Examples like this come to mind when I run across rants against self-publishing.
Point is, the big guys have gone more and more for the mass market. Despite prominent exception, that leaves scads and scads of good long-tail titles out there to discover.
Granted, many and perhaps most self-published titles are dreck, but large houses offer their own share of boring, uninspired books.
Besides, there are ways to zero in on the better indie titles—for example, IndieReader.com, run by Amy Edelman, a recent interviewee on the Kindle Chronicles. I myself discovered Gatsby: My Story just by poking around Feedbooks. If nothing else, in most cases, sample first chapters can reveal plenty.
But what about the financial angle? Will most self-published books fatten their authors’ bank accounts in a major way? Definitely not. But as I’ve noted before, the advances from even major houses aren’t what they use to be.
Furthermore, consider the reasons for publication. Is it only to make money? In fact, this bottom-line fixation could be one reason why book sales of big houses here in the U.S. are not growing as quickly as they could. All too often the so-called “commercial” beats out the fresh and the quirky. Could the prominence of conglomerate-owned houses in U.S. book publishing be one reason why so few American novelists have won Nobel Prizes in recent years?
Consider, too, that many a books may be a loser at the national level but a hits in the writer’s hometown—or within his or her family. As long as authors approach self-publishing with realistic expectations, what’s the issue?
True, there is a whole culture of sleazy self-publishers who literally buy reviews. But perhaps the large houses are doing the same, indirectly, in a far more genteel way, through purchase of advertising in book sections—as well as the use of PR people well wired into the media. Outright corruption? Of course not. But you get my drift.
No, I’m not anti-big publishing—I appreciate the resources and sizzle that the giants can bring to good, important books. I want Penguin Random House and cousins to thrive. I’ve published through such houses as Ballantine Books (part of Random) and St. Martin’s Press, not just smaller companies. I have never self-published a book, but I may do so in the future. It’s just plain moronic to say one approach is for all books and all writers.
In the end, what really counts is not the size of the house, but rather the quality of the editing and writing.
Ironically, by firing so many good editors to focus on best-sellers, the big boys have shed more than a few people whom the better indie writers can hire as freelancers to help them produce first-rate books worthy of your time.