POD People brought this blog entry (newspaper article?) to my attention. I read it, hoping it will say something new about self-publishing, but to my disappointment, it is yet another puff piece with big leaps of conclusion (better than expected Kindle sales = self-publishing is catching fire... say what?) and grandiose declarations with very little statistical or factual evidence to back up all that hot air.
I like the idea of self-publishing as an avenue for daring and edgy non-mainstream fiction to get published, but I often wonder who these circus barkers are trying to fool. Self-publishing is thriving? Yes, but come on, those authors are not getting rich - it is those folks who run vanity publishing services that are getting rich as authors, lured by offers of "Free self-publishing!", end up buying overpriced and usually not effective add-on services like editing (ha), marketing, and such.
The problem with self-publishing propoganda, if you ask me, is that most of these circus barkers are telling people what they want to hear, as opposed to telling them the hard facts. They tell barely literate high school dropouts that grammar and writing ability don't matter because stories "come from the heart" or something like that. They tell desperate authors that traditional publishers are evil people who deliberately set out to crush their dreams. They tell these people that they are entitled to be authors, and yes, fame and success and respect will follow shortly after because look at the handful of current self-published authors who have made it big, blah blah blah. It's like an online version of a huge telemarketing sales pitch trying to sell people tickets to overpriced motivational seminars.
Why not tell the truth and let the authors know that self-publishing requires as much hard work as breaking into traditional publishing? And that to succeed, you need to either market your rear end off after doing careful market research and do it well (and with luck on your side) or you already have a pre-established audience. And that you will have to think like a businessman as well as an author because you do not have a marketing department to stock your books in bookstores for you? Self-publishing is no short cut to success - it is another way to get published, but it is also another kind of hard work awaiting the author. And the rewards are far lower than you would reap with traditional publishing, unless you are an expert in your field with a ready-made audience at your seminars and classes, you are willing to go all out and develop the tenacity of an MLM fanatic in marketing your book to everyone and anyone, or you are content to sell a dozen or so copies and knowing that there is an audience, however small, that appreciate your art.
But of course, if we tell people all this, then self-publishing won't attract that big an audience and those fly-by-night vanity publishers will have to find another get-rich scheme to latch on to.
My point here is not that self-publishing is bad, but that if we want self-publishing to attain a legitimate kind of credibility, we need to start by admitting the warts as well as the pretty parts of self-publishing. We need to tell the barely literate wannabes out there who think that they can write, "Look, self-publishing won't make you the next Stephen King. Go back to school, or at least improve your English, read some books from your library, and then think about whether you want to write." Those people shouldn't be encouraged to self-publish, they should be encouraged to either improve themselves first or... I don't know, try pitching their stories at soap opera producers. Just make them stop becoming the #1 clients of self-publishing industry, because that will not help improve the image of the industry as a cesspit run by con men to exploit gullible people. And really, we should stop letting circus barker types write propaganda that has very little difference from the sales pitch of an MLM racket. Stop pretending that self-publishing is the magic button to success. There is no short cut in having a writing career - self-publishing is one way to do it, but like traditional publishing, it too has its own set of challenges that the author must overcome.