“I don’t want to read your self-published book”

The Horn Book

Fighting words, but Ron Charles at The Washington Post has a point.

At The Post, we’re getting about 150 books a day. A day. And these are books that had to find an agent. And then a publisher. And then were professionally edited. And now are being professionally marketed by people with money on the line. Many of these books, of course, are bad, but many — far more than we can review — are interesting, engaging, informative, moving, timely and/or newsworthy for various reasons.

Are there great, truly great self-published books being produced — and ignored — every year?

I’m sure there are, and that’s a tragedy. But it’s not a tragedy that I can solve by reading 25 pages of every one of the 300,000 self-published book that would land in our office if we opened the door.

This was a response to An open letter to the self-published author feeling dissed. Roger Sutton of The Horn Book has this to say about self-published children’s books:

I think it has to do with the way people approach writing books “for children.” If a gardening enthusiast or a paranormal fan self-publishes a guide to lilacs or a vampire novel respectively he is likely to be imagining a reader like himself. But people writing “for children” tend to have set themselves up as Lady Bountifuls, handing down stories from above like plates of healthy vegetables. They perceive virtue in what they are doing–and virtue is no place from which to begin a book. Just about every adult I ever met has “a great idea for a children’s book” that is always an AWFUL idea for a children’s book, and, thanks to the greater ease of self-publishing, those books are coming to light.

I’ll admit I know less about the self-published children’s market than adult fiction, but it’s an interesting observation, if overly blunt in the rest of the post. Problems with voice are apparent in many books (self and traditionally published).

And here’s the letter from a self-published writer that started it all:

Dear Editors:

I find it hard to believe that, here we are in the age of communications, and publications such as the Boston Globe Horn Book are still stuck in the old industrial paradigm, serving only established publishing concerns when there are so many great independently published books out there, including my middle grade novel Nelson Telson – The Story of a True Blue Blood. Google it.

When I read submission guidelines: “Books produced by publishers that are not listed in Literary Market Place are not considered,” it just breaks my heart to see that literary people whose job is to bring good books and the love of reading to the public are actually suppressing information and thereby robbing the very reading public they are supposed to serve. Freedom of speech itself is wrapped up in this highfalutin reactionary, exclusive brotherhood between reviewers, agents, and publishing houses. If you haven’t noticed, we entered the Information Age three decades ago; we’re riding the Third Wave now, and that includes independently published works of exceptional quality. Hop onboard!