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Feeling Nostalgic? The archives > Self Publication

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message 1: by Janice (new)

Janice (jamasc) It seems to me that there is a plethora of poor quality books on the market.

It used to be that publishing houses had high standards and new authors had a hard time finding a publisher. Now, they can self publish.

Do you think that self publication is part of the reason there are so many poor quality books out there? Or have the publishing houses lowered their standards? Perhaps you have a different perspective. Maybe you think the quality of available books is acceptable.


message 2: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments I don't think the rise of self-publication has dramatically increased the number of poor quality books that I come across; the self-published books may be out there in greater quantity, but they're not making it onto bookstore or library shelves.
New authors still do have a hard time finding a publisher. They can self-publish but then they also have to self-promote.
Sure, there are plenty of books and genres for me to bash, but I do think there are still books of available; certainly there are more good books out there than I could ever hope to read.


message 3: by janine (last edited Feb 15, 2011 01:00PM) (new)

janine | 7715 comments some of the many poor books on the market make huge bestsellers. bestsellers that will earn publishers money to invest in books that are of a better quality, but may be less popular. i wouldn't worry about self-published books overcrowding the market. as sarah says, the vast majority of those don't find their way to the bookstore or library.


message 4: by Lobstergirl, el principe (last edited Feb 15, 2011 03:15PM) (new)

Lobstergirl | 24150 comments Mod
I have to agree with Janice. Self-published books grow like fungus - perhaps not making it into brick and mortar bookstores, or many of them onto library shelves, but they are all over Amazon. Yes, I do think self publication is part of the reason, though not all the reason, there are so many bad books out there.

I answer many questions on the neverending quiz, and inevitably the authors of these self-published works will write questions about themselves and their works, which few have read except they.

Certainly there are quality works that can't find publishers (I assume), but when you read passages from some of these self published books you just think, how can anyone be so lacking in self awareness, to not realize how shitty a writer they are? Sometimes the books aren't even spellchecked, or proofread, or copyedited for punctuation. It's just sad.


message 5: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca White (rebecca_white) | 1028 comments I'm changing the subject here a little, but is it ever profitable, or is it always just a vanity thing? Anybody know?


message 6: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24150 comments Mod
I can't imagine it's ever profitable. Unless your book gets readers through word of mouth/blogging, and possibly gets picked up by a publisher, which seems to happen every once in a rare while. I saw a book like this in Borders a few months ago on the new releases table. Can't remember what it was.


message 7: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments I think there are people who can make it work. There are a couple of science fiction authors on here who seem to have navigated the line between spam and self-promotion well. Their books are discussed in groups (and seem to hold up well), they make themselves available for q & a, etc. I think it is possible for a good author and a good book to get ignored by the publishing industry. I haven't read many, but I do think it's possible.
I mean, what does profitable mean for a fiction writer anyhow? I don't know many who live on their royalties alone. All but a handful of very popular and populist writers supplement with other careers.


message 8: by Aynge (new)

Aynge (ayngemac) | 1202 comments I haven't run across many self-published books in bookstores or libraries. I've seen a couple on sale tables, but they weren't interesting to me so I didn't buy them.

If I wrote a cookbook, I'd probably self-publish. It just seems a lot easier to do it myself.


message 9: by Kevin (new)

Kevin  (ksprink) | 11469 comments oops, this thread is not what i thought it was about. the title sounded saucy....


message 10: by Terri (new)

Terri R | 17 comments I think the paradigm that self-published books are poor quality, unprofessional and self-indulgent is outdated. The fact that traditional publishing houses have grown more narrow in the works they publish is leaving very little room for new ideas and, subsequently, new authors. In fact, a number of established authors are leaving houses to self-publish and I have seen some excellent works surface from newly emerging self-published authors.

I have attached a link to a very interesting article by Alisa Valdes about why she is moving to self-publishing; some of the commentary is illuminating, as well, (particularly the responses from Bob Mayer and Alisa to a comment I posted--- not intending to make this about me). If you read the article I'd love to hear reactions.

http://publishingperspectives.com/201...


message 11: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24150 comments Mod
It's definitely true that there are exceptions. Vast images of dreck were filling my mind as I posted my criticism, but on the other hand there are authors (how many, I don't know) like Edward R. Tufte, who has been self-publishing the most extraordinary looking, polished, professional, beautiful books on graphics for years. He has a cult following and his books sit on best of the decade, best of the century lists, and such. From his website:

The history and details of my self-publishing are described at length in the new introduction to the second edition of The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.

