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View Full Version : The Angle on "Self-Serving" Commentary



Richard L. Sutton
10-15-2009, 07:53 PM
I'm an Indie Author. OK -- there I've said it. Now if we could hold up on the snickering for a moment, I have a question I'd like to get some answers on.

Why is it that every time someone reports news that might cast a slightly more favorable light on self-publishing, someone with mainstream publlshing industry ties -- or those who seem to want to sidle up to the mainstream industry -- cast aspersions that the report is "self serving"? Why are comments which defend the publishing industry model status quo and decry change, NOT considered self-serving as well?

Aren't we all trying to write and publish? Aren't we all trying to find readers? Why is it that some of us are considered self-serving wing-nuts, while others, using different means to achieve the same goals are considered the lauded voice of sincerity and reason? If the answer is that there are some really crappy novels self-published, I'll reply "there are lots of crappy novels that are mainstream published". If the answer is "the industry's track record", I'll reply "200 years of hit and miss doesn't add up to graven stone tablets from on high."

What are the real "angles" here, and why is the playing field so terribly tilted? Any comments out there?

Phaeal
10-15-2009, 09:36 PM
What's an "indie" writer? I would have guessed a writer published by an independent or small press, not a self-published writer.

I don't think self-published writers are any more self-serving than other writers. I just don't think that self-publication pays off for anyone who doesn't have a strong sales platform (usually for nonfiction) or who doesn't very, very, very energetically promote his own book.

Whereas someone published by the big guys might only have to very, very energetically promote his own book. ;)

Jamesaritchie
10-15-2009, 09:38 PM
I don't think you'll change any attitudes. Much reading has told me that the worst commercially published novel is better than 99.9% of all self-published novels.

This doesn't mean some few self-published novels aren't extremely good. Some incredibly few are wonderful, but it does mean that most self-published novels do earn the term "vanity publishing" in every way possible, even if you choose to call it "Indie Publishing."

Your comebacks about commercial publishing just sound like sour grapes, and even if true, you're still comparing and industry that's mostly quality to one that's mostly crap.

I have nothing against being self-serving, but as a whole, I simply can't take self-published novels seriously.

Lady Ice
10-15-2009, 10:13 PM
I can't take self-publishing seriously. If you publish a book, you want, amongst other things, to make money from it. So you offer it to the big companies. If they reject it, you publish it yourself.

Richard L. Sutton
10-15-2009, 10:56 PM
The big question still remains -- work should stand on its own merit.

By the way, "why" they reject a manuscript changes daily or even more frequently. Like the wind direction. Consider the number of books, rejected years ago, covering Michael Jackson's life, who are now being welcomed with open arms...even publicists. Anyone who believes that a novelist's work is rejected soley because it's not good enough is very, very naive.

Many, major writers have in the past, when it was really, really hard to sell a self-published novel, resorted to self-publishing to get the story out. Times have changed. Let me put this another way: Times have changed.

If your novel is truly garbage, it won't sell no matter how it's published, but...if you write well, in a niche genre and can market to the readers who will have an interest in your book, then there is little reason to let your work languish because a Mainstream Publisher/Mainstream Agent can't figure out how to sell it in this market.

They are having trouble selling the ones they did pick up.

Shadow_Ferret
10-15-2009, 11:00 PM
There's a reason self-publishing is called "Vanity press."

veinglory
10-15-2009, 11:02 PM
Who are you critiquing, could you be more specific? Because the world is a big place and everyone gets to have an opinion. Obsessing about people who differ in their thinking from you is hardly productive.

Frankly I am sick of self-published authors tell me that my analytical approach means I am a closed-minded hater, when I have bought and read more self-published books than most of them put together.

I am tired of self-published authors trying to act like they are being matyred when most people really just do not care. You're here, you're self-published (not "indy" that already has a meaning within publishing), and we're over it.

Just don't expect use to throw a parade.

Bubastes
10-15-2009, 11:05 PM
How many books are on your bookshelf?

How many of them are self-published?

ETA:

My answers: a lot, and none.

Cyia
10-15-2009, 11:08 PM
indie publishing =/= self publishing

self publishing =/= vanity publishing

self publishing and vanity publishing =/= vetted for quality

Wayne K
10-15-2009, 11:09 PM
How many books are on your bookshelf?

How many of them are self-published?
Many.

None.

veinglory
10-15-2009, 11:11 PM
How many books are on your bookshelf?

How many of them are self-published?

In my case it is currently

~1000
~50 (none of them written by a person I know or have met other than at an book signing event)

And I am not very interested in complaints of how unfair the world is unless the author has a ratio much higher than that, and so some chance of understanding their own customers and their outlook.

aadams73
10-15-2009, 11:21 PM
I've never read a good self-published book. I've never even glimpsed a good self-published book. They're generally weak, poorly written, full of errors, and more often than not the product of someone who isn't willing to work hard enough to be published "for real," and/or someone who isn't smart enough to realize they don't have any aptitude for writing.

Self-publishing is "self-serving" in that enables people, who would be better keeping their inane babble to themselves and never letting it see the light of day, to wave around a book and go, "look at me, I'm published!" It retards growth. Those who self-publish(I'm disregarding niche writers here--that's quite different) are throwing an unready, sub-standard product out there instead of realizing that they are not yet skilled enough to be on the shelves. Growth stops with the passing of that buck.

