How Self-Publishing Ruined the World
Yes, I know it’s a drastic headline, but it just might be true.
Let me start by saying, I am self-published. Although I’ve never chased agents and submitted manuscripts, I did choose this as my avenue to spread my ridiculous thoughts to the world. So I have a vested interest in the success of this new age of publishing.
For the large part, self-publishing is one of the greatest things ever offered to writers. Retention of your work, full control of what you write and how it’s delivered, and the ability to publish when you want, are all great things that the vast majority of writers (whether traditionally published or not) were never offered. Add to that a more than fair royalty rate and what could go wrong? The answer is much more than you think.
I see two very large issues arising in self-publishing, but let me make you fully aware that I offer no solutions. Self-publishing removed the barriers of entry and that is both a gift and a curse. Any attempt to add more control around that will only take us back to where we were, and here lies the “catch 22.”
My first issue with self-publishing stems from this lack of control. While many people saw this as a liberation of sorts, many others saw it as a way to make a quick buck. Now, you would think that eventually all the shifty, scheming trash peddlers would fade to oblivion, but unfortunately we don’t currently live in that future. And in the present, anything is slopped up for sell and only makes the water muddy for the rest of us.
Writing is a craft, an art form, and should be regarded as such. The ability to take words and bring them to life, to breath a new reality onto a page is the essence of beauty. Writers, real writers honor this craft and take pride in what they do. The others, well let’s just say they don’t. I’m in no position to judge anyone else’s writing, but I think we can all agree that some are making an effort to actually tell a story while others are not. Enough said.
My second issue is with the perceived value that self-publishing is creating. I will elaborate. Many authors, myself included at times, will make a book free in order to gain readership and hopefully gain sales of other titles, normally in a series. This is a great idea for unknown authors with little to no platform to gain visibility. Certainly these free or even discounted (.99 cents) books will not change the buying public’s perception. Think again.
This may cost me readers, but I can’t bite my tongue any more. First off, let it be known that the cheapest any author on amazon can make their book is .99 cents. In order to get it free for an extended period of time they must jump through hoops and pray that Amazon price matches. In my opinion paying under $4.99 for any length of work, even a short story, is a deal. It blows my mind that readers complain about paying .99 cents for a short story or $2.99 for a novella. Are you serious? How do you think these stories get made? How much time do you think goes into creating a novel, a novella or even a 5,000 word short story? Why have we created this perception that people’s hard work shouldn’t be rewarded? That books of all things should just be given away and authors are greedy for wanting some type of compensation for their work?
The average author will NEVER make a living doing this. So, they simply write because they love it and for the occasional fifty dollar check from Amazon. What really set me off was the other day when I was reading through book reviews. An author, who I won’t say his name, had a novella out to tide his fans over until the fifth novel was released. It was, by Amazon’s count 83 pages. (Which knowing Amazon was probably more like 125) He charged $2.99 for this novella and labeled it as such. The reviews were insane. They called him greedy and a trickster and said how they’d never purchase another one of his books after being ripped off. They told him how such a short story should be free and how he was trying to get over on his loyal fans. This disgusted me. $2.99 is too much now, really??? That’s less than a gallon of gas and I assure you it was harder to make. When we stop valuing the mind we stop valuing ourselves. More than anything self-publishing has created this idea that books are now nothing more than bargain basement commodities unless your last name is King, Rowing, Patterson, Grisham, etc.
Now as I said with my first issue, quality of the book is important. If the book is trash then it’s trash no matter the length. That is certainly for the readers to decide. But when I see a one star review that says this book was really good, but .99 cents is just too much, it makes me want to crack my laptop over my knee. This may come as a surprise, but writing is no easy task. The ability to carry an organized thought over more than a few paragraphs is not something to be scoffed at.
For any readers that decide to peruse this blog, understand that a short story is no more than 7500 words, a novella 17,000- 40,000 and a novel 40,000 plus. Even a short story may take an exceptionally fast writer a month to have ready for publication. Yes, that’s a month of work. What do you make in a month? I doubt it is .35 cents or even worse…nothing. In my opinion short stories are a deal at $.99-1.99 and novellas at $2.99-3.99. Novels are anything over and if you think that a writer getting paid for his work is just outrageous, then feel free to start the boycott at my books first.