« Squeetus summer book club | Main | Self-publishing, part 2; or why my blog needs an editor »

June 18, 2012



Thank you so much for this. I had thought, "If I don't get an agent in x amount of time, I'll self-publish." Not anymore. I will keep perfecting my craft until the stars align for me.


A wonderful post. Whether people read this as offensive or not, it's something that anyone looking into getting published needs to know. As a book buyer, I appreciate the initial vetting of book publishers.


This is the same thing I've always thought, but I've never been fully able to transform those thoughts into words and explanations. Thank you, Shannon, for reading my mind, and putting it articulately onto the internet. Even as an aspiring writer who has yet to experience anything but rejection, I still firmly believe that self-publishing is the wrong way to go, and see it somewhat as giving up on your stories; believing they're not good enough for an editor/agent to want to take a chance on them.

Rosanne Parry

Excellent post! I'd just add that you only get one shot at being a debut author, and once your work is out there anybody in the industry can look up your reviews (or lack of them) and sales numbers, which can hinder your chances even with new work.

The best self-published work I've seen by far is work done by writers who already have a proven track record and are willing to invest substantial time and $ in quality writing and book design.

I've also seen some wonderful books that are regional in scope and taken to press by a regional publisher, so they get professional editing and design. My local university press Ooligan at Portland State put out a lovely MG novel about women's suffrage in Oregon. It's called Blue Thread by Ruth Tenzer Feldman. A good example of highly professional small press work!


'"Tell us, beautiful Shannon, how do editors and publishers make literature better?" Thanks for noticing. I work out.' haha- you're hilarious!

Anna Jones Buttimore

Thank you so much Shannon for saying what I have long thought. Recently I have been reminded again and again that "the times they are a-changing" and that self-publishing is respectable and the way forward and yet I just can't shake that feeling that it's about not being good enough.

It doesn't help that I have read some really terrible self-published books, and I'm really keen on quality control now! I blogged about this a while ago: http://annajonesbuttimore.blogspot.co.uk/2010/08/vanity-publishing.html

Even though I am self-publishing my next book (because it's too controversial for my publishers) I still stand by what I said back then.

Connie Onnie

I can only give my opinion as a reader. I was told that I had to read a book, I borrowed said book and began to read. The story was compelling but the pacing was off I kept thinking can we just get on with it. Try as I might to push through I ended up abandoning the book probably little more than half way. Later I found out that the book had been self-published. It made me so sad, with a little help the book could have been so much better. For better or worse I have no desire to read other self-published books.


What an uplifting post! I know it gave me the warm fuzzies! "And if this book is your very best work and it's smokin' awesome, then patience, it will find a home."

Gareth Hinds

I can tell you from personal experience that self-publishing is a great way to learn about the business. Learn it the hard way, usually, but learn it nonetheless. The knowledge can help when/if you do get a publisher. At that point you have a pretty clear picture of the pros and cons. For me, at that point I was quite ready to work with a publisher, so I could spend more time writing/drawing and less time running a publishing business.

Also, self-publishing can be a good option if you have a very specific niche. Specialized technical books, for example. Something where the pool of potential customers may be relatively small, and it's relatively easy to target advertising at those customers.


I completely agree! As a teenage writer, my dad has actually advised my to check out self-publishing, but I've always had my qualms about it. It seems to me that self-publishing puts a vast number of very-not-good books out there, which makes it so much harder to find the ones that actually are good. Plus, I can totally see how amateur authors would think their book good enough to be published when it really wasn't; I was in that place myself with my first book, and I hate to think of people reading a work of mine that was any less than it could be. Thanks for this post!


Okay,phew. Thank you for this! II actually didn't know what self publishing was exactly (I'm only 14) and some one was telling me to self publish. Now I know! Not only the self publishing part but about children publishing ( poor girl! I hope she isn't scarred for life). Thanks Shannon

Ken Baker


Great post. I couldn't have said it better. I agree with most everything you've said. When I talk to aspiring authors, I almost always try to steer them away from self-publishing for many of the reasons you state.

However I don't believe the statement is true that "If this book is your very best work and it's smokin' awesome, then patience, it will find a home." Even smokin' awesome books get rejected. I know editors that have loved a book, but it wasn't their kind of book or their house already has a book similar to it, so they passed on it. There are different reasons editors reject books, and it's not always about quality. An editor's taste is subjective by nature. They have different tastes and likes. Different imprints lean toward different subjects. All of these play into the selection criteria.

