Self-Pubbing Suicide

It’s OK to admit that you’ve kept a blog. Good ones are intoxicating to read, and all the time we see careers launched in the blogosphere (*cough* Scott Schuman). Maybe you prefer text-heavy, self-indulgent opining, like Coffee & Celluloid, or maybe the never-ending stream of affected candid photos of beautiful Europeans à la Jeanne Damas. And we all read them too. You’ve probably been reading that girl’s to see if you show up. Vague pronouns count. Tweets, Instas, Periscopes, FB posts, Tumblrs, and those Buddy Profiles that have to exist somewhere—everyone an artist, everyone’s an author.


I’m a professional editor. All day, I vet and mark up and guide and coach and rewrite, and nothing puzzles me more than seeing that every Tom, Dick, and Harry who dreams of being an author has published a book. Let me clarify—these Tom and Dick writer hopefuls have self-published books.


Amazon and Lulu and platforms of the like make it possible for anyone to upload a bundle of pages into an online widget and with a few clicks and script fonts over iStock photos of sunsets—voila—a published book.


A few months ago, I was seated next to one such blogger cum self-published author at a dinner party. “I wrote one short story every day for a whole year. I never skipped a day,” he told me. “It’s some of my best work.” So I asked him: why self-publishing?

It was the idea of retaining creative control and knowing that, without a doubt, the book would make it to the public that kept him from ever considering traditional or even independent publishing. To that, I say fair.


So what’s the crime, then? If the goal of any writer is to give his work a vehicle into the world, then it would seem that this is a victimless crime. I’ve actually seen a handful of great writers go the self-publishing route, pushing into the world great work that is beautiful and profound and well crafted. And the great thing about the proliferation of publishing platforms is that no matter how avant-garde a work is, there’s likely a venue to welcome it. Check out theEEEL by tNY.Press or YesYes Books.


But you know what I’m talking about—the trite, underdeveloped, and unrevised writing that some self-published authors push out for the sake of byline and product, not for the sake of art.


I think the victim here is the writer.


When we measure art by the quantity or frequency of product—the age-old quality-over-quantity bag—then the artist has gypped not only his audience, but also himself.


I get the appeal of self-pubbing. It’s easy, friction-free. There’s no risk of hearing no or of being pushed to revise the things in your blind spot. But ask yourself this—are you self-pubbing because you want to make a statement about the industry or an unruly money machine, or are you self-pubbing because you’re afraid of friction? Are you a wretch to criticism and a fit-pitcher to challenge or an artistic revolutionary? Are you trying to grow, or are you trying to kick something out the door so no one forgets you’re there?


- Opinionated by Emily McCrary


Photo via Selectism.


Want to contribute? If so, email over your resume and writing samples to careers@nephews.co


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