Self-Publishing: The Environmentally Friendly Way To Publish

There’s a theory that if anyone can join the game, the game will soon deteriorate. This could certainly be said of self-publishing. It was once called Vanity Press and I still hear that derogative term, well, derogative to writers, tossed about. Admittedly, mostly by other writers. And, at one time, it was mostly just that: vanity. It was your idea and your money and you got what you paid for: several boxes of books which no one would read gathering dust in the crawl space.

Like so many things, though, technology is moving the vanity press out of the realm of the poorly written, family memoir aimed mostly at unborn grandchildren, and into the real world of readers. The Internet has opened new vistas for both the writer, and writer wannabe, and the latter are migrating in untold numbers. eBooks, eZines, podcasts, easily produced and obtainable audio selections and publish-on-demand (POD) have paved the washboard road for anyone who thinks they can string several thousand words together into something faintly readable.

Sadly, most of it is not even that. I suppose the one good thing that can be said for the move from the old vanity press to the new technology is that it’s environmentally friendly. Most of it is electronic in nature and a POD book is only produced when purchased, thereby saving a lot of trees from prematurely becoming landfill.

There are a lot of writer wannabes, it seems, and they all think they can write a book that will set the world on fire. With the new technology, they are out there in droves, pounding away at their keyboards, turning words into nightmares and making the lives of literary agents even more miserable then I imagine the lives of literary agents to be.

Thankfully, literary agents have a secret weapon: the rejection slip. Mostly, I think, to protect themselves, though how much protection this affords is debatable. Writer wannabes can be a persistent lot. Luckily, for the hapless agents anyway, the wannabes have the Internet and the nearly two dozen POD companies that have started up over the last few years to satiate this need to butcher the language.

As ever is my desire to put a positive spin on all this, at least by using the Internet and/or PODding their work, they aren’t killing trees. And, considering that electronic information doesn’t burn, there is no noxious smoke to pollute the air.

I’ll bet, if you’ve gotten this far, you’re thinking that I’m one of those writers who toss derogative statements about, and look down my writerly nose at, self-publishing. Sorry to disappoint, but I don’t. I may bitch about how open the doors are, about the vast amount of garbage that’s being produced in that area but, I am just as quick to bitch about how closed the doors of traditional publishing are and how much mediocre crap is being produced there as well. Indeed, at least in the world of self-publishing , this crap isn’t harming the environment nor is it in our face every time we venture into a bookstore.

The sad fact of the matter is, the traditional publishing arena has changed and, in my opinion, changed for the worse. Quality writing, quality story telling, no longer assure publication. The marketing department, which in most cases wouldn’t know, or care about, quality anything from a zit on their nether parts, has taken over from the editors who would know such things. Today, a book is published not because it is good but because it might follow some trend, some hot new issue. It’s guess work, pure and simple and about as scientific a process as turning lead into gold. With about the same results.

To be sure, some good books do sneak past the marketing department. But the restrictions placed on the industry to support the bottom line are chocking off the mid-list, that mundane world of unknowns from which the great writers are born.

Over the last few months, as I’ve learned more about the publishing world then I ever wanted to learn, I’m beginning to develop a few theories about all this, about traditional publishing vs self-publishing, specifically POD. Maybe these theories are spot on. Maybe they’re orbiting Pluto. Maybe they’re somewhere in between. Check back. I’ll lay em on ya. Let you decide.

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