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Self-Published Authors Still Relegated to the Back of the Publishing Bus

Posted by Brittany Lavin on Wed, Aug 25, 2010 @ 03:27 PM

by LinDee Rochelle

If you’ve been roaming around the book publishing industry for a while, you’ve likely stumbled across the Publisher’s Weekly blog that has everyone talking around the virtual water cooler.

From the president of PW, “We are returning to our earliest roots. PW dates to 1872, when it was first known as Trade Circular Weekly and listed all titles published that week in what was then a nascent industry. We have decided to embrace the self-publishing phenomenon in a similar spirit. Call it what you will―self-publishing, DIY, POD, author-financed, relationship publishing, or vanity fare. They are books and that is what PW cares about. And we aim to inform the trade.”

Wow. Do you know how long we’ve waited for someone in the “upper realm” to believe we exist―and have more to offer than formulaic prose? So why am I not happy? (No comments from you guys about women never being happy … very funny …)

Seriously, left-handed compliments are a thin disguise for disdain. In the eyes of Publisher’s Weekly and many others who either sit on the throne of traditional publishing, or grovel at its feet, we are still nothing more than the illiterate redheaded stepchild.

Those of you who have followed me through Infinity Publishing to Author Nation may be familiar with the blog I posted in response to recent years’ doomsday predictions of print books dying a horrible, imminent death, “Publishing’s Death Knell Premature.”

Photo courtesy of Vjeran LisjakIt didn’t take a crystal ball

One particular paragraph stood out in my re-reading of it: “Author-originated publishing has suffered long enough as the industry's redheaded stepchild! It was shunned in its infancy, kicked around in its adolescence, and is finally ready―with the help of the economic crisis―to experience its final growth into adulthood and stand proud as publishing hope for authors who have real talent.

Mmm, I love it when a prediction comes true. Much has happened in the industry since that post―some good, some not-so-wonderful. However, two points come quickly to mind: 1) print books are NOT going away―book STORES are; and 2) my prediction remains valid that traditional publishers and the rest of their pompous entourage better realize the power of the people in “self publishing”―or suffer the consequences.

Before you jump all over me, let me clarify―some book stores have already closed. Big-box chain stores are sitting on Humpty Dumpty’s shaky wall. Independent stores and book sections within chains will survive in moderation, IF they’re smart and find their niche.

But print books will continue to sell―online. I just bought another one for posterity and my research (Cousin Brucie: My Life in Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio, out-of-print). They will share more of the marketplace with digital books, but there will always be a need for print publications. Oh, you don’t think so?              

Let me digress, pleasePhoto courtesy of Alessandro Paiva

A quick aside on “power”―the electrical kind: I am concerned about our technology―not because it’s usurping my beloved book-in-hand moments, but on a much more basic need level. I was without power for 12 hours last week. Now, that isn’t nearly as long as the 4-day stint my friend, John Harnish, experienced last month. But in the 7 awake hours it represented, I had to find something to do WITHOUT MY INTERNET! OMG.

What was my alternative? Certainly not reading a book on an eReader … while the battery would last for an hour or so … what then? Nope. And though my land line didn’t work, my cell phone did―5 minutes on the ‘Net sucked it dry. So, I turned to my trusty flashlight on my actually printed-on-paper books and newspaper. And I learned a lot. Foremost, I have more “D” batteries lying around than eReader batteries.

Power problems will continue to plague us, as nothing can predict natural disasters. However, I don’t believe any of our power grids are up to the challenge of the technology we’re creating. I’m keeping my print books. But back to PW and the power of self-publishing …

Well-meaning, or grudging jump into the money pit?  

Although it’s nice to feel the fuzzy warm touch of a faction as venerable as PW, the announcement of their “Select quarterly supplement for self-published titles,” still relegates independent authors to the back of the bus. We’re not allowed to sit with the kids up front. In fact, we get our own bus. Add to that, not “charging for reviews” but requiring a “processing fee”―and still the redheaded stepchild must walk 10 paces behind on the way into the schoolhouse.

Only the toughest of new authors and the smartest of traditional authors turned renegade, have the self-pride to withstand the stigma and persevere.

While independent authors may take advantage of PW’s Select service because of its lopsided validation, they won’t be fooled into thinking the $149 fee is anything but pure revenue for PW, in times when everyone is looking for a new way to make the almighty buck.

Ah―I guess I should give them a little credit―we get a six-month PW subscription with that fee. Woohoo- but no guarantee that our books will be reviewed. Sigh.             

Another prediction

I’m going to say it again, as I did nearly two years ago, “Right up front, aspiring authors MUST consider professional editing as mandatory to publishing their book for market. If it's going to be a family history only, then by all means, write with reckless abandon and cracked grammar (not grandma). But if you truly feel your story has merit―prove it. If you don't have enough dollars in the cookie jar for editing, you're not ready to publish and sell your manuscript.” Trust me- even editors need editors. I should know.

If we’re to win this self-publishing game, we need to take pride in our work and publish quality books through quality publishers―if we don’t take ourselves seriously, no one else will. Although we may desire reviews by those entities that have grown disproportionately advantaged and forgotten that the roots of publishing includes self-publishing (think Ben Franklin, Mark Twain and Virginia Woolf), with the advent of the Internet and our readers’ reviews- I predict it won’t be long when we can do without them.

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Photos courtesy of Alessandro Paiva and Vjeran Lisjak.

Tags: pod, infinity publishing, infinity, self publishing, books, authors, self publishing companies, publishing, publishing industry, publisher's weekly, how to get published

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