Also, publishers have narrowed their focus on what they think will sell. For example, the predominant attitude in YA is to buy books targeted toward girls rather than boys. The market for girls is much bigger than for boys. So if an editor has to choose between an awesome girl-oriented book and an awesome boy-oriented book, the girl-oriented book will often win out. Why? Because it's a business. The publisher is in the business of making money. However, they're not always right about what will sell and what won't.

This is where I think the lines between traditional publishing and self-publishing may start to blur. While I agree completely that traditional published books almost always result in a higher quality book due to all the reasons you stated, publishers tend to publish what they think is hot or what will sell, but they're not always in synch with all readers. Certain markets end up being ignored or don't get the attention they warrant-- even when there are awesome books written in those areas. It's at that point when self-publishing can make sense and it can succeed.

When editors fail to address a market need or simply fail to recognize an awesome book, that's when self-publishing should become a viable option. Unfortunately, I think many or most authors contemplating self-publishing feel their book fits in that category, even though a very small percentage of them might actually fit the bill. But there have been a few self-published books that obviously have fit into that category, and have risen to the top to fill a market need even though they were passed over by traditional houses. I think that will continue to be case, more so than ever before.

Anyway, my point is that traditional publishing is the ideal, but it's not perfect either. Even though most of the self-published books likely pale in comparison to traditional pubbed books, that doesn't mean they're all bad. I wouldn't be surprised to see a greater increase in quality books in those areas that have become or are becoming blind spots for editors. In other words, we can't "always" assume a book won't be great because it's self-published-- we should only assume it "most of the time." :)

Heather Moore

I have yet to self-publish, but I can see some pros to it IF it's done right . . . for instance, a niche book for a niche market. Or in a genre that is currently popular, but NY is no longer buying it because they are 2 years out on release dates. Hire a professional arsenal of editors--content, copy, and proofers. Hire a fabulous designer to do your cover. Pay for advertising. Get the reviews. Treat it like a business, not a "I'll show them and publish it anyway."

Adam Glendon Sidwell

Shannon, good post. For the most part, I think that you're right:
Traditional publishing = professional
Self-publishing = amateur

But I also have to disagree a little. Quite often I think this is true:
Traditional publishing = professional
Self-publishing = publishers don't know how to sell that writer's work.

I whole-heartedly agree that editors are necessary for improving a work, and marketing teams are there to help sell it. But I think that oftentimes editors or maybe even writers say the phrase "this writing isn't good enough" when they should say "the marketing team isn't adapted for this particular type of book."

There are the examples of course Amanda Hocking and John Locke, people who were considered amateurs, who self published and now are wildly successful. And yes, I wanted to reply to your post because I'm speaking from personal experience.

I tried to publish through the Big Guys for years. I even got an amazing agent interested in my work. There were many wonderful editors at the various houses who championed the story. They fell in love with my characters. They fought for them. But when it came down to the final decision from the Bosses it was always the same. You should write something more like Percy Jackson or John Grisham, they said. “We don’t know how to sell your book.”

Finally I decided: Well I do.

Last week on its debut day, my young adult novel Evertaster had risen as high as #51 on the overall Bestseller List on Amazon, surpassing the Amazon rankings of many of the current NYT bestsellers.

It rose to #16 overall in Children’s Books, and within its category rose to #1 in Children’s Mystery, settling in nicely right next to John Grisham’s latest novel and the 3rd Percy Jackson Book, which happens to be a NYT Bestseller as well.

Here's the rest of the story if you're inclined: http://www.evertaster.com/2012/06/16/how-an-unknown-debut-novelist-became-an-amazon-bestseller-in-a-single-day/

So I guess what I'm saying is, writers, if you have a dream, you can't always wait for someone else to tell you yes, because there is no one who cares more about your work than you do.

Gloria Books

It's a new world, Shannon, and it's best to keep an open mind. Did you listen to Neil Gaiman's graduation speech?


