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Self-publishing and Libraries

Too many Kind Readers have sent this link in for me not to comment on it. The headline says it all: “Rhode Island’s tattooed librarian calendar defies stereotypes.” Of course it doesn’t. There’s now nothing more stereotypical than the tattooed librarian trying to defy stereotypes.

There was one odd quote from the organizer, who said she “organized the calendar in part because she wanted people to know libraries are evolving and aren’t just places to get books.” Are they also now places to get tattoos? That’s what I want to see, tattoo parlors inside libraries. Now that would be defying stereotypes.

But the story that most caught my eye in the past week is about the study from Bowker on the rapid growth of self-publishing. There were 391,000 self-published books last year, up 60% from the year before. Most of the new books published are now self-published, if I’m interpreting the information correctly. That’s a lot of books.

The press release explores the rationale for self-publishers:

Those who intend to self-publish most often plan to bring fiction to market, followed by inspirational or spiritual works, books for children and biographies. The majority cite finding a traditional publisher as an obstacle. They also feel challenged by marketing – a hurdle that becomes bigger with increasing numbers of books in the market.

It’s not surprising that finding a publisher is an obstacle. Finding a publisher is supposed to be an obstacle. Publishers are supposed to stand between the public and awful novels and “inspirational” works. The stuff that gets published through traditional means is usually bad enough.

I’d love to see more about the motivations of most of these self-publishers. I’m not talking about the people deliberately publishing for niche audiences. What drives someone to self-publish a novel, for example?

Is it to make money? Because from what I’ve read most self-published books don’t sell much, so if that’s the goal it’s not a realistic one.

Is it just to be published? To see your name on the cover of a published book? I could see that, but does self-publishing count? I could just post my bad novel on Blogger and be a published novelist, with about the same amount of cachet I’d have by self-publishing it.

Is it because they know the world truly needs their inspired words? It’s a pity then that so few people in the world are getting the advantage of their inspiration.

The sad thing is that there are most likely unsung geniuses out there self-publishing, people whose work is great, but with little chance wary mainstream publishers would publish it. Those people are lost in the crowd.

What does all this mean for libraries, though? I read a mention on a blog post somewhere about some of the self-publishing companies trying to sell books to libraries. Do libraries buy many of those books?

That’s actually a question we can answer. A quick search of WorldCat revealed that libraries do indeed buy some. Smashwords was one of the publishers mentioned, and a keyword search reveals that at least 96 libraries have bought Always on My Mind, the most popular Smashwords book for libraries.

The next most popular is available through 52 libraries, then 36, 31, 26, 22, 14, 14, 11, 11, and 11. Those are the top 10. After that it drops off very quickly, and the vast majority of the books are available in 1 or 2 libraries.

Createspace fares quite a bit better, but they’ve got that Amazon juggernaut behind them. The Library Journal has reviewed a few Createspace publications, but none from Smashwords that I can find, so maybe it’s the power of LJ at work. Still, it’s not that great.

But with almost 400,000 self-published books a year, the amount bought or preserved by libraries is going to be negligible. In the future, it will be like the vast majority of these books never existed.

Or maybe that’s true now. If an ebook is published in the wilderness and nobody reads it, does it still count as a book?

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Comments

  1. Melanie says:

    Just because these self-published works appear in WorldCat, it does *not* mean that a library has purchased it. We often include self-published works in our collection as a public service to local authors and the vast majority are donated with the hopes that the increase in visibility will help drive sales.

    • spencer says:

      Yes. We will put in self published works by local authors. Typically these are donations, or are purchased specifically due to the author being a library member.

  2. All you have to do to find out why so many writers are self-publishing nowadays is read a few writing blogs. The Passive Voice is one of the best. http://www.thepassivevoice.com/

    But Annoyed Librarian, you have forgotten your writing history. Until fairly recently, self-publishing was a respectable way to get your books out to the public. John Grisham, Jack Canfield, Beatrix Potter, and Tom Clancy are a few of the modern writers who self-published. Classic self-published writers include Mark Twain, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Walt Whitman. Amazon is simply bringing back the tools to do esaily and cheaply what vanity presses charge many thousands of dollars to do.

    Yes, there’s a lot of chaff out there in self-publishing world. But as you pointed out, there’s a lot in the traditional publishing world as well.

