This is a subject that has been rolling around in my head for a while now and I’ve gone back and forth debating with myself over whether I wanted to post about it or not. Are we diluting the quality of our literature with the advent of self-publishing? Yes, I’m actually asking that as a self-published, indie author.
I’d like to think that what I wrote and published was worth that effort. That I created something that someone would read and really enjoy or make them think or make them feel. I’d also like to think my editor (or anyone else that read for me prior to publishing) would have said something if that wasn’t the case. The little bit of feedback I’ve gotten since publishing makes me think I just might have done okay. I say that with the mindset of having read thousands of books over the years and using that as a basis for comparison, but I’m by no means any kind of an expert in writing or literature. That and I’m obviously going to be biased a little bit. But…
Just because someone writes something they think should be published, does that automatically mean they should?
There have absolutely been some amazing books written and self-published over the years. Books that traditional publishing houses wouldn’t look at because they didn’t fit their perceived model of a successful book, but were able to gain some pretty incredible notoriety without that kind of backing. For that reason alone, I think the ability to self-publish has been a phenomenal tool in helping to change the publishing industry as a whole, giving people a whole lot more options and opening doors that maybe wouldn’t have been there otherwise.
Sadly, I also wonder if it is just way too easy for someone to write something and hit publish. At least with a book coming from a traditional publishing house, or even some of your smaller publishers, you have a level of certainty that the basic quality of a book is going to be good. You may not like the subject, or the characters or all kinds of things that are creative judgements, but you aren’t normally going to be driven up the wall with a poorly put together story with a broken timeline or plot line, terrible sentence structure, punctuation (or lack thereof) and grammar, or all the million other little things any editor worth their pay is going to call you on. Yes, you will almost always find mistakes in even a professionally published book, but for the most part, it is going to be relatively clean. When it comes to self-published, you have zero guarantees of any kind of quality.
As I said, there have been some great books that have been self-published. There has also been a glut of really not great books. I cannot tell you how many books I’ve had to DNF because I don’t think a single person other than the writer laid eyes on it before they hit that publish button. I actually saw someone in the indie community ask other writers if research was necessary when writing a book. Really?! I’ve also seen people bragging about doing their own editing and cover designs (not artists of any stripe). Some of the conversations I’ve seen have absolutely floored me.
I am so torn on this subject because, obviously, I’ve done the self-publish thing. I know where I think I fall in the scale of things, but doesn’t every person that hits publish feel the same? This whole thing makes me feel like I’m being an insufferable snob with a giant ego, but that is so far from the reality it isn’t funny. It actually makes me really worried that I’m somehow too blind and biased and missing the obvious, kicking self-doubt into high gear.
It frustrates me to no end as a reader, but also as a writer. I completely understand why some authors don’t even want to be associated with the self-published label because it doesn’t exactly have a gleaming reputation. I think quality is hugely important. In anything, not just writing and books. I’d rather spend more on something of high quality than something cheap or free that ended up being crap.
With the exception of my favorite authors releasing new books and maybe one or two others here and there, I really haven’t felt like much of what I’ve been reading lately has been all that great. 9 times out of 10, when I go to look more closely at a book I had major non-creative issues with, they were self-published. I also have a tendency anymore to pick out all the things that my editor would have had a field day with and often kind of have his voice running commentary alongside what I’m reading if it is bad enough. Again, something that happens way too often and leaves me to wonder what made the person think it was time to click publish.
I know that part of this is just a kind of reading slump, but I also have to wonder about the overall quality of the books that are out there right now and how the self-publishing side of things play into that lack.