|I followed a few
links about Print-On-Demand (POD) and "self-publishing" —reading the
opinions of those who think it is a good alternative to publishing the
traditional way and those who think it is a dark and evil portent of
things to come, as one article against POD put it:
take the view that POD through one of those online publishers can be a
good way for the unpublished masses to be published, especially when
the gatekeepers of traditional publishing won't give an unagented
time of day and consign it to the "slush" pile. These gatekeepers work
for New York
City publishers as editors. They only recommend titles that will sell, and by that they
mean titles that come most likely from agents, most likely from writers
who have already been published. These gatekeepers might truly believe
that they are saving the reading public from "bad" writing. In
actuality, it's the diamond-marketing technique (keeping the
market from being flooded by diamonds that don't come from Debeers
mines); or, in the case of these NYC publishers, titles that don't come
from the handful of conglomerate houses.
gatekeepers will tell you that their slush piles do not contain
manuscripts worthy of being published, and eventually (usually months)
they will get around to shipping the manuscripts back to the writers
with a short-shrift rejection slip. So it is no wonder with the advent
of POD publishing that these mega-conglomerates have been fretting in
print about books flooding the market that haven't come from their
houses. They don't want readers to have available anything more than
the books that fill the chain bookstore shelves. But "bad" writing?
be the first to concede that POD technology enables anyone with a few
hundred bucks to publish anything—good, bad, or irrelevant. Kind of
like just about anyone with a computer and a modem can now place a
personal site on the world-wide web. Nobody will dispute that democracy
is messy, but I much prefer living in a country ruled by the unwashed
masses, rather than a dictator. So why should it be any different with
anyone who wants to publish a book? If it is good, and here's the
point, it will eventually attract attention and sell. If it's bad, as
the gatekeepers fear and want to protect us from, it will sink to the
bottom of the pile.
there is a war brewing as publishing costs go up, as readership goes
down or is softening, and as small and medium publishers are either
forced out of business by the DeBeers syndrome in publishing or are
swallowed up by the big houses, becoming imprints under the
"bottom-line" thumb of a mulimedia conglomerate.
battle lines are drawn and the campaign is afoot. The traditional
publishers and their editors seek to destroy the credibility of
print-on-demand, claiming that it is the new "vanity" publishing.
Meanwhile, online POD publishers like Xlibris (a division of Random
House by the way), 1st Books, and iUniverse find ways to attract paying
customers. These paying customers are writers who have either failed to
get published the traditional way, who have had their books go out of
print and want to bring them back (since the majors won't reprint
them), or who have determined that they want to be soldiers in this war
on the side of POD. I'm one of the latter. I've been published the
traditional way, my books have gone out of print, I want to bring
them back, and I gladly choose POD over traditional publishing. Online
publishers sell mainly through online bookstores, and it is here where
traditional publishers and POD publishers meet on a more-or-less even
playing field. Buyers don't readily see that a book is POD or
in other fields of battle, traditional houses still hold the upper
hand. Print media won't review POD books (except in rare instances),
brick and mortar bookstores won't stock POD books (complaining that
shorter discounts prevent them from devoting shelf space to them, and
claiming, along with the NYC editors that most POD books are crummier
than traditionally published books).
war, as it has been said, truth is the first casualty. And so it is.
For example, there is much truth in the editor's accusations that POD
books are "vanity" books and that the quality of writing suffers from
bad editing. But it is also true that many hundreds (if not thousands)
of POD published writers are just as good as those who have managed to
be traditionally published.
whether a book is traditionally published or published by POD method,
the bad books will sink and the good books will rise.