A Self-Publisher’s Manifesto


I am a self-publisher and this is my manifesto.

If you’re a reader, a simple lover of books, someone with no aspirations of ever writing or publishing, then there is a very good chance you’re unaware of the culture war that has been going on within the world of publishing for what feels like forever.  The war is between the large publishing houses, primarily found in New York, and self-publishers (or independent publishers).  For almost as long as the publishing industry has been a relevant cog in the entertainment machine, publishing houses have served the purpose of finding, publishing and, essentially delivering to the literary world the best authors they could find.  But they didn’t do this alone.  Literary agents—who not only represent authors, but also serve as gatekeepers for the large publishing houses—helped them.

Most any writer who has ever aspired to get published has learned the hard way that finding a literary agent to represent you is harder than actually getting your manuscript accepted for publication by a large publishing house.  And this is not by accident.  As gatekeepers, the literary agents weed out the “bad” talent and wrangle in the “good” talent, making it easier for the large publishing houses to pick which handful of writers they’ll be publishing during any given year.

Of course, getting a literary agent is no guarantee of getting published.  They still have to try and sell your manuscript to a publishing house.  There are plenty of authors who have secured literary agents, only to find out that the agent couldn’t sell their books.  But if you are one of those rare authors who have cleared all the hurdles and have had your book published by a large publishing house, one of the first things you will learn is that you’re going to be on your own when it comes to promoting and marketing the book.  Publishing houses have limited budgets for marketing their authors and first-time authors aren’t likely to get much support.  Ironically, if your book doesn’t sell, then the publisher will be less likely to buy your next book.

So, if you’re that first first-time author, you’re going to have to do some significant legwork—from creating a presence on the Internet to setting up readings and book signings—which is fine, especially if you’re serious about your writing and want to make a career of it.  And while you’re putting in this work, it might occur to you that since you’re doing all the legwork yourself, what’s to stop you from publishing yourself.  Up to now, the main thing stopping you was the stigma of self-publishing.

By having agents, editors and publishers making it so hard to break into the publishing world, it creates the perception that only the very best authors get their work published.  This perception has put a stigma on self-publishers, a stigma akin to taking your cousin to the prom.  The impression is if you weren’t good enough to get published through a traditional publisher then you must not be a very good writer.  And the publishing houses have benefited from this, because it means they haven’t had to compete with self-publishers.

In the last couple of years, the publishing industry has been struggling. Truth be told, it’s always been tough to make money selling books when you consider Americans in general aren’t all that keen on reading.  But in the face of a struggling economy, the publishing industry has been hurting more than usual.  In their desperation to sell books (which, mind you, is a totally reasonable desperation) the major publishers have invested more and more money into selling personalities, rather than authors.  This means when you walk into a bookstore, you’re more likely to see a book “written” by a reality TV star or a trendy politician.  Even actors and recording artists are publishing novels.  All of this is fine, except that, if you’re a major publishing house, you now have little-to-no money left to invest in first-time authors.  Not to mention the fact that they’re a risky investment, unlike a celebrity who has name recognition and a built-in fan base.

This all makes sense from a business standpoint, but what if you’re a writer who has dedicated years and years of your life to learning and honing your craft?  Are you supposed to just accept that some contemporary pop star and their ghostwriter have a book published and you don’t?  You can keep knocking on the door of the literary agents and the big publishing houses (heck, you can even try the small publishing houses), but they can’t afford to take a chance on you.  The best option for you then is self-publishing.  Except, there is that stigma about self-publishers that still hasn’t quite gone away.

Only now there is progress being made in eradicating the stigma.  A big part of the stigma being eliminated is technology.  Now, more than ever, it is easier for an author to publish their work without having to go through a large publishing house.  Especially with the growing market of e-books, self-published authors are seeing their books being sold side-by-side with traditionally published books.  And if you’re a reader, chances are you’re not making any great distinctions between self-published books and traditionally published books; you’re just happy to find a book that entertained you while you were tanning by the pool or waiting for your doctor’s appointment.

So if the readers aren’t holding onto this stigma, then where exactly is it coming from?  Unfortunately, the answer is it’s coming from the writers themselves.  But it’s not their fault.  If you’re a writer who has been working at getting published for at least the last ten years or so (and for most writers, it’s much longer than that), then you’ve more than likely bought into the stigma.  You’re a writer who, despite all the hard work you’ve put into your writing, feels like your work can only be validated by going through the traditional system of acquiring a literary agent and selling your book to a major publisher.

You would just as soon let your brilliant work go unread on your hard drive (or your freezer, depending on how long you’ve been writing) before you self-published.  You’ve dreamed of signing books in Barnes & Noble and doing readings at universities, giving interviews on morning talk shows and whisking around the country on national book tours.  The stigma tells you that self-published authors don’t get to do these things.  And, for the most part, it’s true.  But neither do most traditionally published authors either.

