Are Self-Publishing Authors Killing the Publishing Industry?

The title of this is post is borrowed from a recent article in the Huffington Post  that wonders if self-publishing authors are spoiling the party for everyone. In their hurry to create blockbusters, authors, the article argues, are ignoring the basic tenets of writing and resorting to cheap gimmicks to sell their book.

The author proceeds to list the ways in which she thinks many self-published authors are “devaluing the written word”: by pricing the book ridiculously low, refusing to pay attention to editing or proper cover design and resort to paid reviews and other such antics to attract sales.

Paperwork – creative commons license

The article gets it right on both counts: the methods employed by authors to cut corners and ensure sales and the reasons why they employ them. Having seen how the Hockings and Jameses of this world have tasted success, no one believes such success cannot be his or hers. Those tried and tested rules that almost always ensure a good book and satisfied customers can wait.

In India the scene isn’t too different. We have the Bhagats and the Shenoys here, who have made many believe that mediocre writing also pays. The runaway success of such books have spawned a multitude of writers. Nothing wrong with that, except that many choose to rather do that than ensure a good book.

At CinnamonTeal we constantly encounter such authors. Many of them have a plot that can be refined with a little editing, many others have written a beautiful book that could leave a lasting impression with a good cover. But they won’t hear of it. They’d rather go to market as soon as possible at the lowest price they can offer. Often we push back in the belief that the authors will understand and invest a little in editing and design. Ours being a self-publishing service, ultimately we have to bow to the wishes of the author.

We hope that this will change – that authors will aspire for literary glory along with financial reward, that marketing will be less about frills and more about communicating the essence of the book. We hope that authors will speak to the niche than to the mass market because, like a colleague at a publishing course recently pointed out, mass-market books cater to ‘the lowest denominator’. On our part, we believe we are doing our best to educate the author and bring about such change.

The self-publishing phenomena, being a nascent one inspite of the attractive numbers, cannot afford the disrepute that comes with badly edited and produced books. There are many authors who are working really hard at their books and making the best of the opportuinities that self-publishing platforms offer them. The rest, who couldn’t care less, should not spoil it for those hard-working authors. If self-publishing should indeed be taken seriously, those engaging in it should ensure that good literary works emerge.

2 comments

  1. Appreciate your views and am totally on board with the idea of not compromising on quality. However, we must also understand that we live in a nation where English is still a recently learned language and many readers may think a mediocre book is absolutely great! Whose standards of quality do we work with?

  2. Our own. I think we have a fine tradition of English writing that communicated our ideas perfectly without capitulating before contemporary market forces. I think the recent trend of mediocre writing is a sign of our times – to cut corners and seek instant gratification without caring for the hard work that’s needed.

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