I’ve been reading some good blog posts lately about self-publishing and quality control. First from Richard Parks:
“Evolve or Die”
Then, by way of his comment thread, Jim Van Pelt:
“Writing: Self Publishing and Quality”
“Evolution of a Writer”
“So How, Exactly, Does a Writer Grow”
“Evolution of a Writer (redux)”
They support the new publishing paradigm of “indies,” but they also talk about the vetting process that Big Time Publishing does to separate the wheat from the chaff for readers, to cut down on the high ratio of noise to signal when everybody who can starts slapping their writing against the walls of the internet. They also talk about the stages in a writer’s development, how rejection and writers’ groups and critiques, et al., help the conscientious writer improve her craft.
But I’m not going to paraphrase what they say. Read the articles yourself—they state their case better than I can restate it.
What I am going to say here is that, for the most part, I think they’re correct. Oh yes, I am considering adding to the white noise by self-pubbing one of my novels, but I don’t do it out of any sense that this is going to be a Brave New World for me: doors that have hitherto been closed to will suddenly fly open and I will become the next web millionaire. I think that if I sell one copy I’ll be lucky. I haven’t got a pre-sold audience, see, and making oneself heard through the sea of static is quite difficult to do without making oneself obnoxious on every writers’ and readers’ forum on the interdweebs.
So no, I’m not considering doing this with the expectation of Incredible! Breakthroughs! and Millions! I’m doing this purely to have something out there, something I can point people to if they happen to get curious.
I’ve done a hellacious amount of writing (almost certainly a lot of hellacious writing). I have done a heap and then some of critiques, and I have received a heap and then some of critiques. I have submitted and submitted and gotten feedback. All of that, the giving and the getting, have been invaluable to me, have made me grow as a writer, have improved my craft. Some very generous and talented writers and editors have given me priceless feedback. I have listened, I have learned, I have grown.
But I have little to show for that yet. Maybe I didn’t listen and learn enough, maybe I haven’t grown enough. Or maybe my subconscious and writerly changes proceed at ice floe speed. None of that advice has been wasted or ignored. I just process it in a different time zone. I haven’t given up on trying to grow and I haven’t given up on traditional publishing, perverse and dog-eared as that belief may sometimes be. I see no reason not to pursue both e-publishing and traditional publishing at the same time.
Because I do believe in that vetting process. It provides a valuable service. I do not believe there is a vast conspiracy to keep the little people down. Not everybody is as good as they think they are. Myself included. I want to put out the best product I can. I want to grow an audience. Writing isn’t just about screaming to be heard, it isn’t just about gushing out Your Message. It’s about honing your craft. For that, you need the input of other people, the ones existing outside your own head. Not the ones who love you and want to be your friend, or the ones who you’re related to by blood or marriage. No, I’m talking about objective others who have no vested interest in convincing you that you are a Special Puppy and a Very Good Dog. People who are generous enough to be honest with you about what works and what does not work in your Very Special Creation.
That is truly what separates the wheat from the chaff. That’s truly what turns white noise into a beautiful melody.