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Quality is Quality

January 1st, 2017

Good Books Can be Produced Without TPS Reports

A reader sent me a link to a story in which one writer “Fisks” another. If you’re not familiar with Fisking, it means tearing someone’s work apart, line by line. The Fiskee is one Laurie Gough, who has been published somewhere or other and takes the position that self-publishers are losers and hacks. The Fisker is the host of Monsterhunternation.com. I do not know anything about this person. It’s probably not Laurie Gough’s boyfriend.

The Fisking itself is very, very long, so I didn’t read the whole thing, but I did read a lot of it, and I read Gough’s entire piece. I have to agree with the Fisker. There is nothing wrong with self-publishing, and a self-publisher imprint doesn’t mean a book is bad. On the other hand, it’s likely that most self-published work is even worse than most publisher-published work, simply because there is no one to hold the bad stuff back.

Not all self-publishers are inept. I think Ms. Gough forgets that there was a time when all authors were self-published. Moses didn’t have to deal with rejection slips. Neither did Homer. Many of the greatest works in history never went through the publication process during their author’s lives. Obviously, a publisher is not an absolute necessity when you want to create a work of real merit.

I don’t know for a fact, but I would be willing to bet a large pizza (cooked by someone else, because that phase of my life is over) that once the publishing industry was established, many of the authors we now revere got in the door by paying publishers.

She also forgets that we have modern authors who started out in post-Internet-creation self-publishing. I don’t know too much about The Martian, but it’s my understanding that it started out on the Internet. The movie version was very good. The author is stinking, filthy, reeking rich. The book and movie would not exist had he waited for a publisher to notice him.

We also have modern authors who did wonderful work without intending to be published at all. Anne Frank comes to mind. Highly reliable Internet rumors say that when her diary was submitted for publication after her death, it was rejected many times by editors. They almost protected us from that hack, Anne Frank!

I can’t agree with the snobby, elitist notion that self-publishing is only for losers. It’s not just wrong; it’s facially absurd. It’s like standing in an orange grove and denying the existence of fruit. It almost sounds like Ms. Hough is trying to set herself apart as a member of a distinct and superior class, simply because she has a publisher. That’s certainly easier than producing quality work and letting it speak for itself.

That being said, there is one very bad thing about self-publishing, and here it is: it’s harder to promote a self-published book. If you want your book to make money, you will almost certainly have to do radio and TV interviews, and to get those interviews, you want to be able to say you have a real publisher.

There are very, very good things about self-publishing. For one thing, if you self-publish, your book will exist. Existence is one of the main qualities a book needs. The book no one can buy anywhere is not a successful book in any meaningful way.

Another nice thing is that you can force your book into existence without help. You have control. You don’t have to beg anyone. You want to have a published book? Fine. Upload it now. Done.

If all you care about is expressing yourself, self-publishing is a great idea. You can write and publish fifty books a year if you’re up to it. The public won’t have to wait through a year-long process before each book appears. You can say anything you want. You won’t have to worry about editors killing your jokes by rewriting them or cutting out the parts of your work that are most important to you. Really, the only solid reason to insist on having a conventional publisher is a desire to make money.

The commenter said he would buy my work if I self-published again, but I think I’m self-publishing right now, so save your money! Anything made available to the public is published.

It’s very ugly for a person who got in the door to lob poop-bombs at all the people who haven’t made it yet, and given that Ms. Hough is not a highly admired author, it also creates opportunities for people to knock her off her high horse. If you really have to insult someone else’s work, you should be able to come up with names and specifics instead of issuing a mindless blanket condemnation of an entire class of writers.

A book is a book; published, not published, published by a publishing house, self-published…whatever. It doesn’t have to be publisher-published to be as legitimate as anything Ms. Hough will ever write. If you print one copy of your book and hide it under your bed, it’s still a real book, and its quality doesn’t depend on the opinions of publishers. Catch-22 was still a monumental achievement before Joseph Heller submitted it to publishers, and it was a monumental achievement while it was winning nothing but rejection slips.

If you feel like writing, write. If you feel like publishing, but you don’t care about fame and money, self-publish. What the hell. No one cares. Enjoy yourself.

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