More and more quality authors are figuring this out and the world of independent publishing is benefiting from it.  Just because the large New York publishing houses are publishing fewer and fewer quality authors doesn’t mean there are no quality authors out there.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  And just because these authors aren’t being published doesn’t mean they simply go away.  Many of them are discovering that self-publication is a viable optional.  The more quality writers who enter into the world of self-publishing, the more credible it becomes.

Even J.K Rowling, author of the Harry Potter dynasty, has turned to self-publishing.  Now why would she do that?  There is not a publisher anywhere in the world who wouldn’t kill to have Rowling on their roster of authors.  And that’s exactly the point.  From a business standpoint, Rowling stands to earn more money by self-publishing, rather than sharing her literary fortune with a traditional publisher.  Business-wise, this is true even for the relatively unknown self-publisher.

Whatever advance you get from a traditional publisher, in all likelihood, is going to be the same amount of money you stand to earn on your own if you have a quality book and are willing to work hard to find and connect with readers, which is to say all the things you’d be doing anyway if you take your writing seriously.

So if you’re a writer out there who is tired of being rejected, don’t fret.  Just publish your work yourself.

If you’re a large publishing house doing business as usual, good luck to you.  You’re a business and you’re simply trying to stay viable.  I can appreciate that.

And if you are a writer or a publisher or anybody who is still holding onto or perpetuating the stigma of self-publishing, let it go.  Release it from your grip and accept the dawning of a new era, a better one even.

I am a publisher and this is my manifesto.

  • Excellent article and very inspiring. After several rejections by agents I plucked up the courage to self publish my first novel, Goa Traffic.

    You are completely right about writers themselves harbouring views about Self Publishing. We must work on of that getting rid of that stigma!

    • Marissa, thank you so much! The best part of being your own publisher, aside from eliminating the rejection part of the process, is knowing that the next book you write will definitely get published.

      Keep fighting the good fight and good luck with your novel!

  • Nice post well executed, though I disagree to some extent with your pinning the stigma on writers’ desire. I think, honestly, that the stigma is still propagated mostly by those with some connection to the corporate/legacy/authorlebrity model. For example, agents and editors and authors tied to corporations are, so far as I’ve seen, the ones most likely to protest the term “independent publishing” because NO IT’S SELF-PUBLISHING NOT INDEPENDENT IT’S SO DIFFERENT AND YOU’RE IGNORANT IF YOU DON”T SEE WHY.

    Er. Sorry. But they get shrill about it.

    • Will, you’re absolutely right. I agree that a large part of the stigma connected to self-publishing comes from the corporate side of publishing. And I suppose I was probably aware of it when I wrote the article. When I pinned the stigma on other writers, I was thinking specifically of many talented writers who I’ve met over the years who worry about their work not being taken seriously by self-publishing. And, if I’m being totally honest, I suppose I was also talking about myself, before I turned the corner and saw the promise in self-publishing.

      • Which wasn’t to say that you’re not correct that some of the residual effect is still writers’ buying into the corporate myth. I was just noting I didn’t think that was -solely- the case.

        I was also just noting it’s a terrific post. Because it is.

        • Thanks again, Will. I totally appreciate the kind words…and I still totally agree with your point.

  • Timely, refreshing, and inspiring! Thanks for saying it so well. After publishing my novel, I Rode with Cullen Baker, and receiving favorable reviews on Amazon and a similar print review in the Western Writers of America magazine, RoundUp, I began launching my 9-book saga Tierra del Oro in May with Forty Grains of Black Powder. Already received my first royalties and kudos from readers. Book 2, Legend of the Sierra Madre, is slated to be available on August 14, with subsequent volumes releasing every 3 months over the next year or so. I’ve discovered that creating the book covers is as much fun as writing the novels. Very happy for this sea change in the publishing world!

    • Thanks so much for the kind words, RLB. And best of luck with your series of novels!

  • Honestly, there is a reason why there a “stigma” exists–and will continue to–regarding those who self-publish. While the odds for publication are tough for a writer, the intent, hopefully, is to share writing with the world of readers. Not, as you, and, it is obvious, Will Entrekin, to sign copies in bookstores and pose for photographs. People who seem to focus on that lose the grasp on what it takes to be a good writer, and thus lose the tenacity needed to get published. So they go ahead and publish themselves. This is why it is called “vanity” presses. Make no mistake, though friends and family may act proud, deep down there is an obvious “they paid to have this published and that means less in terms of accomplishment than to have a third-party choose it for excellence.” Funny, the whole post is on a site created by one guy who published his own book as well as his own thoughts. Redundant. Lastly, those who choose “independent” publishing don’t get wide readership like those “corporate” books you vilify, and , right or wrong, write their names in water. Sorry if this is harsh, but it’s true.