My general advice about self-publishing is do it only (1) if the content of your work clearly demands self-publishing and (2) after you have published some books with real publishers.

Very very few books make significant money for the authors. Most self-publishers and indeed most authors wind up with a basement filled with mildewing books.

I did no market analysis in deciding to self-publish; such an analysis could only distort and corrupt the heart of the work, which is to make the best and most wonderful books possible. Control of the design and production of my books is part of my self-expression.



message 12: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24150 comments Mod
Interesting Terri that both the authors you and I linked to were already published. I guess most of the dreck is coming from the not already published.


message 13: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24150 comments Mod
Also when I hear authors say "covers are easy - I just have to go to istockphoto and learn Photoshop" I shudder. Most of these covers are ghastly. And they all look alike. None of them make me want to read the book. One of the services established publishing houses have, if they choose to use it (many don't), is graphic designers, people who know how to make a good looking cover. Of course there's nothing to stop a self-published author from doing a good looking cover with original art either, except price.


message 14: by Terri (new)

Terri R | 17 comments LG,
I agree with you on the cover issue, but there are so many independent graphic designers that a self-published author can manage a professional design, if they have the resources to pay for one.

I still feel strongly with what I said in my post to Alisa which is essentially that both authors and consumers would benefit from a an established process for self-published authors to gain a professional, unbiased review to highlight new talent or I fear we will lose some truly new and creative voices.

Thanks for the response back LG---much appreciated.


message 15: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments I think it's way more accepted to be DIY in music than in publishing.


message 16: by Jim (new)

Jim | 6485 comments Welcome to TC K.I..


message 17: by Michael (new)

Michael Lobstergirl wrote: "Certainly there are quality works that can't find publishers (I assume), but when you read passages from some of these self published books you just think, how can anyone be so lacking in self awareness, to not realize how shitty a writer they are? Sometimes the books aren't even spellchecked, or proofread, or copyedited for punctuation. It's just sad."

I blame part of this on the delusional thoughts some people have that simply having written a short story means that they're a "writer", and also on some writing groups. I joined a writing group last October and we briefly introduced ourselves at the beginning of our first meeting and one woman introduces herself and lists her lengthy short story publishing history (which was not only a little pretentious, but boring). We all exchanged e-mail addresses and the next day we get an e-mail from her asking for critiques on her most recent short story. I write back and agree and she sends me a Word file. I read it and thought it was interesting enough, but I had some questions so I made my comments in the doc and sent it back to her and I write in my e-mail that I liked her story a lot but I had some questions and I hoped she wouldn't interpret anything I said in my comments as negative. I got a e-mail back from her in less than five minutes saying that she has no interest in reading negative feedback. She tells me she's only interested in positive reinforcement and so she won't read my comments. She completely ignored the fact that I told her I liked her story and was totally unable to even *think* I may have said something negative. I didn't go back to the group. I think a lot of people join writing groups, thinking they're "writers", and they don't know how to give, or receive, constructive feedback on their work and, in the case of this woman, have no interest whatsoever in contructive feedback. Those groups become useless beyond being circle jerks to stroke the untalented egos of lazy wannabe writers which is how I think a lot of shitty stuff gets self-published. Sorry for being so long in my response here!


message 18: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments The thing about self-publishing is it does allow a lot of people through the door who might otherwise have spent more time honing their craft: people who don't believe they need someone else to edit their work, or who think positive reinforcement alone will get them where they want to go, as Michael said. EVERYBODY can benefit from an editor.
There are plenty of good writers who are self-publishing, but it's also easy to find so-called writers who have not learned any craft.


message 19: by Jammies (new)

Jammies Yes, there is self-published dreck, but there is also major-industry-published dreck.