Hey Shannon, I think you're spot on in the importance of editors, agents, and publishers. Along with that, however, (and you mentioned this briefly) I truly believe self-publishing has it's own important place. I'm having to go down the self-publishing route for personal reasons (which may be made public eventually) that are not the traditional reasons. It wasn't because I couldn't find an agent or because I wanted complete control or because I even wanted to do it. In fact, it was a decision I cried and mourned over but I felt there was no other option with my personal circumstances. I once felt self-publishing was beneath me and firmly believed it was something I wouldn't consider. My book deserved MORE. And I would never give up until I could find a publisher. But I've had to humbly learn that everyone has their own journey and there shouldn't be shame in having to go a different route, even if it may not be a well lauded or popular path. I've put a lot of work into my book, having it professionally edited and constantly critiqued while working on cover art, etc - and while I'll NEVER say I could do it better than a publishing company, I know there is still value in my story. So, while I truly believe in the importance and need for the professional industry, I'm grateful that self-publishing is becoming a viable option for those in unique circumstances. It wasn't the route I would have chosen or even wanted - but it's where I'm going and I believe there is room to support those self-published authors too.


As a teacher, I had to warn my students away from believing everything they read on the internet when they did their research, along with a lesson on more reputable research sites usually have .org or .edu at the end (and what that meant). I would ask my students how hard was it to "publish" something on the internet? Since most of them know what blogs are, they would agree that anyone could write anything on the internet, true or not (in terms of research). We also talked about the process books go through to be published--writer, editor, publisher--before they actually get published. It's a long and sometimes laborious process that results in a more polished and complete work. I tried to make my students aware of what they are up against if they are choosing to do solely internet research, versus serious time spent in a library with real books. I know I'm guilty of going straight to Wikipedia when I just want to quickly look something up, but I also know that such sources are not necessarily balanced or in depth. I also own a set of hard copy encyclopedias on my bookshelf at home for my kids to use ;)


Hah! It's always annoyed me when the newspaper has articles like "Local has published a book!" and, in fact, it IS self-published, and it's glowing reviewers are the author's family. It's a great accomplishment to write a book, and I don't want to belittle that, because I've had enough trouble just getting THAT far in my own life. But it's not a news story to me if you've taken your book and had it printed, or made it available as an ebook, or whatever. You didn't, in my definition, "get a book published." You didn't sell a book. Self-publishing's great for niche markets or for, like, family memoirs you're going to pass around at a reunion. But as a librarian and as a reader, I don't have budget or time to waste on books that haven't been vetted. I can't even remotely buy all the traditionally published books for the library, and of the ones I do buy, I'm only going to READ the books I'm REALLY INTERESTED in. Self-published books ARE a slush-pile that I don't want to bother with. And as a writer, if I ever do manage to create something marginally publishable someday, I won't consider myself published until an actual editor has bought my manuscript. And it's actually gone to print before the editor gets laid off.

Rick Walton

A lot of great things to think about. The bottom line, in every case, is that no matter which route you take, you must go in with eyes wide open. If you want to self-publish, fine, as long as you recognize that by doing so you are becoming the publisher, and as such, are expected to perform all the functions of a traditional publisher, and just as well, or possibly even better (because there is a legitimate stigma associated with self-publishing.) Your book must be written, edited, designed, marketed, as well as the traditional books it will be competing against. If you can do that, and are willing to do that, and, as others previously have mentioned, have a niche you can target ("If I publish it they will come" doesn't work), then you could be successful, even wildly successful. If you have a fantasy that putting a book online constitutes a published book, validates your life, and will make you a fortune--come talk to me. For a nominal fee I have lots of ways you can get rich quick. (Or at least I can get rich quick.)

Self-publishers are responding, however, to some legitimate issues. Traditional publishing works on a geologic time frame. Because of the economics of publishing, they are seldom willing to take risks, and are not able to target small niches. I believe that e-publishers will be (and are) arising that will treat e-publishing professionally, not taking shortcuts, but working with lower overhead, on a faster time frame, and are therefore able to take risks. Higher royalties, faster and more frequent payments, the ability to quickly change errors or make improvements on already published books, the willingness to publish books that are not "safe and commercial", will attract quality authors.

I believe that the rapidly developing opportunities brought about by technology are going to change the book world in many ways, most of them positive. But with all this change, some things will remain the same. We will always need good writers, editors, designers, and marketers. We will always need those who know and love literature who can point the way to the best to children and adult readers. And no matter your role, you need to make your decisions based on facts, and not on fantasy.


