Publish This!

The prevalence and popularity of self-publishing is on the rise, and it doesn’t look like it'll be going away any time soon. Although it does open doors that may not have previously been available to many would-be writers, are these doors ones that will be open to desirable company, or will they just be an invitation to anyone wanting inside? Now that there's no literary gate-keeper to decide who enters and who does not, perhaps the quality of the best will only be diluted and lost in the sea of the rest.

Michael Kozlowski states in an article, that “We live in a literary world of terrible self-published authors”, “There is no quality control mechanism for companies that offer self-publishing solutions, they are just really happy to have as many users as possible”. And I tend to agree. Self-publishing is a business. A business that is obviously not too concerned with enforcing any kind of quality control. And some people dare to say ultra-capitalism can be a bad thing.

When authors are their own agents, publishers and advertising professionals, who has time to write anything good? And when, as Alan Skinner asks, “ writers fear readers, who remains bold enough to push the boundaries”? If your primary focus as an author is to market what you're writing, it is very possible that the honesty of the writing takes a back seat to styles and gimmicks that are proven to be lucrative. And when appealing to what one’s perceived market audience determines whether one can make the mortgage payment or not, creative integrity loses. People are selfish that way.

Some would argue that the self-publisher has just as much chance of hitting the jackpot as any traditional author, with examples such as Amanda Hocking or Steig Larsson as the standard bearers, the facts say otherwise. While the literary market-share for indie writers is said to be between thirty and forty percent of published books out there, the one-percenters are reaping all the rewards. It ain’t a gravy-train for many on board. Like ol’ Teddy Roosevelt said, “ nothing worth having comes easy”. And the successful one percent obviously put in more effort to create the type of quality that sets them apart from the rest.

While the freedom to share one’s artistic efforts with the world can be a blessing for both us and them, often it just muddies waters that would otherwise be clear enough to see big fish swimming in. With some sort of agreed-upon filtering standards, the quality of what is available to us maintains some sort of professional criterion, and the effort put forth by serious writers is nominal. Any successful self-published author gets picked up by an established house in the end, so why complicate matters by subjecting the reading public to literary-agent duties? Duties that consist of poring through slush-piles of ten-million self-published hacks.

Self-publishing is here to stay, for the foreseeable future at any rate, and we must learn to live with that. That in itself it isn’t particularly distasteful, but add people with delusions of grandeur and a worldwide outlet, and we have a problem. If writers would maybe just ask not "what self-publishing can do for me, but what can I do for self-publishing?” and responsibly self-regulate to ensure quality, the literary world be a better place. Can’t see that happening. The responsibility for ensuring what you read is in your hands. Do your research before spending valuable time and resources on your next read, and save yourself from investing in sub-par prose.