Eragon destroyed any faith I might have left in the publishing industry's ability to select good writing for publication, and the cover for Music to My Sorrow did pretty much the same for "professional" cover designs. Ironically, I got both books as Christmas presents the year they were first published.


message 20: by Terri (new)

Terri R | 17 comments Does anyone who is NOT the author of same want to recommend some very good self-published books?


message 21: by Jammies (new)

Jammies Terri, how do you feel about horror and/or smut?


message 22: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments I haven't read these, but I believe they are self-published (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong) and have gotten some decent reviews:
The Crown Conspiracy


message 23: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca White (rebecca_white) | 1028 comments Jammies wrote: "Yes, there is self-published dreck, but there is also major-industry-published dreck.

Eragon destroyed any faith I might have left in the publishing industry's ability to select go..."


Well, you know, the kid who wrote Eragon had at least one parent working high-up in the publishing biz, so that's really about nepotism.

However, there are loads of crap. Even when I started working in the books-on-tape field in '86, it became pretty evident that anybody can get something published if they're just persistent enough about it.


message 24: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments Publishing is ultimately about either a)who you know or b)catching the eye of an individual, isn't it? I mean, there are some classic books that got rejected by one publisher or another before finding a home.
Carrie - 30+ rejections
Gone With the Wind - 30 + rejections
A Wrinkle in Time - 30 + rejections
Dune - 20 + rejections
Harry Potter - 10 + rejections
Farthing - 10 + rejections

War of the Worlds, the Time Machine, Animal Farm, Farenheit 451, the Once and Future King, were all rejected.

Ursula LeGuin keeps a rejection note for her classic The Left Hand of Darkness on her website: http://www.ursulakleguin.com/Reject.html

If any of these authors had been thinner skinned their books might not be around today.


message 25: by Terri (new)

Terri R | 17 comments Jammies,

I'm good with horror and smut as long as the smut is sexy and has a point to it (actually it's the same with horror). I need a good story that keeps going strong until the end.


message 26: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments Oh, good choice. He's my GR buddy as well, but I'll admit I haven't read his book yet.


message 27: by Janice (new)

Janice (jamasc) Sarah Pi wrote: "Publishing is ultimately about either a)who you know or b)catching the eye of an individual, isn't it? I mean, there are some classic books that got rejected by one publisher or another before find..."

With the exception of perhaps Harry Potter and Farthing, none of the books you listed were published in recent history. Do you think if they were to be submitted for the first time today, that they would meet the same resistance?

The other thought that tugs away at me is that perhaps writers have to pay their dues. I'm wondering if self-publishing is much like American Idol where there is resentment in the industry for these contestants who have not paid their dues, but are relying on talent shows to give them a boost towards overnight success. Perhaps the rejections from publishers is 'paying one's dues'?


message 28: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments Janice wrote: "With the exception of perhaps Harry Potter and Farthing, none of the books you listed were published in recent history. Do you think if they were to be submitted for the first time today, that they would meet the same resistance?"
I don't think it's possible to answer that question. Stephen King's Carrie paved the way for a thousand bestselling thrillers, so perhaps there's even more market for them now than there was then. The SF books are all products of their time, and might not be as ground-breaking today. I think a certain visionary eye is demanded of a good publisher, much as a visionary ear was once a prerequisite for signing new bands. It's easy for them to dismiss a new author as untried and question whether it's worth the risk. Who knows whether that person will be commercially viable or have longevity? It's safer to stick with the authors they have, or pick up a writer for hire for an established series.

Writers do have to pay their dues, or they should in my opinion. They should write and shop short stories, they should workshop their books, they should revise ruthlessly. I'm not sure paying your dues is in the rejections.

K.I.'s Vonnegut quote in post 17 makes some interesting points that seem to have been glossed over.


message 29: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments That's a good example, K.I. I'm a fan of Irving's work, but I've never made it through his first book.

We definitely don't give artists of any sort much room to grow and develop. If their first work doesn't do well, they are usually dumped or just made such a low priority that their next work has no chance to succeed. I think there's a lot of pressure to hit it big or give up and do something practical. I don't know if there's more of that or less than before, but I think there are more and more opportunities for a writer (musician, etc) to get their work out there, and fewer opportunities to make it a career.


message 30: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca White (rebecca_white) | 1028 comments In Madeleine L'Engle's case, Wrinkle in Time was her sixth novel. I'm sure she's written about why she thinks it was hard to get a publisher for it, but I don't remember why. She hadn't previously written Science Fiction, but it was a popular genre then for kids.


message 31: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24150 comments Mod
Jammies wrote: "Yes, there is self-published dreck, but there is also major-industry-published dreck.