    Why did I self-publish? Many reasons. I don’t need to wait two or three years while an agent and publisher decides if my book is worth publishing. I earn far higher royalties publishing it myself. I keep the rights to my books. I have complete freedom of choice of cover artist and formatting (I’m a former typesetter and DTP, which makes it easy for me to set my own books).

    Is discoverability hard? Yes. I’m about to publish the second book in my YA fantasy series. My first book is about to earn out the cost of the cover. (I used an extremely talented artist, Julie Dillon who–surprise! also does covers for traditional publishing houses.) I haven’t quit my day job. I have a marketing plan. My book is constantly selling, albeit not in very high numbers, every month. When book 2 comes out next month, I’m sure my sales will improve. I’m willing to take the long-term route. A good story is a good story, and readers are always looking for good stories. They don’t care who publishes it.

    As for the long-term existence of self-published books: the same can be said about traditionally published books. Who were Mark Twain’s contemporaries? How many writers of the late 19th and early 20th century no longer have books in libaries? Only a tiny percentage of any publishing house’s content will make it to a library shelf.

    You can mock self-publishing all you like, but at least do a little research first. There are a lot of self-published writers actually earning a living, without having to dole out most of the income from their novels to publishing houses and agencies. And that number is growing all the time.

    • “John Grisham, Jack Canfield, Beatrix Potter, and Tom Clancy are a few of the modern writers who self-published. ”

      That’s incorrect. “Wynwood Press, a small company in New York, bought the manuscript a year later and printed 5,000 copies of A Time to Kill — at a length about a third shorter than the original manuscript — in June 1989. Grisham ordered 1,000 himself.

      Wynwood didn’t have marketing muscle, so Grisham concocted his own book tour.”

      http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/life/books/news/2009-06-21-john-grisham-a-time-to-kill_N.htm

      Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October was published by the Naval Institute Press.

      Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen’s Chicken Soup for the Soul was not self-published, either. It was published by Health Communications, a small company out of Deerfield Beach, Florida.

    • You’re partly right, Peter. http://www.jimchines.com/2009/09/self-publishing-myths/

      But why shouldn’t an author self-publish these days? You can hire a decent copy editor, proofreader, or even line editor if you so desire. You can commission a cover that looks as professional as if it came out of one of the Big Five. You can do all of this, and keep the rights and royalties that would otherwise go to corporate profits and agencies.

      I don’t disagree that most self-published works are crap. But so are most traditionally published works. Sturgeon’s law–90% of everything is crap–works for both sides.

      I would have thought that librarians would welcome a new source of books, instead of closing their minds to even the thought of looking at a work because it’s coming via CreateSpace. Librarians don’t have time to read? Because that’s the takeaway I’m getting from this thread.

    • Andrew says:

      “Librarians don’t have time to read? Because that’s the takeaway I’m getting from this thread.”

      It’s a problem of volume. Very few librarians sit and do only selecting. There are only 40 hours in the work week and only a fraction of that is spent on ordering books for most selectors. Nobody has time to read everything that goes on the shelf which is why selectors rely on trusted reviews from sources like Booklist, PW, Library Journal, etc. Self-published works aren’t featured prominently there so they often get overlooked.

      I’ll give you that theoretically a librarian could spend their remaining time reading self-published books to evaluate them for quality, but at least in my case Sturgeon’s law makes me hesitant to spend my discretionary reading time digging through a pile of crap for the rare gem.

    • Stephen Michael Kellat says:

      The “Meryl Yourish” previously of Shire Network News? Interesting to see your appearance here. I’d be curious as to how you’d handle the self-publication of political works such as by Lee Stranahan and others in terms of getting them into the marketplace of ideas. I’m not sure they’d catch the eyes of selectors all the time but the mechanics are still important these days in producing quality content that is then put in an appropriate container format.

  3. Beth says:

    You might be interested in checking out these two blogs. http://kriswrites.com/ and http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/. The main reasons authors are turning to self-publishing is because they get paid much better and aren’t saddled by the horrendous contract terms that the big publishing houses are pushing. The two I linked are authors who have been publishing for years, both traditionally and self-published, but have moved mostly away from submitting to traditional publishers because of the contracts. Another reason for self-publishing is because traditional publishers are mostly looking for blockbusters and books they know how to market, so anyone writing something that crosses genres or has a great book that doesn’t easily get a label, can’t sell traditionally. None of those are reasons of lack of quality. I’ve heard countless stories of writers getting told, “sorry, I loved your book but we don’t know how to market it,” who went on to self publish and it did really well.