Thank you. If I hear one more person say, "Oh, just self-publish. You know, the pastor's wife does it and she's had a lot of success." Which is true--the senior pastor of our large, urban church has a wife who has self-published four novels. It helps when your husband casually mentions your books in his sermons. My husband is an introverted software engineer and I am an introverted children's ministry assistant and writer--we would not sell a single book between us to anyone other than our mothers and maybe two friends. Aside from feeling like a fraud, I couldn't risk our household income in such a way. I want my writing to provide income, not squander the income we receive from my husband's job and our church for my work. That doesn't feel like good stewardship of our resources for our family. Just throwing that in as another reason to hold out for the good stuff!


I completely agree with the importance of agents and editors. I have spent 2 years submitting to over 65 agents and only one was interested, then turned me down after reading the first five pages saying, "It just wasn't as interesting as I had hoped it would be!" So I stepped back, took a look and did another revision of the book. And then another.

It is so discouraging trying to find someone to represent you. I have self-published a collections of short stories and am working on getting the first (above mentioned) novel self-published. BUT, I do not buy bulk and try to sell them, and I do not front money to self-publish. It costs me about $15 - because that is what my copy of the book costs me. I have an amazing designer in the family who puts the book cover together and I make the book available to friends and family if they want to read it.

I plan on submitting every novel I write to an agent because I really do want to be professionally published. For now, though, I'll at least have my own little copy of my book until something bigger happens.

Laura Christensen

I think there's a difference between self-publishing and indie publishing. I disagreed with Josh Christie's tweet and we discovered that he hasn't really met any DIY writers who actually hire professional help such as editors, copy-editors, and cover artists. In other words, when he made that statement he didn't believe that anyone except for traditionally published writers had done their homework about what makes a great book.

My suggestion for terms in this new age of publishing looks like this:

Traditional publishing: Large and small presses that do all behind-the-scenes work in publication except the actual writing.

Indie publishing: Do-it-yourself, entrepreneurial writers who hire seasoned professionals to help them edit, copy-edit, obtain cover art, and so on for their books. Anyone who does their homework, obtains professional support, but strikes out on an alternative path to the traditional.

Self-publishing: Doing all or most tasks entirely yourself.

Especially in the e-book market, I've found that traditional publishers and self-publishers create shoddy e-books, whether it be terrible formatting (many traditional publishers) or terrible editing (self-publishers).

The "indie writers", those who understand the value of practice, dedication, revision, and professional help seem to really get things right and do a fine job. Many of these indie writers write in a niche market that traditional publishers would buy if they only knew how to sell. They've "got the skills", just not the ready-made team who is willing to give them a shot, and so they build their own team.

"Self-publishers" under this definition, however, I think are the people who give up too soon with traditional publishing or don't realize they just need to keep practicing their craft a little while more. Or they just don't value an outsider's professional input, as you've said in your post.

Amber Argyle, author

Everyone has their own path. Just because they choose a path different from mine doesn't mean it's a WRONG path. People have varying goals, aspirations, and situations. No one can possibly know them all.

We must be careful in our judgements and how we treat other people.

Steve Moore

Very well presented, Shannon, and thanks for your candor. Overall, I agree. I too trust a book that's been professionally vetted a little more than one that's not; that it was approved by pros tells me I don't need to worry about stubbing my intellectual toes on bad grammar, for example.

But there's another side to the coin. From all I've heard and read recently, traditional print publishers are running scared. They're becoming more and more cautious, less and less willing to take risks, period. (Reminds one of insurance companies, sorta.) So great books by new authors can be denied any chance at all, just because the authors are unknown to the Big Guys.

And narrow-niche writing, like mine, is something of a special case. It's more risky to begin with, so print publishers are even more cautious. I was told point-blank by a publisher in my niche (bonsai)that it wasn't worth the bother to submit a manuscript without "lots of pictures."

So part of my answer is to start with a blog. That puts my writing out where others can see it and decide if they like it, before they're asked to plunk down any money. My hope, of course, is that by the time my book comes out, there will be crowds of people ready to buy it because they like my writing already!


I currently work for a literary agent, reading manuscripts she has requested from queries/writers she met at conferences/current clients. And good grief, are they dreadful!

Most of them have really awesome premises––but the quality of writing is so poor that as is, the manuscripts are not worth the agent's time to read through, let alone work to revise before shopping to publishing houses. Agents need to spend most of their time working with people who already pay them, not with submissions that are unlikely to amount to anything. And keep in mind that what I read are full manuscripts the agent has requested from writers––not even unsolicited work.

