I sometimes buy books out of compassion for the author.
I see an author sitting at a table in a bookstore, or in a kiosk at a book fair, waiting patiently next to a stack of books. She or he is there to sign and sell books, but for whatever reason, no one has shown up or expressed an interest. I feel compelled to strike up conversation with these writers, to make them feel less awkward and alone.The response is almost always positive. They’re eager to discuss their work and sign it with a personal note penned just for me.
Almost every time I do this, over the course of twenty years or so, I get the book home and find it not worth reading. This assessment is subjective of course, and it’s never based on the subject matter, but always on the way the author treated the subject, used language, or crafted the story. I can never bring myself to dispose of the books, so I donate them in the hopes that they’ll find the right readers.
Many of these books were self-published, and some were published by big name publishing companies. There have always been self-publishing success stories, just as there have always been conventionally published books that were pure dreck. (Don’t tell me you’ve never picked up a book in a bookstore and wondered how that writer ever got a publishing deal.)
Self-publishing earned the reputation of not being able to pass muster with the publishers. Anything good to come out of that was considered an exception. Fortunately, that’s changing. Seasoned authors are taking advantage of the indie publishing and self-publishing opportunities that didn’t exist a few years ago, and holding onto more of the income their books generate. New authors are using self-publishing as a means to garner recognition, and perhaps a contract, from traditional publishers.
There will always be poorly written books for sale, and now that self-publishing is easier than ever and can be done for free, we can expect thousands more unworthy books to hit the virtual shelves. The best way for serious writers to continue to diminish the stigma that taints self-publishing is to self-publish the best work possible. Many readers sitting at home downloading books on their kindles and other electronic reading devices don’t care who published the book. They just want it to be good.
Go write something!