  4. Andrew says:

    The irritating thing is that there are self-publishing gurus out there telling would-be self-published authors that getting their books into libraries is a great way to drive sales and grow their audience. And most libraries won’t touch something that even has a whiff of self-publishing because, let’s be honest here, most of them stink.

    So you have self-published authors going to elaborate means to make it seem like their book is anything but self-published. My two personal favorites were:

    1. A book from a “Publishing House” that turned out to be an LLC that turned out to be owned and operated by none other than the author! The PR sheet also said the book was nominated for a prestigious award in my home state (it wasn’t) and in a neighboring state (that particular award accepted nominations from the public so big whoop).

    2. A book from another “Publishing House” that was a wholly owned subsidiary of the author’s grout and tile contracting company. Watch out New York. That book also won an award complete with a shiny medal on the cover, but on investigation it turns out anyone who bothers paying the $100 entry fee is an automatic winner and they can purchase those medals to put on their book for an additional $50.

    And these are just the two craftiest examples of the kind of crap that floats across selector’s desks regularly. Would we have accepted the books if they were amazing? Sure! Unfortunately the quality was about what one would expect from self-published works. If these writers spent half as much time working on their craft as they did conceiving new harebrained schemes for making the world think they’re traditionally published then they’d probably be traditionally published.

    And I have a feeling the problem is only going to get worse as self-pub becomes more of a thing.

    • Andrew, many of us who set up DBA accounts for tax purposes (present!) have never pretended we are anything other than self-published. I loathe lying in all of its forms, and I’m not surprised to hear that. I went to my county library with a copy of my book and started the conversation with “I’m an independent author who self-published this…”

      Please don’t tar all of us with the brush of the dishonest ones you describe.

      There are many quality indie novels. I have over 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, and I challenge you to tell the difference between my book and a traditionally published one. I’d be happy to send you a copy, electronic or print, no strings attached, no expectations. (Just so you can see we’re not all bad.) Send me a note via my website.

    • Andrew says:

      I’m not trying to tar everyone with the same brush. I agree that not all self-published authors are deceptive just as not all self-published novels are terrible. The problem is that there’s a gold rush going on in self-publishing right now and the well-behaved self-published authors are getting drowned out by those who will resort to any means to get their stuff out there. That’s going to continue to be a problem as long as people have it in their heads that there’s gold in them thar hills and all they have to do is pester the local librarian to get it.

    • Andrew, that’s true. I couldn’t say how long it’s going to last, either. I sure hope that sort of behavior doesn’t hang on as long as email spam has hung on.

      Well, if it helps, I know a fair number of independent authors like myself who DON’T treat self-pub like it’s a gold rush. And we’re awfully grateful for the “look inside” feature. That’s how you can tell a decently-written indie book from something you shouldn’t waste your time on. Just like you can open a print book and browse a few pages in a bookstore. Or a library.

    • “A book from a “Publishing House” that turned out to be an LLC that turned out to be owned and operated by none other than the author!”

      You mean like Dave Eggers’ McSweeney’s?

    • Andrew says:

      No I mean like they went onto Legal Zoom and created an LLC to mask the fact that their book, the only thing to come out of their “publishing house,” was a self-published work. Not that they were a legitimate publishing outfit run by a well-known industry professional. I figured that would be obvious from the context and tone.

    • Nope. All that’s obvious from the context and tone is that you (and annoyed librarian) prefer books produced by corporations to those produced by authors.

      Both those presses are legitimate from legal and business perspectives.

      It’s really kind of sad to read a librarian question whether books are legitimate rather than encouraging reading. But I guess librarians are too busy shelving Snooki and shaming themselves on Tumblr to really get into that other bit.

      Anyway, back to writing and publishing. Cheers.

    • Karen Myers says:

      As a self-published author, I am a small business person. I have a business, a small press. It’s an LLC. I keep the books and pay the taxes. What else would I do? Why is that “a fraud”?

      At the moment my press publishes me. That’s an accident of timing. Over time, there will be a few more authors. But so what? My press prices and distributes and markets and serves customers like any other small professional publishing company. I’m not hiding anything. I am completely unmoved by the scorn and outrage of my daring to have an independent press. What difference does it make?

