Self-publishing isn’t that great

Jane Smith’s How Publishing Really Works is worth a read at the best of times (if you’re interested in publishing, of course), but her five-part demolition of a “self-publishing is the future” screed is particularly delicious. Part five has just gone up; here are parts one, two, three and four.

But the people that you perceive as barriers—agents, editors, publishers—are, in fact, there to help good writers get published well, and to ensure that the reading public has access to good books, professionally produced. There’s nothing stopping anyone from putting their work on the internet if they want, or from self-publishing in print or electronic format: the technology has been there for years. The real problem for writers who can’t get published isn’t that barriers to publication exist, but that their writing just isn’t good enough.

In the comments Dan Holloway quibbles with the word “good” – he reckons “saleable” would be better, and I think he’s right; whether it’s good isn’t as important as whether it’ll sell – but you get the idea, I’m sure.

3 thoughts on “Self-publishing isn’t that great

  1. Jane Smith says:

    Gary, thank you for the words of support–I particularly like being called delicious in this context.

    I think Dan has a point: but I also think that my use of “good” didn’t exclude “saleable” at all–in the article I was using “good” to equal “commercially viable” rather than “of great literary value”. It’s obvious I should have been clearer, though, and I thank you and Dan for pointing this out.

    Mr Rozansky hasn’t turned up to comment on the fourth and fifth parts of my little series, and he hasn’t answered any of my questions either. I did hope he’d engage more in the series, but can’t blame him for not wanting to place himself in the firing line any more. He has taken a bit of a battering from me, I’m afraid.

  2. Gary says:

    Hi Jane, thanks for dropping by and for clearing that up.

    > Mr Rozansky hasn’t turned up to comment on the fourth and fifth parts of my little series

    I’m sure he’s had enough :)

  3. Gary says:

    There was a really interesting comment on Jane’s blog, which I’ll copy some of here. The post was by Michael:

    a lot of the ‘problems’ I hear about with publishing come from the would-be writer’s perspective. Let’s have a quick look at that. Firstly, there are now too many people competing for publishing slots. The rise and rise of MFAs and creative writing courses, plus the enhanced leisure time of the retiring baby boomers, has meant that publishers are flooded with manuscripts that are significantly better in quality than were being offered even 15 years ago. Go to Authonomy and look at the slush – there are many books there that would have got a contract had they been sent to a publisher in 1995.

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