Over the past 3 years that I’ve taken more of an interest in learning about the publishing industry, my views on self-publishing have been varied. As I seem to be cursed with the ability to see both sides of nearly every issue, I can understand where both supporters and opponents of self-publishing are coming from. But as a book reviewer, my views on self-publishing have taken on a new angle and are likely different than Joe Schmoe off the street. What are these views exactly? Well, read on to get a good look at how complex my opinion on this is.
Good: Books that normally would not be published are being published.
Bad: Books that normally would not be published are being published.
One of the good things about self-publishing is that it gets out some excellent books that would never be accepted by major publishing houses. Maybe the book is too controversial, unusual or the publisher doesn’t think there’s a market for it (note that these three things are not mutually exclusive). These are the kinds of self-published books that I love. On the other hand, sometimes there are good reasons for major publishers not accepting it. Like the fact that it is complete crap designed to fulfill its creator’s fantasies.
Good: The author is in complete control of the process, including editing, cover design and marketing.
Bad: The author is in complete control, rather than the trained professionals who do such things for a living.
While I absolutely loved Andrew Levkoff’s self-published debut novel, I’ll be one of the first to admit that it should have been proofread better and that the cover is not exactly the most attractive I’ve ever seen. While he has corrected all of the errors I caught in his latest editions, this is a common problem for self-published authors. It’s also one of the best and worst parts of self-publishing: the level of control the author has. Sure, they can hire freelance editors and professional artists, but will it be as good as a traditionally published novel? In 999 cases out of 1000, probably not.
While I have caught mistakes in novels from major publishers, these are usually typographical errors and are extremely rare. Self-published novels…well, sometimes they can be painful to read because of all the errors, especially when the author has not hired a professional editor. Poor grammar drives me crazy, especially when it’s my own, and sometimes I think I’m dangerously close to an aneurysm when I encounter self-published novels with sloppy editing.
Good: Technology has made self-publishing easier and more efficient than ever.
Bad: Now any idiot with a bit of money can be a published author.
Ugly: The real 99%: The percentage of crappy self-published novels compared to the 1% that are good.
Self-publishing has expanded at an exponential rate as the internet and digital reading technology have developed. The good thing about this is that it’s easier and cheaper than ever for those who want to go the self-publishing route. The bad thing is that any idiot can slap out 70 000+ words and pay to have it published. This, along with the terrifying statistic that 81% of Americans think they could write a best-selling novel, floods the market with a lot of crap and has spawned a vanity publishing industry.
So what’s the final verdict on self-publishing? As a reviewer, reader and strict grammarian, I would encourage most hopeful authors to go through the traditional route. But if you’ve decided that traditional publishing is not for you, make sure you’re dedicated to being self-published properly so you can stand out from the crowd. As a self-published writer, you are your own boss, meaning that your novel’s success hinges greatly on the amount of time and effort you put into polishing, publishing and marketing your novel. You have no one to blame but yourself if things go badly. And for the love of all that is holy, hire a professional editor to save grammarians like myself from:
a) having an aneurysm
b) developing high blood pressure
c) aging prematurely
d) gouging out our own eyes to make it stop
e) any combination of the above
The Association of Grammarians thanks you for having our health in mind.