I have already been asked a few times whether or not my book is self-published. Though it’s just an inference on my part, I have detected a certain reaction when I answer that question. There seems to be some assumption that to have been published by someone else might in some way be more valid, or more of an accomplishment. Or perhaps there is an assumption that the work may not be of good quality if one had to resort to self-publishing. I could be wrong, but I trust my instincts and this post assumes that I’m right.
At any rate, I find it interesting that in this era that people might assume some lack of quality must go hand in hand with self-publishing. As a musician, I remember well the days when it was very expensive to record a decent sounding album. You’d invariably have to go to a studio and spend a good deal of money. One could get something decent enough on a four-track or even an eight-track, but it was still fairly expensive, especially if you had it mastered properly. Now, so many people record and release their own music using quality and affordable equipment and you couldn’t possibly tell the difference between something recorded at home vs. that recorded in a professional studio. And yet, I don’t hear of people asking musicians if they self-released their work. It’s such a non-issue. And of course, there is good and bad quality of self-released music, that is self-evident.
Publishing is changing. The ease with which a writer can publish their work is incredible. However, one must do the work to write, produce, publish and then market their own work. It turns out that this has in fact, always been the case with self-publishing. Only now, because of changes in technology, it’s easier to do and costs less. There is good and bad quality of self-published writing, that is self-evident to me, but it seems that the overall impression about self-publishing hasn’t caught up to reality. I suspect attitudes will change over time, much the way attitudes towards self-released music has. And indeed I hope attitudes will change.
Here is an interesting piece on the history of self-publishing. I was somewhat surprised by some of the authors listed, including Blake and Woolf. There are indeed many more throughout history (see the end of this rant for a long list which includes Joyce, Wilde, Cummings, Poe, Twain, and Thoreau.) One would be hard pressed to describe any of these authors as slouches or low-quality.
Lastly, this page has a more lengthy list. I had no idea.