I have a question for all my LJ Friends: how many self-published writers have you heard of (other than friends, online and real life)? How many self-published books have you read? Were any of them any good?
Here are my answers:
1) None (except for those I've had to review, and I've forgotten the name of the writers already).
2) Quite a few. Book reviewers should qualify for hazardous work benefits.
3) Hell no. I've decided never to waste my time reviewing a self-published book ever again. This is a fixed policy, and I don't care how good you and your mom think your book is! Life is much too short for this kind of garbage. There are countless places on the net that explain the many reasons why SP books are terrible, so I won't go into it here.
Why am I all in a fury about this? Over on LinkedIn, there's a group for science fiction readers and writers which I am a member of. Lately, a self-publishing house has begn to send articles that give advice to new writers. These articles are normally extrremely helpful, well balanced and informative, and they are also part of a scam.
You see, the articles have titles like "your book is a small business, learn how to market it" and "how can I get my book onto the shelves" and "what kind of printing method works better for writers? The differences between offset and POD."
Notice a pattern? All of them start from the false premise that a writer has to pay in order to print their books and then has to market them, and that the money an author makes comes from their efforts in selling the resulting books. In other words, they treat writers like distributors. The factory (in this case a press), sells their product to a middleman who then gets the product to consumers. The cynical part of this is that the argument used by the factory to sell its product is that "YES! Now you're a published author". Er, no. You're not. You're the victim of a scam who has a garage full of books no one wants to read.
The problem has two causes. The first is the writers themselves. Too many people seem to finish books and are all starry-eyed and need to see the book in print right now. They want to believe a publisher when it tells them "YES, we want your book, and we'll cover all the costs. All you have to do is buy a hundred copies and send us a little something for the marketing expenses". I really pity these folks. They are completely victimized (although they should have done their homework).
The second cause is that getting published in the real world is hard work. Agents have high standards because publishing houses that only accept agented work have high standards. Even small presses have high standards. Nearly everything that lands in a slush pile will get rejected. Some people deal with this by going back and writing something else, or improving what they've already written. Other people go into denial and use words like "conspiracy" and "closed clubs" and "discrimination". These people also self publish, and also own garage-fulls of books no one wants, but I have much less sypathy for them. They are very vocal about their delusions, and have long since irritated the hell out of me.
A writer's job is to write, and maybe do a certain amount of self promotion after the book is published. The publisher's job is to sell the books. And all money at all times must flow towards the writer. This is the premise scammers want to convince us is not true. But we'll push back until they dry up and die.
Remember: publication is like making the Olympic team. Very few people deserve it, and those that do have worked very hard to get there.
In the meantime, I did some writing last night: 1300 words means that I now have a new SF story ready to polish and sub!