“Can some writers turn to self-publishing?”
This is my answer to a good question posed on a friend’s Facebook wall (and of course too long to post there.)
The key problem-in-search-of-a-revolution for self-publishing isn’t so much that self-publishing has a stigma itself…but rather that a self-published book hasn’t been vetted in a way readers yet trust.
I know that’s stating the obvious. But people rely on vetting for literary books way more than they do for movies or photos or restaurants. Literary books are much more of an investment in time (days or weeks of reading), money (usually over $20), and emotion (they can change your life in unpredictable ways). Yet still like movies and photos and restaurants, there are lots of books…Of the 22 million books registered with the Library of Congress, you have to choose which one to read now. So divide that limited time by your seemingly unlimited supply: If you start reading at age 3 and manage to read a book a week ’till your death at 100, you have to choose not to read 99.975% of all books.
Or put in psychosocial terms, traditionally embedded in your decision to buy a book is the opinion of the writer, agent, publisher, and bookstore/website who all thought the book was worth the cost of making it available to you, as well as the opinion of the reviewer and friend who recommended that you search that one book out. You have to choose one book out of 22 million available. You can’t possibly. So you need a shortcut: a vetting system.
Successful self-publishing means building a vetting system half as trusted as agent + publisher + reviewer, etc.