Self-published authors are NOT destroying literature

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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.

Self publishing v. traditional: Which is the right direction?

Self-publishing funnyRemember when I had that whole rant about e-books versus print books and how I want to publish traditionally and be in print? Well I still love print. I am indeed, a print loyalist. But that hasn’t stopped me from partaking of both mediums lately. Mostly, I buy print. But authors will often send me e-copies of their books for me to review on Cellar Door Lit Rants & Reviews. So what’s a girl to do? I also have purchased several e-books when a print edition hasn’t been available.

Of late, I’m also confused as to which direction I want to take the publishing of my book. I’m currently beginning the editing process of my rough draft. This is a momentous occasion for any author, but especially for one who has been working on said book for seven years. That’s the better half of a decade! But it’s not as if I worked diligently every night. I would get stuck and stop for months at a time in the earlier years, hung up on some detail, waging a war with my own imagination.

Only in the last couple of years did I finally figure it out. Funny how even I didn’t know how it was going to all pan out until much later. And when the battle of my ideas was finally won, I got serious about finishing the story and realizing my dream of being an author. In the last year,  I also realized this book is more than just one, it’s three, with a spin-off series cooking in my brain.

So now I’m finally finished with the first draft, but with plenty of editing ahead of me. And now I’m thinking, should I start looking for agents soon? But what about self-publishing? From what I’ve read it can actually be more lucrative than going with a big publisher since Amazon takes such a small cut. It’s also faster — you mean I could virtually write my book, format it and make a cover and have it out within a matter of weeks? Hells yeah! After seven years I hardly have the patience left to wait how many more months it would take to get an agent, shop it around and then, and only if I got picked up, deal with another round of editing. It sounds arduous and long and I just want to happily tweet about my new book that’s on Amazon today.

But that other part of me, the one who says why not try traditional first and if it doesn’t pan out self-publish, sits in the back of my mind chanting its magic spell. She says be patient, what’s one more year after seven? Well, eight or nine actually.

I feel informed, I’ve read the literature and I think I understand the pros and cons.  But while I still struggle with the decision, I think I will be searching for an agent at the end of all of this and we’ll see where this journey continues to take me. I have nothing but respect for those who have self-published and have had even modest success. My hat goes off to you. It’s a world thick with authors trying to rise to the top and self-publishing has given a voice to those stories that may never have made the light of day. I can attest that many  I have read have been great reads. I’m thankful  because I know no matter what, my story will live one way or another. And that’s a comfort that didn’t exist seven years ago when the sprig of this story first blossomed from my imagination.