Friday, 14 December 2012

The Instant Gratification of Self Publishing

No one can deny that e-books have ushered in major changes in the publishing industry. Readers now literally have millions of books at their fingertips and the anticipation of buying a new book is becoming a thing of the past when it can be downloaded instantly.

There are obviously many benefits to this. It follows that if readers have access to more books they'll read more books too. The convenience of being able to buy books from the comfort of your own bed cannot be overestimated. Previous generations could only dream about such a thing, but for us it's a reality that we are beginning to take for granted.

With the benefits of instant communication there also come negatives, and one of the major drawbacks is the quality of books readers are consuming. I am truly shocked at some of the self-published books that receive such an enthusiatic following on sites like Goodreads. It's not that I'm a snob (which would be a little hypocritical considering I am a self-pubber), but there are books out there with dozens of five-star reviews that don't follow the principles of basic grammar or punctuation. It's incredibly depressing to witness the degeneration of literary standards that is happening with the self-publishing revolution, and in some ways I yearn for the old days of the literary gate-keepers.

In my opinion another effect of instantly available books is that readers seem less willing to take time for a story to develop. If it doesn't grab them straight away they are more likely to discard it and move onto something else because there are so many other books out there for them to download. The result is less thoughtful, subtle writing and more cliched fiction that appeals to readers but doesn't challenge them or help them to see the world in a different way.

Readers aren't the only ones who are disadvantaged by the runaway success of self-publishing. It's just so easy to publish a book these days that many writers are guilty of rushing into it and not spending the time polishing their book to the high standard that would have been required in the past to get the attention of a publisher. Now a book can be uploaded to Amazon just minutes after the final word has been typed.

I know what I'm talking about as I have succumbed to the instant gratification of self-publishing more than once, most recently with my novella Colton Manor. I initially made the decision to send it out to publishers but after less than two weeks of waiting I couldn't take it any longer and put it up on Amazon. In my defence the book took a long time to write, so it's not the first draft, but now that it's out there I can't help but wonder what a publisher would have made of it. Now I'll never know and I'm suffering from an acute case of self-publisher's remorse.

I hope that next time I write something I can resist the temptation to self-publish immediately and find the patience to wait it out for publishers (or beta-readers if I decide to self-publish again) to respond. The instant gratification of self-publishing is very addictive but authors need to keep their eyes on the bigger picture and focus on producing the best possible work they can in order to safeguard the literary standards we all hold dear.

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