Book Editors and Journalists on Self-Publishing

This link is making the rounds in the self-publishing blogosphere. It contains a long list of quotes that are alternately heartening and maddening.

The heartening includes:

Self published books are a positive step towards allowing talented writers with little resources to print and market their own talents and we encourage writers from all publishers to submit their work. As an independent publication we enjoy seeking out local and independent self-published books.

Lynette Rowland, Executive Editor, Midwest Parenting Publications

To the disheartening:

If it’s not good enough to be real-published, it’s not good enough to be published at all. Most self-published books I’ve encountered are a horrid mess, needing enormous amounts of editing and organization before they’d be anything approaching book level, even if they had a point to make or story to tell. Usually they’re so vague, self-indulgent, and confused, no one will ever know what they intended to say or tell.

Denise Mort, Book Reviews Editor, Great Falls Tribune

Let’s push aside the fact that someone who’s criticizing self-publishing uses a phrase like “real-published,” this sentiment is one of the most irritating responses to self-publishing – that if a book’s good, it will find a publisher. As discussed elsewhere on this site, it is increasingly difficult to find a traditional publisher. Mainstream publishers are concerned with marketability and small publishers do not have the money to publish more than a handful of titles a year.

And to think that small publishers aren’t interested in marketability is a bit idealistic. Small publishers need to sell books too – and there’s nothing wrong with that, on the surface, so long as it’s not the sole guiding principle. But the larger small publishers will often only take on a writer if he or she has sold a few thousand of past titles. The writer needs a built-in fan base for small publishers just as they do for big publishers. Many times writers are met with the words, “We love this, but..” That “but” is the entire justification for self-publishing. It’s something most every writer has faced – even those who eventually found a traditional publisher to take on a project. What if there never was a taker? I think most writers can empathize with the difficulty of getting published, as every writer has faced rejection.

When is it ever the case – in any artistic medium – that the best stuff is produced. Look at movies, look at music, look at books. The best stuff is being produced independently and there is less money to go around to market new independent works. Some works aren’t going to make the cut – due to market factors, due to personal contacts, and even due to luck. In a just world, Kristen Tsetsi or Frank Daniels would never have had to self-publish.

Let’s parse the second half of that statement: “Most self-published books I’ve encountered are a horrid mess…Usually they’re so vague, self-indulgent, and confused, no one will ever know what they intended to say or tell.”

Really? That’s your assessment of the entire self-publishing industry? Frankly, it’s hard to take such a blanket assessment seriously because it suggests a person who’s written off thousands of other writers based on a couple of bad books. I would bet you that you could submit a traditionally-published book to people with these types of preconceptions and they’d say, “See, this book is riddled with errors. This is why it wasn’t published.”

But this is what any self-publisher is up against. Preconceptions, not honest assessment. No real news there. But more fodder for the Self-Publishing Review to legitimize the cause of self-publishing.

  • The quote you’ve attributed to me actually belongs to Lynette Rowland of Midwest Parenting Publications. I’m sure she’d appreciate getting the credit for it.

    Best regards,

  • Ah, that’s embarrassing. Never good to make mistakes when criticizing people. The negative quote is from Denise Mort, not Meredith Jacobs from the Fayetteville Observer. Thought the attribution was below the quote where, you know, it should be.

  • The placement of the attribution threw me, too….