    • Kent, please take a look at your calendar. It’s 2011. Some of those authors who’ve chosen independent publishing have gotten much wider readership than many of those who’ve chosen the “corporate” route ever will. Why are independently publishing authors any more guilty of the “V” word than traditionally published authors? Aren’t we all, being human, vain? Your most hilarious remark is the one where you reveal that you believe the traditional New York publishers focus on “excellence” in writing. Kent, the twentieth century world of Fitzgerald and Faulkner is over, dead, gone. You’re entitled to your point of view, but I’m afraid the same three words describe it. (Since you brought up the subject of “excellence” in writing, you might wish to look again at the first sentence in your comment. I’m sure the traditionally publishing people will love seeing a grammatical mistake like that one in the first sentence of your next book or query letter.)

      • Ron, I’m sure it goes without saying that I agree with you. The world of entertainment is changing. The way we watch movies, they way we watch television, and the way we listen to music is changing. And, more importantly, the way these forms of entertainment are produced is also changing, so it makes sense that the way books are produced and read should also change. The fact that these changes benefit authors and self-publishers can only ever be a good thing.

      • Kent

        Ron, your view is coming from someone who paid to have their work published. The reality is that this just doesn’t have the same weight as someone who has their work chosen by someone else. You know it, that’s why the stigma against vanity presses exist. I don’t think someone who uses a vanity press can even call themselves published. It is like someone starting up their own web site, and publishing “research” there. But worse, because you have to pay someone. That’s why it is called “vanity” as I ahve said before. It’s bogus. Sure, there are good books out there self-published and bad ones by this evil corporate entity you all vilify but yearn to be accepted to (and sure people who self-publish mock the big publishing houses and lack of chances, etc. but they would choose to have 1 million people read their work over the 12 that will in a second). Vanity presses are the last resort of desperate writers. And your comment about sending query letters show that in fact you have, and, like all people who self-publish, have this strange resentment for traditional publishing. Yes, it is 2011. And no, Fitzgerald would never had needed to self-publish because his work didn’t suck. See?

        • As Martin says, we’ll have to agree to disagree. He’s also correct in complimenting you for feeling passionately enough to respond. We who love artistic freedom need as many different points of view at SPR as we can get. (By the way, if I were to write my original reply to your comment again, I’d strike the last two sentences. They were unnecessarily personal. I’m sorry I included them.)

        • Kent, I sense part of what upset you about the article is a perceived vilification of the New York publishing houses. I would never call any of the traditional publishing houses “evil,” because they’re not. As I said in the article, they’re simply trying to stay viable. Unfortunately, in their effort to stay viable, many, many talented authors are being left out. So it just makes sense that, rather than wait for a publishing contract that may never come, more writers should take their careers into their own hands. Also, I think you’re working off of the assumption that all worthy writers, if they just wait long enough, will eventually get published by a traditional house, that no great talent can go unnoticed forever. I can’t say to a certainty that that assumption is false, but I do think it’s silly for a writer to squander years, and perhaps decades, of their writing career waiting for a book deal that may never come.

        • >>Vanity presses are the last resort of desperate writers<>this just doesn’t have the same weight as someone who has their work chosen by someone else<<, one of my books is a mostly humorous memoir. I am not famous. My last name is not Palin or Obama, but more than 550 readers have chosen to buy my book (better than the average American book, according to Publisher Weekly).

          The purchasing decisions of those 550 readers are more important to me than the opinions of agents and acquisition editors.

          Far from being desperate, some self-publishing authors are feeling just fine.

          Michael N. Marcus
          http://www.BookFur.com (information, help and book reviews for authors)
          http://RentABookReviewer.com (pre-publication book assessments)
          — Create Better Books, with the Silver Sands Publishing Series: http://www.silversandsbooks.com/booksaboutpublishing.html
          — "Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults)," http://www.amazon.com/dp/0981661750

    • Kent, I hear where you’re coming from. Of course, we’ll have to agree to disagree. I’m still glad you read the article and felt passionately enough to respond to it.

  • Totally agree. As a writer for more than ten years I have also been subjected to the stigma regarding self-publishing. My first book was a biography of a local boxer’s difficult life. He paid for the book to be published, but I was the face tagged with it in the media. Needless to say, the outcome did not go well. The local Chamber refused to even reconize me until I was on a better listing, (New York Times?), even though I was already the first black american author from my home town. Self-publishing scared me away from writing. I’m back now, and thanks to the changes in publishing I have no worries in regards to my future books. Your article was right. It hits home for a lot of us out here. Thanks!

    • Tracy, I’m glad you’re back. You said it: this post “hits home for a lot of us out here.”

