Some thoughts on self-publishing

Sunday, June 22, 2008 3 Comments A+ a-

I'm currently on the road for a day or two trip and had a lot to think about on my travels. Before I left and while I was packing I saw a late night Book TV special. Usually I have the show on in the background while I work (because they feature the most snooze worthy non fiction while ignoring some great reads out there) but this particular panel made me sit up and turn up the volume. It featured a panel of speculative authors at the Virginia Festival of the Book in March and, get this, the panel was on self-publishing. BookTV.org has the entire stream available for viewing here in case you missed it. (Just click the little 'watch' button in the corner)

Now throughout my reading of everything I can get my hands on within the publishing industry, including blogs and industry manuals, there has been some dire words spoken about self published books. Everything from complaints about editing to dark forboding consquences to be bestowed on the poor author, I've heard. Even from authors themselves! Sure self-publishing is not something to go lightly into if you want to make lots of money writing. But let's face it. Even if you go the traditional route unless your first name is Stephen or Nora you're likely to be one of the few best sellers out there.

It's hard out there these days for publishers including NY. Everyone's suffering from the troubled economy and are scrambling to figure out out to get more readers to buy books. During a listen on author Mike Stackpole's Secrets podcast (and I suggest ALL readers check his podcasts out because he speaks some TRUTH) he mentioned being told that only 5% of a publisher's catalog gets published. Can you imagine that? So basically their success is riding on the bestsellers so they can afford to publish the "risky" stuff that may not sell. And let's face it, if you aren't writing anything that fits into the idea of a bestseller (which was probably already released and sold prior to your work) it's not going to get a looksie no matter how polished your query or synopsis is.

Thankfully technology is changing and allowing storytellers to get their work to readers. I'm having a ball of a time discovering so many authors that may not have been given a chance at a publishing house for some reason or another. Many authors of color I know are turned down at the gate for having "too risky" or "too black" stories to tell. Pish, I say. If anything, readers are jonesing for something different than the cookie cutter book. Not to say there aren't some big authors out there telling some great stories other than the usual suspects. But it appears that smaller pubs are willing to take some risk to get a good story in the hands of readers.

Unfortunately this elitist attitude is displayed all too often within author circles. The hierarchy and caste system between NY pub author, epub author, small press author and self pub author is just a waste of energy and time.

WHO. CARES.

A story is a story and it doesn't matter how it got to the end point. Just enjoy it.

Sure awards are great to get like recognition from a "prestigious group" and all but it's all gotten out of hand with the way certain authors, who have worked pretty darn hard for their stories to be shown to the light of day, are treated by others who feel they are better based on some organization's say so. If such an organization or author acts and feels superior to others who haven't reached that status then the message of storytelling has been lost.

It's a shame that the publishing industry is like this, but like any other industry out there...it has its pitfalls and obstacles.

All that matters is how you, the author, wants to tell your story. Do what feels best for you, learn somethings along the way and apply it to next time. No matter what, keep writing, keep reading and keep being true to yourself.

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N. Mahana
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9:59 AM delete This comment has been removed by the author.
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N. Mahana
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10:00 AM delete

This is a great post, Rae! Very encouraging and you are right. Although I have a lot to learn about the publishing world, I must admit, when I first started reading up on things, a few years back, it seemed very discouraging.

There was that smell of elitism in the air and the Jonathan Franzen story is a prime example. Imagine scoffing at OPRAH and her audience?!

There are authors that would kill to be featured on her show. Oprah may not be the god of publishing but many of the books she featured were not by well known authors.

When other writer's as well as publishers start realizing there's room for everyone to tell there stories then the world will be a better place.

C'mon would you rather have more books to entertain you or reality television? I think, for most, the answer is pretty clear.

I'm going to check out that podcast

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5:30 PM delete

Rae, this is such a great post, I agree with you....You could not have said it any better...

It is getting harder and harder to get out there and no matter how good you are sometimes you cant find your places...i love the fact that there are now more options and people can self publish....

it's gotten to where new authors have a slim chance to get into places because houses are putting it all into their big sellers...I think all authors should be given a chance....everyone is talented and there will always be people out there who will read...

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