Most of you know my take on self-publishing. I've posted about it HERE. You also probably know that I am a reviewer at Underground Book Reviews--a site dedicated to reviewing "Indy-published books." We take a fairly broad view of "Indy," including small publishers, vanity presses (as long as they aren't imprints of a major publishing house), and self-published. At UBR, we're all very committed to providing honest reviews and feedback to authors, even when it means exposing them to some harsh truths about what they've put out. You can read about my approach to reviewing in this blog post: So, You Want Me to Review Your Book, and also at UBR HERE.
I've also written about the long haul of the writing life...it's a marathon, not a sprint. You can read my thoughts about writing as an endurance sport on author KW McCabe's website (and updated HERE in 2014), and about the patience required during the writing, querying, and publishing process HERE and HERE .
Yes, I've taken a pretty harsh tone for someone who did self-publish the electronic versions of my books (the print versions are published by Casperian Books, a full-service, no cost, fees, or book purchase requirements to the author, or, as the publishing industry truism says, "money flows to the author"). But, if you read those posts, you'll see that I'm not opposed to self-publishing, but I am very much against rushing to publish without "paying one's dues" by putting in the time and effort needed to learn and hone the craft.
Yesterday, an opinion piece appeared on Huff Post: Self-publishing: An Insult to the Written Word.
An insult to the written word.
That's harsh. Even by my standards. And as a read through the comments (time-worthy) shows, many of her points really do lack validity. But, many of them don't.
A better, more evenhanded and accurate take on the impact of self-publishing on the reading and writing world can be found in Kristin Lamb's Blog Generation Author Snowflake & the High Cost of Instant Gratification.
All authors and aspiring authors, all those who "won" NaNoWriMo in November and rushed to Create Space or some other instant-gratification site to "publish,"--you need to read this. Take it to heart. And while the "participation award" mentality may be more pronounced in the millennial generation, don't think any of us are exempt from the excitement and ego-stroking of some instant gratification. That's pretty clear in all the self-published novels from the 40-, 50-, 60-, 70+ year-old authors. While many are well-written, with great story-telling, an equal (or greater) number are premature publications, put out by "good writers" who didn't take the time and make the effort to become better, to strive for "great."
As Lamb predicted, the slush pile has been dumped in the reader’s lap and it has devalue what it means to say, “I am a published author.” It's been overrun with rough drafts from those who have always been told they're "good" writers. Sure, they're good--more than good enough for the writing in their life--the annual Christmas letters, the college-essays, their personal blogs. But is it good enough to be a "professional"--a published novelist?
In academia, good enough is a C...it's average. A "good" athlete doesn't walk on to a pro team without putting in an awful lot of work first. Why assume it's different for writing?
What's the solution to the glut of not-ready-for-prime-time published books out there?
That's the big question for all of us--authors, agents, publishers--isn't it?
We're still in the midst of the mayhem. A new model for publishing is still thrashing around, trying to emerge. It hasn't fully formed and worked out what it is yet.
I do think it's going to become more imperative for reviewers to give honest reviews, not just 5-star hoping for the same in return. I also think it's a disservice if/when reviewers only post a review if they can give >3-stars. That's not really helping anyone, is it? If an author has asked for the review, give it to them--the one they earn. They have every opportunity before asking for a review to find critique partners, edit, revise, rewrite, go through beta readers, rewrite again. Their failure in due diligence shouldn't give them a pass to not receive a bad review when it's merited. Too many of us are worried about "revenge reviews" coming back at our own work if we're that honest. I'd like to think any petty, revenge-reviews would be obvious, so wouldn't really cause any real damage. Maybe that's naive.
We do need more review sites like Underground Book Reviews, where the reviewers are held to a high standard for our reviews (higher, at least, then I've found at some review sites where it's clear they're just pumping out 5-star reviews based on the back cover blurb and maybe some info they found on the author's website.). We are required to read the book, and we post the review the book earns, not the one the author necessarily wants.
Whatever the new publishing landscape turns into, one thing is clear: Self-publishing is here to stay. How does it become something that lets saying "I am a published author" retain its value?
I wish I knew.