    • Like Ron, I’m glad to hear your back to publishing your own books. Best of luck with all of your writing and publishing endeavors.

  • Thank you! This was very encouraging. I’m still young, with a lot of shots to make at traditional publishing, and I’m stubborn and determined that writing is the thing for me.

    I happen to be one of those chameleons (that’s what my friends call me), because I write anything and everything. I’ve got a start with a blog (lukealistar.com) and a surprisingly large number of fans for such a young, inexperienced guy. Most of them writers themselves, but word of mouth gets around. 😀

    So while I’ve self published four books since January this year, and I have more on the way, I’m also shooting for traditional publishing, ghostwriting, and freelancing.

    I’m going to do it all. I think a big part of publishing is simply the initiative. People who give up will never be published (and probably shouldn’t be anyway.) People who never give up are the ones who change the world.

    All that to say, I’m a bit excited about entering this new world of publishing, even though I wasn’t around to see the old one.

    • Hey Luke, thanks for the kind words. And you should absolutely pursue traditional publishing if that’s what you’re determined to do. That’s pretty amazing that you’ve self-published four books this year already; I’d love to borrow some of your productivity, if you have any to spare!

      Good luck!

  • Of course there will be crummy self-published books, but there are plenty of big houses out there publishing crummy stuff, too. And of course there will be terrific self-published works and terrific commercially published materials. The point, I think, is the process of writing. That we enjoy (if enjoy is the right word; writing is hard work) it. That sitting down and dreaming up stories (or reliving them in memoir) is a necessary act for those possessed. The next step is finding people willing to read the writer’s work, and some big houses and smaller presses are good at promoting the author’s work. For others, if not most writers, commercially published or otherwise, it’s a dark hole. I used to feel strongly against self-publishing, but seeing as how things have changed so much in NYC, how the bottom-line is what it is in fact mostly about, I say more power to the artists for taking matters into their own hands. After all, no one is forcing the public to buy anyone’s work. It some ways, maybe, this new wave of self-publishing is about artistic freedom.

    • James, your words mean a lot, especially from an author who has enjoyed success as a traditionally published author (I took a look at your website…very impressive body of work!).

      I think where we agree the most is that I see self-publishing not as a Plan B, but as an avenue for unlimited creative freedom.

      • “An avenue for unlimited creative freedom.” I totally agree.

  • Kent, you use arrogant and inflammatory language in your post that I quote from. “your view is coming from someone who paid to have their work published”

    I paid almost nothing (wouldn’t have had to pay anything, but I opted for a bell and a whistle) and already have royalty money in my bank account from a title that launched in May this year.

    “doesn’t have the same weight as someone who has their work chosen by someone else”

    Being a mainstream “someone else” doesn’t necessarily qualify a first reader at a NY house. Traditionally, many students on summer break took on the job to help pay tuition. How many were English majors??

    “I don’t think someone who uses a vanity press can even call themselves published” While you’re entitled to your opinion, I’d suggest you look up the definition of “published.”

    “Fitzgerald would never had needed to self-publish because his work didn’t suck. See?” Maybe not Fitzgerald, but plenty of other now-anthologized writers DID self publish. If you were an English major, you would know who they were. And whether Fitzgerald’s work sucks is a matter of opinion.

  • PCT

    I work for a publishing company and I would like to say that I quite agree that there exists a stigma attached to self-published titles. Although, in my humble opinion I think the prejudice mostly comes from other authors not the readers. Recently, there are a few self-publishing companies out there that hopes to expunge this stigma with ways to validate a well-written book. This validation can help an author sell more books and gain recognition.

    • PCT, I appreciate the response and I also agree with you. In my experience, I’ve felt more push-back from other authors regarding self-publishing than readers. Most readers are just happy to find a book they enjoyed. It’s the writers, in many cases, who’s egos won’t allow them to feel validated with a self-published book.

  • I cannot agree more with Martin. He nailed this one. As an author and the owner of a POD, I knokw exactly what he’s talking about. Borders is gone and I won’t be surprised to see the same happen with B&N. The inventory costs, the furniture, the rent and utilities. I can’t imagine they ever turned a profit. And today, we go to B&N if we’re so inclined, buy a $4 cup of coffee and browse the shelves, pulling books, reading a bit, returning them, adding them to our wish list. When the list is complete or the coffee is gone, we throw the cup in the trash and head home to the coputer and good old Amazon.

    Great job on this blog entry, Martin!


  • Thanks for this. After two years of agency rejections (their plates were too full, they have enough authors in my specific genre, etc.) I started self-publishing a year ago.

    Instead of waiting up to 18 months (*after* you get an agent) my books are available within weeks of publication on Amazon, iBookstoore, Nook, Kobo, etc.

