Thursday, June 26, 2008

Call It "Direct Publishing"

Oddly, when rock musicians offered their music on the Net, no one called what they were doing "self-publishing."

Everyone saw it as a harbinger of the future. They were engaging in disintermediation. The Man was being cut out of the equation. Artists would reap the reward of their art.

But when it comes to writers of words, it's called "self-publishing" and there's a stigma attached to it.

Some of that stigma is justified.

I've seen such work and it's been easy to see why it was rejected by commercial publishers. Too often, people think "anyone" could write a book, so why not try it? I've even seen work by people who were brilliant with words in a commercial sense -- where they were paid large amounts of money to assemble collections of words to produce specific marketplace ends -- produce utter crap when it came to fiction.

On the other hand, there's the example of writer Philip K. Dick, whose non-SF work was rejected by publisher after publisher and is now being put in print posthumously. One could argue that Dick's best work was his SF, but could anyone argue that Dick was any less of a writer because the mainstream refused him entry? Confessions of a Crap Artist is as close to mainstream as Dick's work got during his lifetime. Would anyone argue it was amateurish or outright unpublishable?

There are also tales told in the mainstream publishing world of best-selling authors whose names everyone would immediately recognize handing in manuscripts that are, charitably, described as "a mess," requiring editors to virtually rewrite them. This is done because the author has become a commercial brand name and the publishing house isn't about to stop milking that cash cow until sales -- or the author -- drop dead.

All of these things come into play when "self-publishing" is mentioned.

I propose a new term: direct publishing.

I think that's the term that will be used as professionals writers who have been published in print find their work no longer being welcomed by their publishers. They are good enough to be published -- but their sales are disappointing to international conglomerates who are pimping books as if they were Hollywood hundred-million-dollar-plus blockbuster escapist movies.

Such writers won't want to be seen as "self-publishers," so I propose calling them direct publishers.

I bring up all this because of a post over at Teleread called Top ten self-publishing myths.

It's a very good post overall. I do, however, disagree with:
#6 - Self-publishing is expensive, because you have to pay for professional services.

Since I proof and edit my manuscripts using checklists acquired from various books on grammar and usage, the proofing tools provided in my word processing program, and the usual rounds of peer review, by the time the manuscript landed on the editor’s desk it was pretty clean. The draft came back with so few corrections I decided not to pay for professional editing on any of my subsequent books.

People who have more money than time will still choose to pay for professional services, but for an author with basic computer and Internet skills (in other words, anyone reading this), along with the willingness to learn, it’s optional. If I can do it, how hard could it be?

Emphasis added by me.

Two important points:

1) It could be it came back with so few corrections because it was a poorly-done job. I'm still shocked by the number of typos I find in some books. Within the past two months I had to email a writer about his novel because words were missing from the book. He didn't know that til my email -- because the words had been there in the galleys. There have been some books I've read where entire freaking sentences didn't make any sense. Don't be lulled into a false sense of competency by one experience. It says nothing.

2) Pay for those professional services! How many typos and poor sentences have been thrown onto the Internet? Even with spellcheckers, typos still get through (hey, just look at this blog!). Poor sentences run riot (you need go no further than this blog for some hideous examples!). I don't delude myself with this blog that what I am putting here is 1) something anyone would pay for, 2) indicative of my ability to write, and 3) anything even on the fringes of the neighborhood of good writing. This is mostly attack-first-think-later text. This would be an entirely different type of blog if the text first went through the mediation of other people. If you want to write as a profession, you need that professional support. This is non-negotiable for anyone who wants to do fiction.

I'll keep trotting out this example until it sticks in everyone's head: Self-Confidence Vs. Self-Delusion.

Now go to that Teleread post.

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