On self publishing

A friend recently sent me this article from the New York Times about self publishing. For the sake of brevity, I’m not going to make a distinction between self publishers, “vanity presses,” “subsidiary publishers,” etc. When I refer to self publishing, I’m referring to any and all publishing in which the author, not the publisher, foots all or most of the bill.

I provide editorial services to a self-publisher, and working within self publishing has changed my opinion of it quite a bit. Self publishing gets a bad rap because, unfortunately, many authors cut a lot of corners on the way to self-publication, resulting in books that are cumbersome to read or fraught with errors. So I used to think self publishing was for “those people” who had manuscripts that no one wanted to touch — and with good reason.

As an editor, I now see far more titles than I ever did as a mere reader–and there’s some good stuff out there. In this time of declining interest in reading the printed word, I’m astounded by how many people are still writing books. The thought of all these books without potential readers stresses me out–as does the thought of thousands of writers never finding an audience at all.

A friend of mine recently asked, “Why do we call filmmakers and musicians who pay to produce their own work ‘independent,’ but call writers who do the same ‘vanity’ publishers?”

Yes, there are a lot of filmmakers, musicians, and writers self producing work that really isn’t much good to begin with. But there are also a lot of them who are fed up with the politics of traditional publishing or can’t get a foot in the door for all sorts of reasons besides the quality of their actual work. Whereas I used to see self publishing as something one “resorted” to if other types of publishing weren’t an option, now I see it as something writers do when they feel that getting their story out there is important enough to put a price on. And there’s nothing wrong with that.