Self publishing: frontline of the Revolution?

I have issues with self- publishing. Natural issues, I would have thought, and issues most certainly don’t mean I have made my mind up one way or another; a constant flux that seems quite fitting to self- publishing in general.

The numbers who are choosing this route are increasing it seems at the rate viruses do on apocalyptic movies.. Almost everyone on the writing community I belong to has chosen this option, the rest it seems certain will surely follow. Yet at the same time, their books are still posted, they are still seeking critiques, editing help and retain the option to submit to the big boys. So what exactly is self -publishing and what does it mean to me, the writer and me, the reader?

Is it what it always was, a simple act of vanity? Has it evolved to become the cheat’s route to the golden egg, which remains oddly a traditional publishing deal? Or a genuine attempt to break the moulds of convention and speak direct to the reader?

Certainly it has everyone talking as though a major shift has occurred. It has the backing, a hundred percent, of the biggest online retailer of books which commands a world -wide audience and takes most of the literary pie.  It is reported that ebooks command up to 20% of the market, peaking in genres such as romance and crime. Seven titles by self pubbed authors have made it onto the ebook best sellers list this year, outselling giants such as Piccoult and Grisham. Interestingly all seven are romance/erotica. The point, most effectively made by Hugh Howey and E.L James, is that it can be done. Rare yes, but so is the success it may be argued by Grisham and Picoult, the ones being outsold.

So as a writer, who need no longer submit to the gatekeepers, stick two fingers up at the agents and Vive la revolution! Oui?

Mmm. A revolution? Why does it feel that this revolution is not so much reader as it is writer driven? We seem first and foremost to be serving our own needs, regardless of how we use the new option. Is this of benefit to readers, are the books of greater quality, is there more diversity, catering to those neglected less profitable margins? As someone who reads on those margins, I’m not feeling satisfied.

This feels like the literary equivalent of a couple of middle class revolutionaries rising up on behalf of the poor. We have 90% more dying slowly of starvation, 90% more dying in battle, which leaves around two orphans still alive to say, ha ha suck on this royal dicks! As the dictator commanded…

Whenever I read anything which questions its value or place, a clear divide appears, with the self published masses crying foul and the voice of the opposition –  not always, it should be noted, a gatekeeper –  shouted down as nothing more than a troll, baiting the hard working author for the sake of a few cheap page views. Interestingly, apparently the favourite way to stick it to the naysayers is to correct their grammar, as if in doing so they are  proving categorically that they have the know-how and thus the right to do this.

I take no one’s right away from them. If you can buy yourself a book, then by all means do so. Typos, while annoying, happen to even the most anal, apostrophes, god bless the little buggers, are as easily overlooked as me at a Betty Boop convention. My concern is not that you tried, I understand that pride when the first book is finally complete, but rather that everyone tried and thus, that perhaps no one is really trying at all anymore.  Imagine, technology finally made something easier 🙂

I am going to continue to watch and question, to ask what it means as whole for literature. And yes, as a reader, a story lover, a bookworm, I am very interested in that most abstract of issues. I am, as always, eager to hear other opinions, but, as always, please note the NO TROLLS ALLOWED sign.


9 thoughts on “Self publishing: frontline of the Revolution?

  1. It’s writer driven, certainly, but at the end of the day, readers themselves don’t care who publishes a book so long as the story is good. They are the ultimate gatekeepers in this flooded market and will choose which books deserve to stay and which books will collect dust on the virtual shelves of the internet.

    1. that’s the hope. And the masses certainly have a power that previously was, at least to some degree, in the hands of a few.

      I think the big question with that is marketing and its something I am really interested in, purely because I am a terrible saleswoman! Once I have done a bit more research I will be blogging on it.

      Have you self published, out of interest?

      1. it does feel good I imagine to have that validation. I wonder how much the average self pubbed author misses that?

        I will have to check out your blog. Good luck with your book. Is it out yet?

      2. It’s nice to have that validation, but I want reader validation more than anything else because they’re ultimately the ones who are going to buy my book–or not.

        And thank you! It’s not out yet. It’s undergoing line edits.

  2. Revolution? Maybe it’s more a step in returning publishing to its cottage-industry roots.
    Think of those early volumes that were issued by subscription or by a printer connected to a particular bookstore; these may have appeared in runs of only 200 copies, which may well fit into the self-published model in contrast to the blockbuster demands of today’s commercial conglomerates.
    We at least now have an opening for works to appear that speak to niche readerships — a particular region, perhaps, or, as my entry, Hippie Drum, seeks, those who experienced a particular time in history.
    Much of the self-publishing realm may not be that far removed from this phenomenon of blogging itself, where we may be addressing a few hundred kindred souls around the world … and even hearing back from them and interacting. Sometimes it feels like corresponding with strangers who are becoming friends as well — or the “letters” part of arts and letters.
    As a reader, I’ve long felt neglected by the marketing/genre gatekeepers of the traditional book industry: as a consequence of the changes, many of my favorite writers from the ’60s would have never seen print today. As a writer, of course, it’s been even more difficult. And literary agents have their own tales of woe.
    I suspect the next stage of this revolution will involve critics and reviewers — yes, the ones who have long been marginalized by the publishing world. Now, however, it may be possible again for readers to find voices they trust who diligently sort through the new releases and point to fresh voices and new directions.

    1. Thanks for your response. That’s an interesting take. I really don’t know much about the cottage industry roots – though the phrase alone charms me!

      I take it you have self published? I would be very interested in hearing your experience.

      I would love to believe you are right and we will see a greater variety out there. though it always seems to come back to the same issue – how do you get seen? Something I would blog about if I could just figure it out!

      1. My novel, Hippie Drum, has been out less than a month via Smashwords. So the experience is entirely new and taking shape. Having had more than a thousand poems published in the small-press scene, plus two previous novels, and with four decades as a professional journalist, I’m quite involved in the publishing world, pro and con.

      2. so you are in the position to compare traditional versus self publishing? Be interesting to see how it shapes up.

        You have actually inspired an idea for a blog post. So thank you and good luck! I’ll have to check out your blog.


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