Today I read a an article at GoodEReader.com by Michael Kozlowski with the headline, Self-Published Authors Are Destroying Literature. I was immediately offended for all self-published authors who’ve written solid work, I mean what a blanket statement. We all know that the facts are in, and that self-publishing has an obvious role in the future of book publishing, so blaming self-publishing for the downfall of literature seems rather unrealistic.
For one thing, if you’re going to blame anything, blame digital publishing and the ebook revolution. But honestly, I didn’t realize that literature was being destroyed. From my perspective, it looks like literature is being expanded to encompass more by allowing writers outside the mainstream to have a voice, while also giving the author more control. So many elitists tout the Big Six (not that I wouldn’t love to have them notice my work) but I’ve got to tell you, some of the stuff being published today by the big publishers is yawn-worthy. It’s almost as if there is a formula for success in certain genres — ahem, young adult or anything to do with vampires.
For awhile there, I didn’t want to get into the whole ebook fad. I’m a print loyalist, I’ve said it before. But then I started reviewing books and it just became the easy way to go about business. Since a lot of self-published books start in the ebook format, I’ve read a few. There have definitely been some less-than-polished products, although our good writer over at GoodEReader.com seems to think self-published books in general “devalue the work of legitimate published authors.”
His argument follows the line of thought that because indie authors often price ebooks between $0.99 and $2.99 that it makes readers unwilling to pay for mainstream work that’s going for $7.99 to $12.99. I’m sorry, but I don’t care if you were published by Penguin or your very own self, I refuse to spend $12.99 on an ebook, except for the one time when I did because I was just so addicted to the series. My excuse is I had a gift card. But in most occasions, I would just rather buy the print edition. You can’t lovingly turn the pages of a digital copy or see it age and wear with rereads. It is just not worth it to me no matter who you are to buy an ebook at that price. Unless, like I explained before, I was already addicted and not in my right mind. I mean it was like 1 a.m. and I just had to know what was going to happen next.
Here’s the thing, I’ve read self-published stories that I didn’t think were up to par with their editing — a grammar mistake here, a weird space there, or an entire chapter that could have been pulled. I’ve noticed when more editing should have taken place, but I can’t discount that many of the stories have been wonderful. And that’s not to say that all self-published works even have that problem.
Joe Vampire by Steve Luna was initially a self-published work, although he is now published under the Booktrope label. He was seriously a little bit of an inspiration in the vampire genre, where so many authors are trying to ride on the coattails of Twilight. It was refreshing to read a different take in a saturated topic.
I’ve also read truly awful stuff published by mainstream publishers that may have been edited to death, but still have grammatical mistakes. That said, I don’t think self-published authors are singlehandedly destroying quality literature, especially beacuse there’s plenty of quality coming from that spectrum of publishing.
The one area where I can agree with Kozlowski is the tweeting. I follow a lot of authors on Twitter, many of them probably self-published, and my stream is almost a solid mass of writers trying to get people to buy their books. I completely understand that this is one reason why Twitter is helpful, but as a reader, I’m more interested in what they have to say as people. The constant advertisements just blur together, and it’s only when I see someone tweet something interesting that I’ll really pay attention. Initially, when I first started my book review blog I caught a few titles off the digital bookshelf stream, but now I really have no need.
Like most things, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Many would agree that Ernest Hemingway was an amazing literary author, but I’ve known people who didn’t like his writing at all. E.L. James’ 50 Shades of Gray certainly seduced readers in droves, but I wouldn’t deign to touch the book. So let’s give readers some credit for being able to choose their own literature based on their own personal tastes. If they choose a self-published author over a mainstream author, I’m sure the mainstream author will find plenty of other readers being backed by a big publishing house and the grace of newspaper book review lists. And if it’s bad, then it’ll tank. Like any book.
Just in case anyone thinks I’m writing this because I’m going to hopefully publish my book sometime soon, let me explain. While I respect self-published authors, I in no way want to go that route myself. It just seems like so much work and I want more support for my first book. But it doesn’t mean I never would. Publishing today is a whole new game, one that elitists should get on board with soon because the writing is already on the page.