And because I'm smart enough to learn from my own experiences, no, I won't pick up another self-published book. Because odds are it will be more of the same sub-standard crap. And my time is too precious to waste on inferior products. End of story.

Namatu
10-15-2009, 11:30 PM
By the way, "why" they reject a manuscript changes daily or even more frequently. Like the wind direction. Consider the number of books, rejected years ago, covering Michael Jackson's life, who are now being welcomed with open arms...even publicists. Anyone who believes that a novelist's work is rejected soley because it's not good enough is very, very naive.I doubt you'll find many people who agree that quality is the sole reason for rejection. It's also about timing in the market. Michael Jackson is more marketable now that he's dead than when he was off wherever it was he'd been for the past many years. I was wishing for more vampire books ten+ years ago and now I'm starting to wish they'd go back to the bat cave they'd been trapped in. Market. Timing. (And quality.)

katiemac
10-15-2009, 11:43 PM
The big question still remains -- work should stand on its own merit.

Maybe it should. But it doesn't.

A book published by a traditional hose--like HarperCollins--stands on much more than what is between the pages. Forget the name on the cover. This book has proved, via an agent and an editor and many more people at the publishing house, like the marketers and publicists, that it is a book worth reading. HarperCollins and RandomHouse and all the others are not just the venues that get the book in a store, they're also the seal of approval.

The seal can be many things--whether it's sheer brilliance or newsworthiness (Michael Jackson) or timeliness (Twilight).

Self-publishing, simply put, does not have a seal. It's not uncommon for customers of any product not buy something without anyone testing it out beforehand.

Dicentra P
10-15-2009, 11:54 PM
The big question still remains -- work should stand on its own merit.

How do I know the merit of a self published book before I (buy and) read it? At least with a traditionally published book I know at that someone besides the author thinks it is worth publishing. Sad experience tells me this is not always a good indicator but it is better than the assurance of the author alone.

veinglory
10-15-2009, 11:58 PM
Look at it this way, there are two identical, perfect shiny apples. One is on a shelf at a supermarket next to a number of other apples in the adequate to perfect range. The other in on top of a pile of miscelanious fruit most of which are rotten. Which do you think is most likely to be chosen?

Parametric
10-16-2009, 12:04 AM
Look at it this way, there are two identical, perfect shiny apples. One is on a shelf at a supermarket next to a number of other apples in the adequate to perfect range. The other in on top of a pile of miscelanious fruit most of which are rotten. Which do you think is most likely to be chosen?

And to get to the apple in the pile of rotting fruit, you have to walk past the supermarket apples and root around in the pile for half an hour before you can dig out a decent one. And then you pay twice as much as for a supermarket apple. And the apple probably has poorer production values, which I'm not sure how to translate into this metaphor. :tongue

Cyia
10-16-2009, 12:09 AM
It's more like paying $7.00 to go see a big summer blockbuster by your favorite director and starring your favorite actor -

as opposed to:

paying $17.95 to sit in the back room of the civic center on a folding chair with 3 legs and watch a grainy black and white VCR recording made by a Junior High drama class who made the props in art.

Michael J. Hoag
10-16-2009, 12:11 AM
I get my apples from the orchard. Mmmm. apples.

C.M.C.
10-16-2009, 12:11 AM
People wrongly assume that a level of filtering will weed out the truly terrible books. We all know that isn't the case, but it's a hard thought to shake. You probably wouldn't drive a car someone built in his own garage, so convincing yourself that self-published books are the same as the "real thing" is difficult.

willietheshakes
10-16-2009, 01:39 AM
People wrongly assume that a level of filtering will weed out the truly terrible books. We all know that isn't the case, but it's a hard thought to shake. You probably wouldn't drive a car someone built in his own garage, so convincing yourself that self-published books are the same as the "real thing" is difficult.

Moreso considering the evidence that they're largely NOT the "real thing" is so overwhelming.

ishtar'sgate
10-16-2009, 04:20 AM
How many books are on your bookshelf?

How many of them are self-published?


Many.
One, and it's very good.

Polenth
10-16-2009, 08:02 AM
A lot of comments are due to the fact most of those articles aren't honest. They'll say self-publishing is the way of the future and quote a few major success stories. They'll imply this will happen for all self-published authors and riches will follow.

They don't mention the fact that most self-published books will be lucky to sell 100 copies, won't get into book stores and will probably cost the author more to produce/market than they'll get back. They often gloss over the amount of work the successful author put into marketing. It's worded as though they simply wrote the book and success followed.

Most responses I've seen criticising such articles aren't saying that all self-published books will fail. They're cautioning that it's the exception to succeed, not the rule - and you need to expect to work your socks off to be that exception.

ishtar'sgate
10-16-2009, 07:09 PM
They don't mention the fact that most self-published books will be lucky to sell 100 copies, won't get into book stores and will probably cost the author more to produce/market than they'll get back. They often gloss over the amount of work the successful author put into marketing. It's worded as though they simply wrote the book and success followed.


Exactly. The self-published author whose book I have on my shelf works hard at promoting her novel. Most of us do not have the time or resources to make such a committment.
The book is called Follow the Cowherd Boy. The author is J.A. Joshi. Her novel is based on a 16th century Hindu story involving Mirabai and her love for Krishna. She self-published in order to maintain control of the content.