Writers and Editors (Pat McNees's blog)
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Does the world want a flood of crummy self-published books?

June 24, 2010

Tags: self-publishing

How do you find something good to read in a brave new self-published world? asks Laura Miller in When anyone can be a published author (Salon, 6-22-10). Those of us who have worked in book publishing know how much really bad writing comes through slush piles. If all that drek is going to be self-published, how will us mere humans be able to find the few good books? She has a point, but those of us who have worked in or near book publishing also know how much those book-publishing decisions are based on big numbers, and we've all known editors who had to reject a work they absolutely loved either because the numbers just weren't here or because others in the firm didn't agree about how good or how marketable a particular book might be. The "long tail" will help some of us find books that suit a particular interest (how to deal with a particular rare disease, for example, how to how grow hollihocks, or the history of playing cards), and rating systems on sites like Amazon.com (and my particular favorite Netflix, of which I wish there were a book version), help us find "faves" who think like us and can warn us away from the dogs, and guide us to the unusual but clearly not mass-market gems.
It's true, I am taken aback at some of the errors that make it right onto the front covers of self-published books, but things are getting sloppier in book publishing itself, as well. And the economics of book publishing are such that going through a regular publisher for a book with a limited audience may be nuts, if income from book sales is a goal.
And in the case of privately published memoirs or personal histories--the lives of noncelebrities--the opportunity to tell a life of absolutely NO interest to the world at large but of great interest to a small circle...well, for books like that, self-publishing is a dream. And for the pittance that book publishers pay freelance copyeditors, designers, and proofreaders, well--listen up, publishing professionals: There are people out there who are willing to pay for your services, to get a decently edited, designed, proofed, and self-published book. Speak to each other!