I’ve had a hard time writing this blog today. It isn’t that I couldn’t think of anything to write about. Just the opposite, in fact. The problem is that I’ve had to decide if I want to give more traffic to a site because of a post that had enough people talking about it yesterday that I saw it linked on Facebook several times as well as having several people email me the link. The problem is the link is to an opinion piece — and I’m being generous here — about the evils of self-publishing and how it is ruining, if it hasn’t already ruined, the publishing industry.
Now, you can imagine what my response to that happened to be. Not only have I long been an advocate of self-publishing (as long as you do it right and have quality control in editing and cover design as well as layout) but also small and micro press publishing. I’ve condemned legacy publishing and its gatekeepers for being out of touch with not only emerging technology but public demand. The so-called gatekeepers have abdicated much of their duty to agents and to bean counters all the while putting more and more restrictions on authors in contracts.
So, yes, my exploded when I first read the article.
When you follow the link, you will get an idea about where the commenter stands (sorry, can’t call him an author or a writer. Just can’t.). According to him, “Self-Published Authors Are Destroying Literature.” Well, I don’t know about you, but a lot of so-called modern literature deserves to be destroyed. But that’s just my opinion.
In the first paragraph of the so-called article, Kozlowski talks about self-published authors with “insistent need to spam social media and pump out a copious amount of horrible ebooks. . . .” He complains that self-published books are found right there along with what I assume he thinks are “real” books on Amazon and other online retailers. He moans about how these authors use social media to “literally beg for sales.”
Funny, I see just as much from traditionally published authors pushing their books on social media as I do from self-published authors. Talk to any author who is currently working with a legacy publisher — and who is willing to be honest about how things work — and you will find that they are “encouraged” to do as much marketing and promotion on social media sites as they can. Push for a book comes from its author now, not the publisher, unless that book has been tagged to be the next best seller by the publisher.
As for finding self-published book right there alongside traditionally published books, well, that is true. I’ll also admit that there have been other folks who have asked Amazon and other online retailers to somehow clue buyers into the fact that the e-book they are considering purchasing is being sold directly from the author and not from a “real” publisher.
My problem with this is two-fold. First, it isn’t Amazon’s — or any other retailer’s — job to do that. Besides, all you have to do is scroll down to the publisher’s information on the product page to get the information you need. Right there, it lists “published by” or “publisher” depending on what site you happen to be on. Don’t recognize the name, google it. But let’s face it, how many readers out there actually pay attention to who the publisher is?
But, Amanda, that’s the point. Most of us don’t know the publishers and you can’t really expect us to work at finding out if an author is self-published or not.
Ah, my children, you don’t have to. If you are worried that an author might be self-published and, therefore, part of the unwashed wannabe literati, there’s a wonderful think you can do with almost every e-book retailer out there: download a sample. Those free downloads are marvelous tools. They let you see not only the opening of a book or short story, but you can see the writing style of the author, if the e-book has been edited and proofread (are there a lot of typos, misspellings, etc.) and if the e-book is well formatted.
Oh yeah, those are free. Everyone — except Harlan Ellison — likes free.
But let’s continue.
Kozlowski goes on to note that Bowker reported that 12% of e-books sold are now from self-published authors. In some genres, that goes up to 20%. Of those, Kozlowski states that 95% of those e-books are “insufferable and are written to capitalize on trends in publishing, with authors trying to emulate successful writers such as E.L. James or Cassandra Claire.”
Of course, there is no statistical proof offered for his 95% figure, nor does he define his terms. As for the books being written to capitalize on trends in publishing, give me a break. What does he think legacy publishers do? How many books were contracted for by publishers during the height of the Harry Potter craze that were about boy wizards or wizardy schools? How many Twilight clones and sparkly vampires have we been subjected to as a result of that series? And let’s not forget the publisher who pulled an entire line of books after Fifty Shades of Grey took off (which, btw, was first self-published and is NOT well-written or edited, even after being picked up by a legacy publisher) to make sure all its covers told readers that these were books in the vein of FSOG?
But I guess Kozlowski has no problem with “real” publishers doing what he condemns in self-published works.
A couple of paragraphs later, he condemns Amazon because it doesn’t have anyone “proofreading or editing” the books in its KDP program. Uh, wait, is he saying Amazon should be the publisher because isn’t that what he says publishers do? The KDP program isn’t there for editing and proofreading. It is there as a platform for self-published authors and small presses to be able to get their books into the hands of readers. And why does he only point out that Amazon doesn’t do quality control? None of the major retail sellers do. So I have to assume at this point that Kozlowski is one of those on the “Amazon is evil” bandwagon.
“One thing indie authors have done is devalue the work of legitimate published authors. You know the type that write for a living, who have an editor and are considered accomplished, or at least well-read.”
When I first read that, I didn’t know whether to explode my head or his. According to this statement, you are not a “legitimate” author unless you are published by a real publisher, a legacy publisher is my guess. You have to write for a living. But what about all those writers who are traditionally published but who don’t make enough money to “write for a living”? I guess they don’t factor into Kozlowski’s formula, even though they are the vast majority of authors. And what about those self-published authors who do make enough to live off their writing?
Oh, he does back off a little for the “hybrid” authors, but those are, according to him, authors who “cut their teeth” in legacy publishing and now self-publish for a bit more control. The problem with this is that his own arguments against self-publishing would cut against these so-called hybrid authors when it comes to their self-published work. Where is the editor and proofreader and publicist he seems to think are necessary to make an author a “real” author?
But the telling point — or points — come in the last paragraph and in his responses to the comments left by readers of the post. It becomes clear that he feels that the influx of self-published authors, and their work in genre, is killing LITERATURE. You know, all those stories you hated to read in school because they did not entertain. Sure, you can educate and inform in genre fiction. Most of us try to do that — but without preaching or using a sledgehammer on our readers. You’ll sell a lot more books if there is a good story, one that involves and entertains the reader. But that’s a point missed by Kozlowski.
As for his responses to the comments left by readers of the post, well, go look for yourself. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if he is someone who tried to submit to a “real” publisher and was turned down and has since decided that everyone should suffer as he has or if he just doesn’t get it. Maybe he’s just a literary snob. I don’t know and I don’t really care — except when it comes to such blanket statements of condemnation as he propagated.
In fairness to the site as a whole, they did publish a counterpoint article by another of their staff. You can find it here.
As for me, well, I’ll continue writing and selling on my own or through Naked Reader Press, a nice little micro press that most definitely isn’t a legacy publisher. Frankly, at the moment there’s only one traditional publisher I’d consider going with and that’s Baen because it does treat its authors like people and not cattle and it does listen to its readers.
Now go, my friends, read the comments to Kozlowski’s post and judge for yourself as you see his responses. Oh, and let me know what you think!