    The world is changing…

    • I totally agree, Tony. My favorite part about being my own publisher is knowing I will never have to worry about getting another rejection letter!

  • I totally agree. have a look at my Free eBook Most authors get a raw deal from the traditional publishing industry:-


    and you will see how much I do agree.

  • We’re smack in the middle of one of the biggest revolutions since Gutenburg. Traditional publishers, like bankers, built up a closed-shop in making money out of the wealth creation of other people, in this case dispensing the product of a creative class called writers. The worst of it, apart from the parasitic nature of the master-slave relationship they cultivated, is that they became gatekeepers; arbiters of what got exposed to the public and what didn’t. Soviet Russia did that openly while in the West it was done subtly under the table via the publishing houses. All that has been swept away by the digital media and the Internet. Two effects will be noticed. Never before will so much scribbled rubbish find exposure. But to compensate, the good stuff that got hit on the head by publisher’s readers will now see the light of day. A nasty form of censorship has itself been censored. That has to be the biggest boon to the awakening of human consciousness since the publishing of the New Testament. The gravy train enjoyed by traditional publishers has hit a patch of uplifted track, reclaimed by the people who laid the track in the first place.
    An editor told me that publishers are gamblers who put their money on books instead of horses. Their power developed out of that, not the quality of their decisions. Authors looked in awe at their capacity to fund human expression.
    Human knowledge and creative expression have been hostage to gamblers who, over time, took it for granted, like bankers, that the exploited class are destined to remain in their grip indefinitely because God ordained it that way. Some people were just plain bloody lucky. Well, it seems that God has just changed his mind. Quality control and free competition has been reintroduced while nobody was looking. The sun has risen on a brand new day of freedom of expression, with the gatekeepers of old having to join the queue at the employment agency. Not before time.

    • Wow, James, that was a pretty amazing response! Love your passion.

    • Yeah, wow. Amazing thinking and response. I feel smarter for having read this. I argue with friends all the time about the gatekeeper angle. I’m with you, we don’t need them.

    • Thank you, G. James, for making my weekend with this one. Your “gravy train” sentence is a beauty. I hadn’t thought of the traditional publishers as gamblers, but, of course, that’s what it was all about. Did the people who won the right to “fund human expression” even bother to read what they were funding?

    • Cindi

      When growing up, I wanted to be a traveler and a writer. I got a degree in Journalism, but they didn’t teach me now to market myself, so I ended up getting more education and teaching a discipline in a college for 35 years. Early, I wrote a book which two publishers rejected (although I did get a nice letter from one) but children, job, PTA ect., and the manuscript went into a drawer. Now, I’m goint to self publish my novel. OK, maybe only friends and family will read it and I’ll have to give them the copies, –call it vanity, but who cares. It will be out there. Also, there will be a travel book, a memoir, my great grandfather’s diary, a poem book, a children’s book, and a short biography. Maybe my great grandchildren will be impressed. Will those who read my books look down on me? I don’t care. I so wish I could have read books written by my settler ancestors. Technology hooray. You have made my retirement years delightful.

      • That’s a great story, Cindi. Good luck with your novel!

      • I admire your attitude, Cindi. Our books “will be out there.” Maybe they take off. Maybe they don’t. At least we’ve made the best attempt we could. “Technology hooray.”

  • Why, thank you, Martin. I’m really conscious of the import of the historical moment. It’s a bit like the signing of the Great Charter by a nondescript creek at Runnymeade. Very inauspicious at the time, but look what followed. This revolution eclipses Magna Carta fifty-fold. A Pandora’s Box imprisoning the human spirit has been smashed open. It makes nuclear look tame. Who know where it will lead? The excitement is back. That’s the main thing. A dead hand has been taken off human aspiration. As I said: not before time.

  • Kent’s posts above show the latent contempt out there for people who work hard and are confident enough of the value of their work to fund its publication personally. Some may do that for vanity reasons but it’s a free country and their money. Many if not most do it to share their ideas, which is a quality that separates us from feral animals. What Kent doesn’t know is how many people amongst the greats in lierature, ancient and modern, self-published before any ‘literary expert’ detected the value of what they wrote. He also clearly doesn’t realize how extensive is the practice of the all-wise publishers waiting to pick up works that had to establish themselves by self-publishing before agents or publishers picked them up. Big deal. Kent doesn’t know the figures on how many blunders publishers make about the books they accept for publishing. Nine out of ten bomb, with the tenth paying the way of the rest and the overheads. What’s so ominscient about the judgment of these ‘experts’ over the wisdom of the artists himself? The thing that delights me most about this liberating revolution in the industry is that the producers are, for the first time, going to be rewarded for their creation, instead of working the treadmill that sustained publishers in the lifestyle they’d become accustomed to. My guess is Kent is an agent or a publisher, not a creator or producer. He can see the writing on the wall. Naturally he’s not happy.