    • Andrew says:

      “All that’s obvious from the context and tone is that you (and annoyed librarian) prefer books produced by corporations to those produced by authors.”

      Funny. I was under the impression that the big five got all of their books from authors as well. An author doesn’t become the Platonic ideal of Authorship by being self-published.

      “Both those presses are legitimate from legal and business perspectives.”

      “Why is that “a fraud”?”

      The problem here is that you’re both focusing on the LLC point and that’s not what should be raising red flags. The problem is that the authors purposely padded their resume by mentioning awards etc. that turned out to be nonexistent, distorted, or outright purchased.

      They lied.

      And that’s not an uncommon thing with works that come into libraries. I’m sure neither of you pull any of those shenanigans when you’re trying to get your books out there, but the sad fact is that there are a lot of people out there who will pull any trick they can think of to get a sale. They’re the self-published equivalent of a Used Car salesman and they’re the rule, not the exception.

      If you can’t agree that outright lies in the service of selling a book is even slightly disingenuous then I don’t think we’re going to find any common grounds to walk on.

    • David says:

      You had two “personal favorites.” Your #1 personal favorite was the one that set up an LLC. Well, best business practice in the self-publishing field is to establish your own imprint (has several advantages in terms of managing your ISBNs, dealing with anthologies where you might write with several other authors, and the like). Some authors remail sole proprietors, others go the LLC route, but either way — NOT an attempt to decieve, just an attempt to follow best business practice.

      Lying about award nominations? That’s poor practice, regardless, although it’s happened by some mismanaged small press publishers as well (see the debacle that is Firefly and Wisp publishing, as catalogued through the AbsoluteWrite forums). Self-publishers will also be guilty of all the worst practices of the big-name publishers, as you might expect (taking quotes out of context to make negative reviews sound positive, or claiming best-seller list status (with very fine print noting that it’s the best-selling book as ranked by Amazon in the field of Tall Ships on the Amazon River or something just as obscure).

      The “shiny medal,” if it’s the outfit I’m thinking of, is NOT a scam, however — there is a group that self and independent publishers can pay into, and this organization will read it to assure is passes certain objective editorial standards (such as “has it been proofread at all?”). Paying the $105 is not an “automatic acceptance,” as they will reject and give you notes for correction (which, if you make the corrections within a certain time limit, you can get it reviewed again for free). That doesn’t necessarily mean the book is any good, mind, just as a restaurant with bad recipes can tout USDA ratings of their products because, well, it won’t kill you, but it is supposed to guarantee a certain objective standard of quality. It’s possible this “shiny medal” is NOT from the place I’m thinking of (it would help if you gave its name, here), in which case what I just said is moot.

    • Please accept my humble gratitude for all of the useful information on this thread.

      My novel, Before Bethlehem, recently received a positive review from Kirkus Magazine (January 1, 2014) and a Kirkus Recommendation for two categories: Fiction and Literature and Indie. Since the release in October 2013, there are over 47,000 copies in circulation (which can be certified by my CPA), and over several hundred in circulation, globally.

      Because I self-published, is it possible that this title may never see a library shelf until it is picked up by traditional publishers? Thank you for your honest feedback.

      Sincerely,

      James Flerlage

  5. me says:

    I don’t have the budget to buy self-published works to be completely honest. If the book in Ingram lists “Createspace” as the publisher it’s an automatic skip from me. Unless it is reviewed in LJ, some other trade publication, or I can get my hands on the physical book then how am I going to evaluate self-published works? Take the authors word for it?

    Also, like most selectors it’s not the only part of my job. I’m sure that I’m missing some gems but I don’t plan on filling the library shelves up with self-published works any time soon.

    • Andrew says:

      I’m guilty of the same thing with self-published imprints. Selection takes time and reviews from trusted publications are a necessity. No one has time to read every book they add to the collection. Until there’s some sort of reputable self-publishing review that separates the gems from the dreck it’s going to continue to be difficult for self-published authors to get their works into libraries.

    • Joneser says:

      Did anyone EVER have time to read every book added to the collection? Not only do I not have the budget, I don’t have much time to read even reviews. We’ve got patron-driven acquisition in place via holds lists and replacements by default. Also, we outsource cataloging and processing so must go through a big jobber. End of story.

