Day after day after day after day… I pick up a newspaper and read about another “author” who has published another book. The key point here is that he or she published the book. It wasn’t acquired by a publisher, where it is vetted, deemed print-worthy, paid for, sent out for reviews, and bought by bookstores and libraries. Instead, the writer paid some online entity to print it out for them. Or, with print-on-demand, the equivalent of a consignment shop for words, they can forgo the payment to that entity. If that writer wants his friends to read what he wrote, he pays the “consignment publisher” to send them a book, a percentage of which goes to the writer. Once the friends and family have their copies, the book generally dies on the vine.
Why does this drive me crazy? I AM a published author – for real. I’ve worked for over 30 years at this craft. My ability to make a living depends upon my ability to write stories that will get me paid. My work has to be thought good enough by people who have read thousands of books over the years. Even after all this time, getting an editor to acquire something I’ve written is a major accomplishment. It – is – not – easy. Seriously.
So now anyone can get their book in print – no matter how awful it is – and I mean anyone and I mean awful! And that’s fine. What drives me mad is seeing the newspapers touting this as a newsworthy achievement. The self-published writers (Hmmm… SPriters? SPauthors?) give author book signings and lectures. They get on TV to talk about their project.
They are watering down the market.
In the back of Black Belt Magazine, there are ads where for a walletful of money, you can buy a black belt. You get the certificate, the belt, and the title of a “blackbelt”. Does that make the recipient a real blackbelt artist? Hell no.
There are exceptions to my outrage here. Our Town Historian, for example, wrote an excellent book on the historical buildings of Killingworth. There are no houses out there to publish books where the readership is not expected to expand much further beyond a single town. There are other instances where the subject can be so confined to micro-interests that the only way to share what you know is by self publishing. Great! Do it! I own some of those books and love them – warts and all! Some authors have backlogs of books that were published and the rights have reverted back to them. Again, the book has already been vetted and edited. It jumped through the literary hurdles and made it past the finish line. This level of quality control is absent in self published work.
That’s not to say that gems cannot be found among the works of the SPriters/SPauthors. They certainly exist. However, they are rare gems. A vast majority of the SPbooks (okay, that one’s not working) are … dreck. They are riddled with the cliches, spelling and grammatical errors, and just plain bad writing that are otherwise weeded out by editors or are simply cause for rejection. I saw one self published children’s book getting the royal treatment in a local paper where the illustrations were photos of a stuffed animal posed different positions. They looked like they were cropped by a six-year-old playing in Photoshop. And it was a store-bought toy – probably legal issues there! The SPriter/SPauthor and SPillustrator was lined up to do all kinds of book signings.
As my rant winds down, I’ll admit that not all books published by real publishers are good reading. The difference, though, is that the odds of it being good for what it is are in indirect proportion to those put out by vanity publishers.
The media needs to distinguish the difference between SPriters/SPauthors and those who are real published authors. Bookstores have to do the same. It’s tough enough making a living at this. It’s why so many give up. We’re battling the shrinking numbers of publishing houses and bookstores, the decline of actual books, strained budgets, competition with “celebrity authors” (don’t get me started), and now the droves of people claiming to be what they really are not. When you get paid to write, you are a published author. When you pay someone to print out what you wrote, you are something else.