But, again, these ideas are really great, and I want to tell every writer I read to WORKSHOP their writing, to find a writing group, to do SOMEthing to dramatically improve them. I can tell, with most of the things I read, that if they get fresh eyes looking at it, accept criticism, and spend more time revising, they could be really good books. And don't think it's just unpublished people either––the piece I read for a current client needed more work before I'd call it worth her agent's time.

So yes. Writers, spend more TIME on your books. Learn craft and style by reading other people's books and figuring out how they work (or don't). Learn how to punctuate properly (I judge writers based on their ability to correctly and intelligently use em dashes, semicolons, and commas).

Rin Isilee

I really appreciated this post. Every time a family member says, "Why don't you just self-publish your book?" I want to flip a table. This post sums up why.


I believe that both traditional and self-publishing have their right times and wrong times depending on the situation. It just depends on what you're aiming for. However, for novels, I believe that publishing professionally is the smartest choice because of all the benefits or agents, editors, and the publishing house that markets, designs covers, etc. They make you make your book better instead of giving up and calling it good. Sometimes we just need that motivation, and traditional publishing seems to give that better than a friend could.
I also believe when you take a step back review the overall quality of professionally published novels compared to self-published ones, the professional ones beat the self-published ones by a long shot. Of course, both have their sparkling gems and their flat duds, but overall, when novels are published traditionally, they are tighter, cleaner, and more developed. Honestly, I believe self-publishing is not the answer, and I wish those who are not writers would understand that.
But again, it depends on the situation.


I am not an author, and I have no aspirations of becoming one. BUT I am a reader, and having read a number of self-published works in various genres, I can agree with you 100%. My brother self-published a trilogy. All three books were first drafts. And, as much as I love my brother, they read like first drafts. I hope many people, especially potential writers, read this post. You say things so well.


In any industry we rely on the experts in the trade to help designate what constitutes quality work. Editors at traditional publishing houses, reputable agents, established award committees, and national book reviewers are some of those sources in the Children's Book Industry. Self-published folks have decided for themselves that their book is good enough to be published. Trouble is...what are their credentials? There is so much written material out there, how are readers going to choose without relying on the filtering process already put in place by the experts? I personally don't have time to read self-published books to test them out.

It's like you say, Shannon, "Editors go through the slush pile so we don't have to."


I see the merit of what you say but i don't agree that ALL self published book are lower quality. Most of my purchases this year are from self published works, but that's where it differs; neither were they novels.
I think that self pulishing has really found its niche with web artists/comics in ways that traditional publishers are still too closed minded to even accept as legitimate form for story telling. Many of the most popular web comic series and manga's will make a self published print version of their works that are already released free online. The ones I've received are all excellent quality and much more interesting then what little i can find of the genre in the book stores. Also some great cooking and recipe website have made great self published works. As to novels I still prefer the ones that go through traditional editors. Nothing worse then seeing really bad layouts or grammar in a book i spent 30 bucks on.


As an example of my earlier point here is the site of Howard Taylors awesome and popular comic and a post about a really awesome self published work he did with Tracy Hickman.


Playing devil's advocate, but not trying to be contentious, I have a different opinion about self publishing. I've read independently published books that were beautiful and traditionally published book were painful to slog through. Many Indie authors use professional editors (always a great idea) and vary in quality as much as traditional books vary in quality. I enjoyed satisfaction and success self publishing and now have a traditional contract with Penguin. I see benefits to both routes, but do not think I was an amateur last month and a professional this month just because someone signed a piece of paper. Talent and hard work will surface in either option. I will compare the success side by side after my industry launch and decide how to proceed in the future.


Love what you said and completely agree. I am currently working on my first YA novel. Friends and strangers with opinions tell me to self publish. All I think when they say that is I haven't even tried traditional publishing. I want and agent. I want to see how far I can go and will consider it a victory if and when I sell my book. Things worth while take time and aren't so easy. I'm all for taking the professional road.


Yes!! As someone who works for a publisher, it's nice to hear somebody recognize that we actually do something for the books we put out.

Another thing that writers thinking about self publishing need to be aware of, especially if you're considering doing it to get publishers' attention: you may be getting their attention in a bad way. I see an assumption among the editors I work with that self published books are usually self published because they weren't good enough to get a traditional publisher. Whether they are right about that or not, it is the attitude they bring to the table when they look at a book that's being proposed. We HAVE published books that were originally self published. But a self-published book is not more attractive to us than an unpublished one. In fact, it's much less so. (Not only is there the doubt as to its quality, but a self-published book has copies out there that have not been proofread by us; if we publish it, those unproofed copies will be linked to our name--not something we want to be associated with.)

