Precious Cargo

Refreshingly Bitter And Twisted Observations On Life's Passing Parade.

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Location: Valley Village, California, United States

Friday, October 28, 2005

Self-Publishing, Again

Michael Allen's blog is beginning to read like adspace for self-published writers to tout their books and for Allen to cheerlead about how they are the pioneers of some viable alternative publishing model.

In his most recent post, he boosts Francis Ellen, author of a novel titled The Samplist.

This is the comment I just left at Allen's blog.

Really, your blog is getting to read like a shill for self-published authors.

I keep giving the benefit of the doubt to self-published writers and continue to be disappointed. First I read Ellen's interview, then I went to his web site and tried to read the sample. I never finished it.

Don't present readers with Chapter 26 as the sample. Who are these characters and what is the overall context of the story? Without knowing who the characters are or what they are doing, the chapter made no sense, and frankly, what I read wasn't very engaging.

I'm getting rather tired of reading interviews or puff pieces about the occasional self-published writer who has managed to get their book some attention who goes on and on about how publishers make "arbitrary" decisions and how many agents or publishers turned down Harry Potter. Maybe they were right to, since I've heard plenty of opinions voiced that Rowling's not a very good writer.

The fact is that Rowling did get published and 20 rejections is not that large a number to have to suffer for the one acceptance.

I have yet hear a successful writer conclude that all publishing decisions are arbitrary, but some variation on that theme pops up in nearly every interview or blog posting I've read from self-published writers.

Traditional publishers may publish many books that you or I don't like, but they have also published the books that most readers consider good, including those that have achieved classic status. I have yet to read one good self-published book that I would pay money for, let alone one that has been esteemed as a classic. What does that say about who is right?

Francis Ellen is a diligent, clever entrepreneur in getting some attention for his book from the mainstream review organs. But his entrepreneurial talent should not be confused with writing ability.

Self-published writers (new word: autowriters?) have the burden of proving that good works are escaping the purvue of traditional publishers. From the samples of a number of self-published books I've read so far, they haven't met that burden.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Show me one really good self-published book and I'll change my mind.

And a note to self-published writers who are trying to invent labels for themselves that remove the vanity stigma. Analogizing yourself to independent filmmakers won't do. Making a decent low budget film takes several hundred thousand dollars at the very least and then you try to get a distributor. In order to get your film chosen for Sundance you need the financial resources to hire experienced people who can get your film noticed and then to try to snag the all important distribution deal. Can anyone name one film that has received any positive attention by bypassing the traditional marketing/distribution channels?

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