Now, I love some aspects of self-publishing as much as the next author.
It’s great that some woefully neglected talents are able to produce a book without those traditional gatekeepers of style and taste – agents and big publishers – dictating if a book will sell or not.
We all know they’re human, they make mistakes and let some gems slip through the net.
I often imagine skeletal Gollum-like creatures (submissions readers) chained in a cellar, surrounded by teetering towers of unsolicited manuscripts – that legendary slushpile – yearning for a glimmer of gold and amidst the iron pyrite.
Where is the precioussssss? Are them nasty Hobbitses hiding it?
Okay, maybe publishing houses don’t chain their readers in the basement. And to be fair, they have to read A LOT of manuscripts. It’s not surprising if they sometimes fail to recognise potential.
This is why self-publishing is so inspiring for writers.
Take The Martian as an example. Andy Weir had published chapters of his novel on his blog, when readers began asking for an e-reader copy. When some had problems downloading it, he decided to publish on Amazon instead. The book soon topped the sci-fi chart, Random House came calling and a movie deal popped up a few days after that.
So far, so fairytale.
But such self-pub stories delude us all into thinking that if we meander along the same path, success is guaranteed – because we’re all brimming with undiscovered genius, right?
Allow me to share with you what prompted me to write this post.
I regularly read a particular writing magazine and one of the things I enjoy most is the subscribers’ stories section, where fellow budding authors share their publishing successes. In my last copy was a letter relating one man’s foray into self-publishing. It didn’t sound as if he’d been writing for long, and being the nosy baggage I am, I thought I’d pop along to read a few sample pages of his short story collection on Amazon.
What I found was a a well designed cover and inside … a poorly formatted, unengaging, badly written short story, with a weak opening a so-so middle and no ending to speak of.
And I thought what a terrible shame that was.
Because with time, that man could be a good writer in the future. He could learn to sharpen his prose, avoid cliches – actually develop a plot instead of a drawn out anecdote you might tell your mates in the pub.
Instead, he’s rushed at publication like a bull charging at a man in a tomato costume. And unless he decides to withdraw the files, that book is up there for all to see, colouring people’s opinions about his capabilities.
Just because we can self-publish doesn’t mean we should.
What do you think? Should we have to gain a Writers’ Licence before we self-publish or does that defeat the entire point?