As Self-Publishing Matures…
Well, I’ve never purchased or read a self-pubbed book and have no plans to do so, in part because they’re generally unedited and of poor quality and in part because you can’t trust the reviews. I think most of us know that if an indie book has all glowing reviews, they’re either paid, sock puppets, review swaps from some other author, or at the very least received through a giveaway. Sorry to be a downer, but to me the credibility of all self-pubbed authors is so shot that I can’t imagine reading such a book unless maybe I knew the author personally. There’s hardly a shortage of trad pubbed books after all.
Those are the words of “Emma.” They were among responses about 10 days ago when the Alliance of Independent Authors (Alli) posted historical-fiction author Jane Steen’s editorial,“Opinion: Why We Need To Talk About Ethics In Self-Publishing.”
Emma’s response may represent the sum of (almost) all frustrations for many self-publishing writers who are trying to raise the bar. It demonstrates a comprehensive expression of what Steen wanted to put across.
Normally, if you ask a group of bookish types what hurdles self-publishers face, the main answer will be a perception of low quality.
Steen, however, says that she sees two, not one, major areas of attention needed in the self-publishing world. At the ALLi site, she wrote:
As a reader/reviewer, I’m well aware that there are still two stumbling blocks to improving public perception of self-publishing. One of those obstacles—quality—is a constant topic of conversation on self-publishing blogs and forums. The other—ethics—is insufficiently discussed. I’m calling on ALLi to make the public discussion of author ethics a high priority as a corollary to the Open Up To Indies campaign.
UK-born and Chicago-based, Steen knows that the old stigma against self-publishing authors can’t be fully lifted until practice, not just product, is seen to have been professionalized.
“Seen to have been” is the correct formulation, by the way. Steen hardly suggests that all self-publishing authors are operating in unethical ways, nor that all self-published material is low quality. However, a perception of these things in self-publishing can be just as damaging as the reality.
This is the point behind a comment from another prominent ALLi author, Debbie Young, who responds to the commenter Emma in a note of her own:
Emma, I wonder whether you may have read a self- published book without recognising it as such? I know I have often done so, not realising the author’s indie status till looking them up online afterwards. This is because a growing number of s-p authors’ books are written and produced to professional standards. It is the others which are not – those that go out unedited, with dreadful homemade covers etc – which unfortunately continue to damage the reputation of the sector as a whole. Self-published books are starting to win major, mainstream prizes, in competition with trade published books, and that, if you’ll excuse the bookish pun, speaks volumes.
And, speaking of “damage to the reputation of the sector as a whole,” one of the commenters on Steen’s ALLi piece is the author Giacomo Giammatteo, who co-wrote with Mick Rooney and (as editor) Orna Ross the organization’s publication Choosing a Self-Publishing Service. In his comment, Giammatteo posits this pretty scary concept:
As to reviewing your own books…OMG! I have seen this, but–to me–it’s appalling. I would never think to review my own work.
It does, in fact, seem almost unthinkable for an author to review her or his own work. As ALLi stalwart Dan Holloway comments “The content of your ethics is up to you, but in today’s world, it’s increasingly hard to justify not thinking about the ethical dimension of what you do.”
By Porter Anderson | @Porter_Anderson
Writing on the Ether: Eight Issues in Author Ethics
Originally published by Thought Catalog at www.ThoughtCatalog.com