There’s a fairly brutal take on Frank Daniels’ futureproof, which seems unnecessarily negative but brings up some questions about how self-publishing will possibly be regarded in the future. One of the reasons I’ve advocated self-publishing is because if the book does eventually get picked up by a mainstream publisher, it’s a story that can eventually be written about the book – self-published writer hits it big.
If you go from small press to large publisher, or self-publishing to small press, there’s less of a story there. And publisher’s like any way that can get a book press. But what can happen is the reaction in this piece to Frank Daniels’ book – people looking to find reasons of why a book was self-published to begin with. And when you look for those reasons, you’ll find them because every book is flawed in some way. The person writing this article obviously has a predisposition against self-publishing because the review says,
Self-publishing can be a faux-pas in literary circles. Collecting a healthy stack of rejection letters is generally accepted as a crucial step in improving one’s writing or, at the very least, a rite of passage. Atlanta-based author Sheri Joseph explains that with self-publishing, “We lose the editor, the publisher — all of these people reading and helping the book along.”
The argument for self-publishing is it does all those things: it finds actual readers, which is far more instructive about a book’s reach and promise than the opinion of one intern at an agency or publishing house reading through queries. What can happen though in this world of cynicism before appreciation is that people still doubt that the self-published book has merit, based on being self-published in the past:
Harper Collins certainly didn’t buy this thing as a book. What they bought was the unfinished story of how an aspiring novelist promoted his work online, and they provided the final chapter that makes it a tale worth telling: a book deal. It’s all clear in the additional “P.S.” material they decided to include at the end: nothing about the characters, nothing about the book’s style or technique, nothing about themes, nothing for reading groups to grapple with. That’s because this isn’t a book they want you to read, it’s just one they want you to buy.
The degree to which that is unfair is maddening – to the point where I almost don’t want to reprint it. It’s just one terrible review, but to target the book saying the only reason it got published was because it got self-published first is so incredibly off-base that I want to point it out. The book is powerful. It found readers who it spoke to, and Harper Collins thought that with more distribution it could find more readers. Certainly, self-publishing is part of the book’s story, but to say it only got published because of that is a grave oversimplification. Futureproof is one of the better books I’ve read about drug addiction. Period. A rival to Tony O’Neill’s Digging the Vein, who is this generation’s Burroughs, and who’s also published through Harper Collins’ P.S. imprint. Daniels is a great, concise, purely talented writer, who’s got a lot of books ahead of him if he was ever given the chance. And now, finally, he has.
This piece speaks to the basic problem with publishing: the idea that a book has to be a masterwork to be worthwhile. This is Frank Daniels’ first novel – no first novel should be put up to the kinds of standards that are put on first-time authors in this climate. If you can come away from reading futureproof without seeing that Frank Daniels is the real thing then you’re no judge of writing. And that’s how writing should be assessed – by the writer’s promise, not the perfection of one book. This reviewer’s argument is no different than publishers who look towards marketability before talent. Frank Daniels is clearly a powerful and gifted writer. Is futureproof perfect? No. Does it have to be? No. Is Frank Daniels a writer with a career to pay attention to? Yes. End of story.