Eragon destroyed any faith I might have left in the publishing industry's ability to select go..."


That cover is absolutely ghastly.

Eragon was self-published before it was republished by Knopf.

Wiki:
Eragon is the first book in the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini, who began writing the book at the age of 15. After writing the first draft for a year, he spent a second year rewriting it and fleshing out the story and characters. Paolini's parents saw the final manuscript and decided to self-publish Eragon. Paolini spent a year traveling around the United States promoting the novel. By chance, the book was discovered by Carl Hiaasen, who got it re-published by Alfred A. Knopf.


message 32: by Terri (new)

Terri R | 17 comments Interesting discussion. I have really become interested in discovering new, great self-published works because I know they are out there and I believe there will be a wave of new talent emerge. I am going to give Death by Zamboni a try, looks like it had strong reviews.

Personally, I have fallen in love with a newly published fictional work called Ringing True by Robert Morrow (a GR author/and on my GR friend list) which is also starting to get some outstanding reviews.

On another note, I am not sure it is fair to assume that because one is self-published, they have not had to pay their dues or spent time honing their craft. If a work is good in the end, I suspect it is a combination of talent and hard work and accepting tough feedback.


message 33: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24150 comments Mod
Original self-published, signed copies of Eragon are being offered for sale at $12,000.

Ignored by the big publishing houses, James Redfield self published The Celestine Prophecy in 1993 and sold the book out of the trunk of his Honda.

Self-published: Leaves of Grass; Maggie: A Girl of the Streets; Lady Chatterley's Lover; The Joy of Cooking.

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

This novel was self published by Barry in 2007 with Flap Jacket Press listed as the publisher. Two thousand copies were printed and word of mouth and online sales helped the book get noticed by major publishers. HarperCollins imprint, Morrow, won the auction for the rights and Brunonia (which is Latin for brown) was off the races. In 2008, the Morrow edition became a major seller in the US and the rights have been sold around the world.



message 34: by Terri (new)

Terri R | 17 comments Wow, this is great information. I didn't realize some of these were in fact self-published.


message 35: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24150 comments Mod
"Maggie" couldn't find a publisher because it was considered too risque.


message 36: by Janice (new)

Janice (jamasc) Thank you all for presenting your viewpoints on this topic. Perhaps it's a moot point that there are a lot of books that are poor quality. It's the great books that keep us craving more.

It occurs to me that the important thing is that people get reading.


message 37: by Terri (new)

Terri R | 17 comments Indeed.


message 38: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24150 comments Mod
I'm all for reading, but I think we need to get some people to stop writing.


message 39: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Lopez | 4728 comments I think self-publishing could be a promising model under certain circumstances, particularly for new writers who are serious, hard-working, and willing to learn the additional skills that book production requires. Eventually a solid self-published work could lead to representation by an agent and/or a book contract with a recognized imprint. But to achieve that, the writer has to be willing to do all of the grueling work involved in selling the book, which generally involves lots and lots of word of mouth. And that remains the case for the promotion of most small-press-run books (under 20,000 copies) at big publishing houses too.


message 40: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24150 comments Mod
I would be against terrible paintings and songs, too, for the most part. I have nothing against people indulging in hobbies at which they're no good, hobbies which are not then inflicted on the world at large.