    • G. James, you’re on a roll. I’m glad you pointed out that self-publishing isn’t a recent invention and that the gate-keeper for most of the greats would’ve been the censor, working for the emperor, king, dictator, or whatever. A lot of the world has gotten itself out from underneath that. Now let’s finish the job and get rid of gate-keeping itself. For everybody.

  • My God, this is perfectly written and argued. Dead on. In my opinion, it will take a few more years for that stigma to wear off. But at the end of the day, it’s still not easy, or fun, for a vast majority of people to create content. So even though it will get easier, and cheaper on an even faster pace, there will still be a lot of people who just won’t do it.

    This is good news for people like you and me who are on the self-publishing bandwagon. I plan on having 6 more books online before Xmas 2011. And plenty more after that. I haven’t felt this same way since I started blogging in 2011 when the gatekeepers were removed then as well.

    By the way, I had my first book “traditionally” published a year ago this month. Within 6 months I knew I wanted out of that system.

    • Jim, I agree with you: “perfectly written and argued” sums up the first Sunday in August in the year 2011 at SPR. I also agree with you that independent publishing isn’t easy. It can certainly be fun, though. The writing itself and taking part in conversations such as this one are two that come to mind most readily. In any event, no matter what obstacles I face in my attempt to meet my goal, independent publishing is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.

      • I’m with you all the way, Ron. I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoy the experience of being an independent publisher and engaging with other motivated and forward-thinking publishers like yourself.

    • Jim, thank you so much for the kind words. If I can be honest, I didn’t realize how many other people out there felt as strongly about this topic as I did, so thank you for taking the time to respond.

      • People who write seriously and encounter the industry that relies of them, the golden goose, for its very existence can only feel strongly about the shabby treatment they get. Before L-Day (digital liberation through technology), writers and other artists cowed before the money men who, like the bankers and medicos of yon cultivated a mystique about what they did for a living, and how inaccesible it was by mere artists. The artists were so ised to being conned that it all came to be seen as the natural way of things. The wheel of the cart fell off to such an extent that not only was the artist dash golden goose producer of the wealth made to feel like a grovelling pariah, but his pathetically small reward was constantly eroded to the benefit of the managerial thieves. When a publisher tells a writer to get an agent if he wants to be read by a publisher, he’s telling this golden goose several things that constitute a short cut to suicide on his part, the publisher. He’s telling the writer he doesn’t need him. That’s dangerous. Further, he’s telling him – ordering him really – to get help that he’ll have to bear the cost of. In otherwords, his crap 7% royalty is going to have 15% deducted just to make the publisher’s job easy. The onus of quality guarantee of the writing is now in the hands of a third party, the agent. Are agents whizzes at detecting good writing? No. They’re whizzes at guessing what lazy publishers want without having to get out of bed. How can a genuine artist not feel strongly about such crud human conduct? How can he not feel insulted and outraged to the point where he’ll do anything to be free of this parasitic scourge? Nature has a way of correcting inbalance and injustices. But I have to admit that writers have been their biggest enemy, in accepting too willingly this furphy that they might be able to write but they’re totally useless when it comes to publishing. There’s no art in publishing. It’s a mechanical process. Follow steps A thru Z and laugh all the way to the bank.
        The hardest job for the writers game enough to be independent of the old-guard publishers is getting the great mass of writers off the grovel bus built for them by the cripplers as I call them. This blog is going to be useful for that. Ideally, the blog could become a source of information and advice for those still stuck in the bus cringing and fawning.

  • A frightening prospect for me with modern civilization is the killing of diversity to ‘simplify’ things for the bossy types amongst us. Where there were once over two hundred varieties of wheat, they’ve levelled it down to four, and the big bio-companies are taking out patents on them so we’ll have no choice but to pay for them before we can make flour for bread. Playing God with Nature’s bounty like this is a trademark of our rattled society.

    Publishers stopped subsidising new authors as a way of discovering new talent back in the eighties. So the diversity of each new crop of young writers was lost. It can come back again now with the freeing up of the industry. I’ve read a lot of other blogs on this subject and I giggle (and weep) at the arguments put up by the old guard that they ensured quality by blocking all the riff-raff scribblers trying to break into the business. ‘Business’? This is human culture we’re talking about here. They were doing the same thing the bio-companies are doing out of greed; killing diversity to make it simpler for them to control and abuse. May they all rot in the queue down at the employment office. The pride is back!

