No one enjoys being disrespected, which is why authors who self publish need to stand up for themselves. As we all know respect isn’t given; it’s earned. And self-published writers have done enough to earn the respect of everyone in the publishing community, from readers to industry CEOs. What have self-published writers done to deserve this status? Plenty. Let’s start with having enough gumption, creativity and basic common fucking sense to see where technology is heading and embrace the reality that the ways readers interact with books is changing. You didn’t need to be a genius ten years ago to realize that books and bookstores would be replaced by emerging technologies and digital content.
Nevertheless, the publishing industry sat there like an old set of encyclopedias. Instead of devising a strategy to exploit these new trends, publishing houses cowered together like teenagers in a bad horror movie and came up with the most unimaginative, crass and soul-crushing plan: to take no risks at all. Are you an author whose first book didn’t sell 40,000 copies? Fuck you. You have a great idea for a book but aren’t a celebrity? Fuck you, too. The publishing industry also invented the shady concept of “platform” which is a ruse meaning “have you done all of the work for us and can guarantee your book will sell so we don’t’ have to do anything? If so, sign here, Snooki.”
The publishing industry would like you to think there is a shortage of talented writers out there; how else could they explain not being able to find a novel worthy of this year’s Pulitzer Prize? Talented writers exits, but no one is really looking for them. Flipping through literary journals and attending the occasional writer’s conference to find talented writers is like going to the zoo to discover Africa. We all know, of course, that the problem the publishing industry has with finding good writers is that they get mixed in with all of the bad ones. Unfortunately, myopic literary agencies address this challenge by using interns new to New York City (can you say par-tay?) to weed through the queries. Those queries that make it to the next level must have an Ivy League graduate literary agent “fall in love” with it.
It’s no wonder no one fell in love with A Confederacy of Dunces. It’s about a planet they’ve only heard about and people they don’t understand. Which brings us back to self-published writers. Despite all of the change the publishing industry has encountered, one thing hasn’t: writers kept writing. It’s what they do. And when the book world fell apart, the writers didn’t. They kept writing. Even more, they learned to crop photos and self publish. So it’s time for self-published writers to come down from bell tower and demand the respect they deserve. They may have just saved books. If only John Kennedy Toole could have made it long enough to self publish. It could have saved his life.