Rachel F.

Well, this is all good information for a writer who would like to be published one day. It seems like professional publishing is better in the long run, even though it might take longer. I definitely do not have all the skills that self-publishing requires, or the desire to involve myself in that much stress. Thanks for saying your views.

Merry Michelle

Here is an interesting take form the other side of the coin:


Merry Michelle

I mean "from" the other side. ;)

J. R.

From what I've seen of some published books, choices for publishing are sometimes influenced by popular obsession/demand. My pet peeve, but a lot of recent YA, in my opinion, is...not up to par to what I've seen in the past, writing- and plot-wise. Yeah yeah, I know, vampires and werewolves and forbidden love stories, the latter being the dime novel theme of the century, but I really hate how some books are published/written because someone in the process has looked at popular mood, thought, "We could make some money with this," and proceeded from there.


Shannon, I'm writing this from the perspective of an author who DID (without previous self-pubbing experience) land the big, fancy 6-figure deal with a big 6 NY house. And I'm still going to say that I really do not think this kind of divisive, line-drawn-in-the-sand thinking or blog posting is productive or beneficial for anyone. I mean, yes, I suppose you could label the author who self-publishes the first draft of their first novel with a homemade cover slapped onto it an 'amateur'. But why? Why bother? The poor guy/girl's sales rank and reviews are going to make him/her feel crappy enough without the rest of us piling it on. And the independent authors who hire their own professional editors, copy editors, and book designers? Whose books hit the bestseller lists and earn them an extremely comfortable living? And they are not nearly as 'rare' as you imply--just among my own limited circle I know dozens, widen than to the indie authors whose names I've vaguely heard of and there are hundreds. You would smack an 'amateur' label on them? Really? And to what purpose? "Neener neener, you still can't be part of our 'real authors' club?" Dr. Seuss wrote a book called 'The Sneeches' about that brand of thinking.

Why draw that line in the sand and make this an 'us vs them', 'traditional vs. indie', 'professional vs. amateur' adversarial issue? A 'real' author is one who pours her heart and soul into a book, and then does her absolute utmost to make sure that it is as seamless, polished, and, yes, as professional as it can possibly be before it reaches her readers' eyes and imaginations. HOWEVER it reaches her readers' eyes and imaginations.

Jim Kukral

Except for a few examples of people who write books for one specific reason, I can honestly say that signing a traditional publishing contract is a bad business decision. A decision that will haunt you in a few years when there are no more "big bookstores" and you'll still be earning 17.5% on your digital sales when you could be earning 70% or more if you sold them direct.

Bottom line is. I believe all people who sign "traditional" contracts will be crying out loud about how they made a mistake years from now, and will be regretting the huge amounts of money they could have earned.

Just go over to Konrath's blog and read him for the other side of your argument. He's hard to argue with.


I'm...kind of shocked someone called you the "1%" for having a editor/agent.

Getting a novel published traditionally is difficult, but it's less elitist/1%/whatever. If you want to be successful at self-publishing, you have to invest money in it. You need great cover art. You need great editing. In short, using your own money, you need to make a product that looks and reads like it's professionally published. Traditionally published author's books often go through *multiple* revisions with their agents and editors. There are artists and art directors. And then there's publicity.

But, I can be broke with nothing more than a library card to my name and make it with traditionally publishing. I don't have to pay anyone anything -- they'll design the book, edit with me, and then they'll *pay me*. It's like magic. Succeeding in self-publishing requires the author to have and spend money. Traditional publishing only cares if they can sell my book -- they invest in me.


I once heard a great speaker at a sales convention talk about the value of "going the extra mile" for your business. I bought a couple of his books. The grammar was so awful I was aghast, and the spelling was horrible! How could someone preach about doing your best-and then not even hire a proofreader??? I'm one of the reading public, and I don't have time to wade through self-published books. Even some of the so-called best sellers are boring, with their 6th grade writing styles.


In the best of times, I would agree with you. However, publishing houses are losing their credibility as being gatekeepers of good taste and are quickly becoming seen as sad, corporate companies whose main goal is no longer to produce quality books and stories that people want to read, but rather to sell, sell, sell. While I do believe that many editors are in this business because they have absolute passion for it, I also am sick and tire of the way publisher companies are adhering to trends and jeopardizing the quality of work being produced to meet them.