  • And another thing …

    Only a few weeks back I got a ‘no’ to a query with a long established publisher in the UK. The advice I got was ‘get yourself an agent in the first instance.’ They didn’t want to look at my work. Either they don’t like the work they’re supposed to be doing and tell people like me to go away, or they’ve farmed their usual duties out to others who will charge the writer for their involvement. I wrote back to the publisher saying I wasn’t going to take the advice because I don’t want an agent. With all of the things publishers used to do to earn their percentage being whittled down in this way, my question is what do they actually do now? The author has to go on the hustings to drum up publicity. More and more of the publisher’s function has been off-loaded to authors, agents et al, with the tab being picked up by them, mostly the author. What incredible cheek! I don’t think there’s any accident this technology came along at this particular time. I think our Custodians saw what was happening and said “right, that’ll be enough of that. If it goes any further, writers will stop writing and go into banking. It’ll mean a retreat into barbarism.” It took me ten years in Paris to become an architect. I quit doing it to take up writing. Why? Because I got sick of the custom in our society of the artist being treated as irrelevant, over-ruled in his decisions by unqualified arrogant bureaucrats. Had this change in technology not come when it did, I was ready to quit writing to take up pig farming just so I’d be in the company of a better cut of person in my professional life.

    • G. James, having grown up on a Midwestern farm where we raised pigs, I have to confess I came to love them. They’re greedy, selfish, and smart animals. Guess which adjective doesn’t apply in the traditional publishing world in 2011.

      • Right on, Ron. My uncle majored in pigs on his Darling Downs farm in Queensland. He spoke very highly of them much as you do here. If there are any smart publishers, they’d be getting in on the new act in town. There can’t be many though because the opportunities for bluffing and ripping off authors just isn’t there. The old system just doesn’t transpose itself across the quantum gap between the two systems. No, their only real option is to go back to night school and learn a bit of creative writing 101 and working for a living 101.

        One of my most prized possessions is Stanley Bing’s book ‘100 Bullshit Jobs … And How To Get Them.’ I was a bit rattled to find no reference to publishers under the ‘P’s. Must write him to get that fault corrected.

  • Are there any ideas or theories on the question of how the cringe or stigma attached to S-P going to be overcome amongst authors? I see a way, but it will depend on the solidarity of the brotherhood of writers. Remember that publishers have their own brotherhood, like bankers, or writers wouldn’t be in the jam they’re in (master-slave relationship). Publishers have stood together for centuries restricting the population on their gravy train by chucking writers off the landings as they tried to board.

    We learn that JKR has gone S-P, after many years making many billions for the limpets and crustaceans. That is the form of solidarity I refer to – jumping ship not just to grab a bigger percentage but to say to the writing poor that she remembers what it was like and won’t forget just because she’s in big demand with the limpets. The honour virus will spread if it’s true that artists aren’t like the mob when it comes to having rather than being.

    My advice to all who might read this is to make as much noise about this honour principle as possible. Just because a writer has made it under the old lottery system is no justificatiuon for him/her to prop it up to the disadvantage of the newbies coming on stream.

    Yes, the revolution got kick-started by technology. But revolutions are about the human mind and soul more than machinery and systems. Let the people speak loudly now about the human needs of this upheaval in publishing. Let the ones who can most afford to help the poorest do their bit for humanity in general. Unless we’re on the ball, we’ll see something similar to what happened when Gorbachev liberated his fellow citizens. Nobody backed him up, and the repression returned.

    People make their own misery; tyrants just move in to manage it for them. Write to at least one established author and explain the problem we all face, and the advantages to humanity that this new freedom is used to the max. We know already that at least one of them is on side.

    • Cindi

      The stigma will disappear–and soon. In looking for a book on Amazon, I don’t care who publishes it. I just look at the cover, the blurb, any reviews, and order or download. That’s the way it is going to be. New writers coming up will self publish until a publisher begs them to let them take the marketing, etc., off their hands. The few publishers left will rely on Movie and Television stars and politicians to keep them in bread and butter, and any writer with a part time job can try on their own to “make it.” This is a brave new world I’m loving.

  • The silence was deafening. The cringe is more deeply rooted than we’ll admit. In the breast of every self-publisher lies this deep wish to be accepted by the crap industry of TradPub. If anyone’s looking for a worthy mentor to break free of that inferiority complex, John Locke is the man. His ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ piece in Part One of his book shows just how futile and unwholesome this cringe is. Look Inside at:

    He’s right in saying that business practices of TradPub are not tolerated in any other industry. Like religion, publishing has been ignored by government regulators so that privileged cruds could go about sodomising the minds of the young on one hand, and keeping the public ignorant by controlling the tap on opinion and knowledge on the other.