I'm also not indicting all self-published authors (some, is what I typed). I'm sure some are good (as I mentioned above, Tufte). There's no need for you to apologize. I looked at your author profile and it's very funny. I'm not even speaking exclusively of self-published authors. I'm speaking of all authors, all who write. There is crap everywhere, at the major publishing houses too. I see absolutely no point in Homer and Langley, by renowned author E.L. Doctorow. It seemed like a big waste of time and paper. David Lodge should not have written Changing Places. What, you've never read a book you hated?


message 41: by Jonathan (last edited Feb 16, 2011 10:28PM) (new)

Jonathan Lopez | 4728 comments The point of Random House publishing "Homer & Langley" is that E. L. Doctorow's name is well enough known that the book can be promoted and it will earn back its advance and make a profit. The same is true of celebrity cookbooks. Neither of those examples provides much hope to aspiring writers whom nobody has ever heard of. The objective becomes getting yourself to a point where you and your work can earn money for a publisher, and that involves not merely writing well (although that is a major plus) but working at a lot of other tasks to establish an audience for what you do.


message 42: by Jonathan (last edited Feb 16, 2011 10:44PM) (new)

Jonathan Lopez | 4728 comments Yes, I think what you're saying is true, KI. Self-publishing does help to fill a need for writers trying to get their stuff out there so someone, somewhere can read it. Small presses, non-profits, and co-ops also help with this to some degree.

With regard to the "books that are profit driven" thing, if you're a mid-list author at, say, HarperCollins, and you manage to sell 20,000 copies of your novel that took you five years to write, you still need another job in order to live. Just because you're covering your advance--that is to say, making a profit for the publisher--doesn't mean that you're writing with visions of dollar-signs dancing through your mind. But you do get a chance to work with a professional editor, and the major imprint name does give you a shot, maybe, at a couple newspaper reviews, which can be a boost to self-esteem. And then you get a chance to write another book and maybe reach more people, which is also a nice thing.


message 43: by Jonathan (last edited Feb 16, 2011 11:03PM) (new)

Jonathan Lopez | 4728 comments I suppose there are trade-offs with any of these models, and historically the path to publication has often been fraught. Cervantes wrote much of "Don Quixote" while in debtors' prison. He wanted to find a patron but couldn't at that time. It was still a great book.

Anyway, right now is a period of remarkable changes in which a lot of the older publishing models seem to be fading, but there are still bright spots of innovation. Also, we no longer have debtors' prison.


message 44: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Lopez | 4728 comments Were you working at the West Coast office?


message 45: by Jonathan (last edited Feb 16, 2011 11:23PM) (new)

Jonathan Lopez | 4728 comments Oh. I used to know several people (all of them really great at what they did) who were at the West Coast office, and all of them lost their jobs when Harcourt was swallowed by Houghton Mifflin. It was horrible. I'm very sorry to hear of your bad experience.


message 46: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca White (rebecca_white) | 1028 comments So what about on-line publishing? I guess what we're talking about is actual physical book printing (sounds like we're talking about something else only for the rich).


message 47: by Michael (new)

Michael K.I. wrote: "- Kurt Vonnegut"

I've never read anything by Kurt Vonnegut (am I missing anything?) except for this poem he wrote after Joseph Heller's death.

Joe Heller

True story, Word of Honor:
Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer now dead,
and I were at a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island.

I said, "Joe, how does it make you feel to know that our host only yesterday may have made more money than your novel 'Catch-22' has earned in its entire history?"

And Joe said, "I've got something he can never have."

And I said, "What on earth could that be, Joe?"

And Joe said, "The knowledge that I've got enough."

Not bad! Rest in peace!"

-Kurt Vonnegut, May 16th, 2005


message 48: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments Some people love him and some hate him. I'm in the love category, especially his short stories. Here's the official TC Vonnegut thread: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/4...


message 49: by Michael (new)

Michael Thank you!


message 50: by Jonathan (last edited Feb 17, 2011 09:08AM) (new)

Jonathan Lopez | 4728 comments Rebecca wrote: "So what about on-line publishing? I guess what we're talking about is actual physical book printing (sounds like we're talking about something else only for the rich)."

Self-publishing an e-book is now a viable possibility. And blog writing is another online self-publishing option.

But self-publishing a printed book needn't be terribly expensive nowadays, since there are publishing websites that can do the layout services and then print copies on an as-needed basis. I have a friend who is a painter (and a bit of an obsessive) who self-published a book on Old Master painting techniques in this way, and he was happy with the results. I think what does tend to be quite expensive is the "marketing" packages that some of these sites sell, which seem somewhat predatory and unlikely to be effective, although that's just an opinion. There may be some out there that get results.


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