Writing is an art, but it requires a skill that not everyone is born with. Today, with the e-Reader, the Internet and other viral means, more and more crappy writing is being noticed. On the other hand, a few really good pieces of writing are also finally starting to be noticed. This is the catch-22 of self-publishing.
When I got my Kindle about a year ago, I was so excited to see that it had a free books section. This featured many of the classics, which was nice, but it didn’t have a whole lot of modern literature I had heard of. So, I started randomly buying these free books to see what I would get.
The very first book I got was a romance novel (yes, I am one of those people). Luckily, it was a good book, and the few books I got after that were OK. I even found a great British author I probably never would have heard of before. I was happy, ecstatic. Then, I read a self-published novel.
Well, read isn’t really what I did. More like suffered through it. It’s probably a dumb rule, but if I start a book, I have to finish it (that’s how I was sucked into Twilight). It was probably only equivalent to 100 pages, which really isn’t a novel, but it was the longest book I’ve ever read.
Even though I recognized this book for the unpolished literature that it was, many readers may not. It’s true that the advance in technology has given us a chance to increase literacy, but what good is that if we are putting crap out for people to read? It’s making society change its view on what good writing is and allowing the really good stuff to be kept in the dark.
It’s true that a few great authors were once considered self-published (Walt Whitman, Virginia Woolf, William Blake and James Joyce are a few good examples), but their works were later published by actual publishing companies and turned into classics. I very much doubt that many, if any, of the books being self-published now will have the same results. The fact is, if your writing is good enough, you should be sending it out to an actual company.
Self-publishing is disillusioning people, making them think they are writers when really, they aren’t. It is also distracting many people from good writing and killing the publishing industry. With the way things are going, within a few years, everyone and their dog can be a published author. This isn’t the way it should be.
It’s true that even the publishing industry sometimes publishes bad things, like Twilight, but it is more likely that a book will be good if it comes from an established company. This is because the book has to go through a process of edits and revisions. Even though this may happen in self-publishing, it is not obvious, and sometimes blatantly absent.
Somehow, there needs to be a type of system to monitor books that are published. One point of going through a publishing company is to not only get the public’s awareness and respect, but to allow a professional editor to look over the manuscript before it goes to print. If editing were a requirement for self-publishing (and I mean by a professional), I can guarantee there would be a whole lot less crappy books out there.
The catch-22 part about this is the fact that the “next great thing” may not be recognized by the current publishing companies. Like Whitman or Joyce, some authors are simply ahead of the curve. It would be a shame if we missed out on the next Ulysses, but I think it’s a risk we have to take.
Reading and writing are important, sometimes forgotten, aspects of our society. We should respect that by publishing quality works that have gone through the grinder to meet those standards. If you’re a writer, don’t take the easy route and self-publish. Take the rejections until you find someone who knows your work is worth publishing. By the time it happens, your work probably is worth publishing. I, personally, want to give something to the world that will be worth reading.