while I stroll through the aisles at my local Borders is the same old, lowest-common-denominator fodder, whether in fiction or non-fiction.
Some of our greatest authors were self-published (Virginia Woolf, Walt Whitman, to name a couple). Would our traditional gatekeepers publish them today? What would American or English literature be like today if Walt Whitman or Virginia Woolf had not had the toughness of ego to publish their writing? For sure, Michael Cunningham would have had no subject for his novel, The Hours.
But thank you for sharing your thoughts, Georganna. Self- vs. traditional publishing is an interesting debate and one that will likely go on for much longer.”
Sigh, that’s enough ranting for today.