    I think a good part of Locke’s deserved success is that he has balls; a commodity greatly lacking in our wimpish society. Here’s what one man I respect said about the problems we face today:
    “This is one of the truly serious things that has happened to the multitude of so-called ordinary people. They have forgotten how to be indignant. This is not because they are overflowing with human kindness., but because they are morally soft and compliant. When they see evil and injustice, they are pained but not angry or revolted. They mutter and mumble, but never cry out. They commit the sin of never being angry. Yet their anger is the one thing above all else that would make them count. If they cannot lead crusades or initiate reforms, they can at least create conditions in which the crusade can be effectual and the reforms successful. The wrath of the multitude could bring back decency and integrity into public life. It could frighten the corrupt into silence and
    blast the rumour-monger into oblivion. It could give honest leaders a chance to win.” – A. Powell Davies

    Self-publishers can’t create the right conditions by secretly supporting the exploiters. I admire Jean-Paul Sartre because he didn’t turn up to claim his Nobel, but mainly because he said he despised people who praise their executioners.

  • There’s only one way to overcome the stigma of self-publishing, and that’s for everyone involved to demand quality. Everyone needs peers to critique their work, and editors to save them from themselves. Authors need to be willing to consider the feedback they get. The physical book itself needs the involvement of competent people for design and printing. Having a good story to tell does not necessarily mean anyone is able to move ahead without outside help. As long as we do our level best to cover all the bases, sure, we can easily do without publishing houses.

    • Stephen, I wholeheartedly agree with you. It’s not enough to simply crank out a manuscript and then self-publish it. Authors who decide to self-publish should treat the publishing end of it seriously, which, as you say, includes getting editorial guidance, as well as considering how best to design the book, inside and out.

  • I’m afraid I can’t agree, Stephen – with this or any other ‘there’s only one way’ type cure-all. There are two types of human being: the ones who can create or produce; and the ones who can’t, but have a knack for helping the former get their work out to the general population. Actor Michael Douglas described the blight in his industry with ‘the agents have taken over’. It’s happened right across the board, which is why I referred earlier to BS jobs. They have our civilzation by the throat.

    There are many ways needed to solve the author’s problem we’re talking about here. I see no evidence that quality is what rules. If it did, Hollywood wouldn’t be spewing out so much garbage or the Republicans getting such a big leg in the door of the Capitol. Garbage is what sells, and it has made publishers rich – rich enough to get their spurious view of themselves as the arbiters of what should be allowed to be disseminated and what should be crushed in the womb.

    The first group I referred to above are generally naive, because they’re idealists, as opposed to the predators that make up the second group. It’s a very human thing to go back to old habits once it seems as though the heat of battle has gone off. But the real battle hasn’t even started yet. If you think powerful controlling interests will give up because the good guys have had an apparent technological break, you’re just handing back to them what they thought they were going to lose. For too long, authors have been playing a game whose rules have been dictated by the second group, not realizing they were the wealth generators, not the parasites.

    The producers have to take charge, with force of conviction, or it’s just more of the same old same old. Of course we need to have good help. So does the lord of the manor. But he doesn’t get it by handing the title deeds of his property over to his servants. I’d rather read an unprofessionally presented bit of truth than the slick ideas-laundered pap that litters our bookshops.

    If I seem a bit more intense about the subject than others, it’s because I’ve become aware to what extent a small minority of humans husband the great mass – with the complicity of the conservative publishing industry and media. I’ve come to learn what ‘quality’ means to publishers. If authors merely take over their function with the same reult, then we deserve all we get.

  • G. James, I enjoy reading your rage against capitalism even as I believe the people can, if they’re smart enough, properly and efficiently restrain its excesses. (Yeah, I agree the last few years haven’t provided much help for that point of view.) I’m somewhat more interested in freedom of expression, including your own. And I think Stephen and Martin are correct in reminding us that the mechanics for achieving that are important. When I consult the Chicago Manual of Style and Wikipedia, and edit my novels at least thirty times each, I truly don’t think of myself as a serf bowing down to his lord. But don’t let that stop you. Rage on!

  • I don’t know why this term “self-publishing” is used.

    Why not simply say, “Starting one’s own publishing company?”

    I’ve published four books that I’ve authored (and several books that others have authored) through my company, LIBRARY OF SOCIAL SCIENCE.

    Why let others decide what one wishes to say?

    Of course, at this point (many years after I started my company–to publish my first book), I think of myself as a businessman and publisher (as well as an author). I’m “publishing my own writing.” So my business personality has to control my author personality.

    Not very easy. The identity of writer is very powerful. However, to be truly autonomous, one must master the writer in oneself: still working to do that and be a publisher.

    However, I’m not a “self-publisher.” I’m the head of a publishing company (Koenigsberg the businessman) who has chosen to invest in Koenigsberg the author.

    • Richard, I enjoyed reading your view of “self-publishing.” You’re leading the way for beginners like myself. But already I strongly feel the need to be two persons in this business, publisher and author, often hotly arguing a point — before we go back to loving and admiring one another again. But your best point of them all is this: “Why let others decide what one wishes to say?”