Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The long tail or the short shrift? Thoughts on literary self publishing

The Internet is buzzing with advice about self publishing. Money- making sites that promise to promote your book are springing up faster than vampire sequels. Amanda Hocking has become a kind of folk hero to writers rejected by traditional publishers. E-books promise fortune and fame at 99 cents a book for those prepared to go it alone. But what does it really mean to self publish your book? Many newspapers have a strict policy of not reviewing self published books. Many readers still assume that self published books are badly written (otherwise why wouldn’t anyone publish them?). Most major literary awards shut out self published books at the start by making them ineligible. Many libraries refuse to stock a self published book unless it has had good reviews from a legitimate source. So what does this mean for self published books which are well written, well edited, well designed, and which do not fall into the how-to or self help mainstream or the genre category? How do the self published literary works rise above the bustling sea of popular or commercial writing and get noticed? Without reviews, without awards, without the legitimacy of a traditional publisher – how in the world will these new writers be discovered? I find this an interesting paradox. We are told repeatedly how open, democratic and free the self publishing world is.  Hey, in America, anyone can become the President! Yet the traditional outlets still exert considerable control over what people are actually exposed to, and thus what they might actually read. Newspapers, literary journals, libraries, bloggers, literary awards -- places potential readers look to for new books and authors. So until we gain some legitimacy in the traditional channels, the world of self publishing for certain kinds of writing still has a ways to go. Thoughts?

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