I am a review of YA lit. I am staying anonymous on this comment because my community specifically has come under fire for our critical reviews in the past year. Frankly, a lot of what I read last year was crap, and almost all that was crap was a part of series and had either a dystopian or paranormal element to it. This is starting to reflect in reviews by myself and other reviewers. As part of BEA earlier this month, a 'book bloggers convention' was also head. A panel discussion set up at the convention was geared towards 'helping us' figure out 'our purpose' and how we could best serve publishers and authors. A lawyer also spoke at this telling us about the repercussions of a bad review - which we took as a thinly veiled threat to our first amendment rights.

I know this seems like I am going off-topic, but bear with me.

Between the poorer quality books coming out, , the dot-book fiasco, the implied legal threats to reviewers and the way the publishers treat us like we are their employees rather than independent reviewers with integrity are AFFECTING THE WAY WE RESPECT AND TRUST THEM. This is reflecting on you, the authors that they represent.

I know longer believe that publishers produce quality.

I know longer believe that publishers exist to give voice to great stories, only stories that can sell.

I feel used.

So yeah, I'm all for the virtues of a free enterprise market that included independents and self-published authors. I am much more willing today to review a self-published author (with some criteria in place) than I was a year ago.

Sorry to dump that all on you, but the issue in your post is just one that is contributing to a growing dissatisfaction with the traditional publishing world. They no longer meet readers' needs.


If self-published books today aren't of the same professional caliber that traditionally-published books are, it's almost entirely due to the old-fashioned idea that the things that improve the quality of a book, like editing, production, and marketing, are only available through a publishing house. At some point, the number of indie editors/designers/marketers is going to catch up to the number of aspiring authors, and the distinction is going to disappear. And if traditional publishers continue their ham-fisted approach to managing digital publication, the greater profitability of independent e-publishing will ensure that this future happens sooner rather than later.


Respectfully, Shannon, this is probably your first blog post I've strongly disagreed with. Anna who commented above has said it MUCH better than I ever could. I'm also a bit offended by the comparison of movies (traditional publishing) to home videos (self-publishing). That comparison is ridiculous, IMO. In order to make a decent movie, you have to have a huge number of people who have devoted their lives to being the best at what they do. This goes way beyond getting an editor and an agent and a publicist. For movie special effects, you've got studios full of dozens of people who ALL work on the CGI. Then there's casting and makeup and costuming and soundtrack and directors and producers and professional actors and a zillion other things. (Sit all the way through a movie's credits sometime and try to count how many hundreds of names are listed.) A random person can come up with the best screenplay ever, but unless he has those hundreds of people behind him, he probably won't be able to make anything worth watching.

Writing is completely different. The self-published author can come up with a great idea, write the best first draft possible, hire an editor and agent and so forth, and end up with a gorgeous, polished book as good as (or better than) a lot of traditionally published books. I've seen it done. It isn't ALWAYS done, but it can be, and from what I've seen as an avid reader, it is being done more and more often with self-published books.

That CANNOT BE DONE with movies. The logistics are utterly different. A self-published author can hire a great editor and publicist (and artist to do the cover). A random person who wants to make a movie can't hire Weta or Industrial Light & Magic or Harry Gregson-Williams.

Jennifer Logan

Yes, thank goodness we have the gatekeepers in publishing so that we can read wonderful literary works by Rielle Hunter and Snooki.

You just insulted a whole bunch of writers... and lost this reader as a customer.


Nothing new here...just balancing the naysayers. :)
Some family and friends have encouraged me to self-publish because they see my anguish in getting SO CLOSE just to get another rejection--and they see so many success stories about self-published authors. Of course, you only hear about the success stories, don't you?
I suppose it's a great path for someone with a hard to place book and a whole lot of time, energy and (probably) money--but all I have is energy. And I want to spend that making my writing as good as it can be.
That said, it is an exciting time, in which those who do have the above qualifications can find excitement and success in bringing their work to the world.


You're probably sick of me by now :-), but the more I thought about it, the more I had to say that simply couldn't be contained in a quick comment. You can read my (respectfully disagreeing) post here:
And I really would like to say, thank you, Shannon, for providing a friendly, respectful, and honest forum in which these important questions can be aired and debated.

PA Wilson

Sorry, my understanding is that professional means you get paid. Anyone who has published and sold a copy of their book is professional.

Tower Lowe

What are you so afraid of?

The comments to this entry are closed.