    • me says:

      We use patron driven acquisition as well with holds & patron request forms. I’ve never had one filled out for a self-published work unless it was by the authors themselves.

    • Mark says:

      Point. What libraries (and individual buyers) need is not publishers but trustworthy reviewers. Publishing houses provided that function in the past, but lately I would place less weight on their choices.

      The problem then becomes how to make it possible for good, honest independent reviewers to spend time reviewing, without corrupting them (or seeming to). How can we reward these people for their valuable service, so we can get them to do (more of) it?

  6. me says:

    I don’t have the budget to buy self-published works to be completely honest. If the book in Ingram lists “Createspace” as the publisher it’s an automatic skip from me. Unless it is reviewed in LJ, some other trade publication, or I can get my hands on the physical book then how am I going to evaluate self-published works? Take the authors word for it?

    Also, like most selectors it’s not the only part of my job. I’m sure that I’m missing some gems but I don’t plan on filling the library shelves up with self-published works any time soon.

  7. The Librarian With No Name says:

    The difference between a writer and an aspiring writer is that a writer would keep writing even if they knew they’d never get paid for it. It’s sort of like how knitters continue to knit, even though there are easier ways to obtain scarves.

    For that kind of writer, why not self-publish? In days gone by, a writer who didn’t get picked up by a publisher could either gamble a few thousand dollars on a vanity press run or post their material online for free, so at least they’d get some eyeballs on the work. Now, self-publishing is as risk-free as it gets. And given the choice between maybe making a few hundred bucks by publishing and certainly making zero bucks by not publishing at all, I know which I’d choose.

    As for libraries, it’s a tricky question. Cluttering your shelves with something that’s crappy and probably won’t circ is an opportunity cost, even if it’s a donation. Whether or not the same concept applies to self-published ebooks depends largely on how robust your search engine is. If you can ghettoize free ebooks so that they satisfy the long tail without cluttering up everyone else’s results, I say go for it.

  8. Sarah West says:

    I get so many self published books donated or requests from their creators to be put in my library and I can say that in the 7 years I have been at my library I have only added 2 titles out of the 100′s I have read. Why? Because the quality is poor. Sometimes they have potential but without an actual publisher that will edit the book and ensure that it is the best it can be, self published titles often fall short of my collection criteria.

    • Beth says:

      I think there’s a danger in looking at the books the authors are trying to get into libraries as representative of all of self-publishing. Those tend to be authors who wrote a book and are promoting the life out of it, not the ones who just keep writing, putting out a quality product, making it available for readers and libraries to buy, and then starting over again. I know I’m generalizing, but my sense is that the latter group have a much higher percentage of quality work than the former. Also the professional writers among self- or indie-publishing tend to be among the latter.

  9. anonymous says:

    Bradley, J., Fulton, B., & Helm, M. (2012). Self-published books: An empirical snapshot. Library Quarterly, 82(2), 107-140
    Bradley, J., Fulton, B., Helm, M., & Pittner, K. (2011). Non-traditional book publishing. First Monday, 16(8)
    Dilevko, J., & Dali, K. (2006). The self-publishing phenomenon and libraries. Library and Information Science Research, 28(2), 208-234

  10. Margaret Y. says:

    My local library, in a medium-sized college town, shelves books by Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi and also circulates all the 50 Shades novels by E.L. James.

    Thank goodness my library only has quality books, and that they know what’s quality by the name of the publisher on the spine.

    p.s. Your argument is invalid.

    • Andrew says:

      At the very least Snooki’s ghostwriter and her ghostwriter’s editor know the basics of spelling and grammar which is more than I can say for many of the self-published works I’ve seen.

      And the argument isn’t that a New York publisher on the spine label automatically makes it a work of quality. That’s subjective. Knowing that a book has gone through the numerous gatekeepers of traditional publishing and the review process at least lets librarians know there’s a minimum expectation of quality though.

      That minimum expectation isn’t there for most self-published works, and there’s no way to tell if it is a quality work without reading it yourself. I’m sure I speak for a lot of selectors when I say there aren’t enough hours in the day.

    • “I’m sure I speak for a lot of selectors when I say there aren’t enough hours in the day.”

      The problem is neither you nor the annoyed librarian appear to be speaking for readers. They’ve already spoken (library circulation is down nearly 25%).

    • me says:

      You aren’t speaking for reader’s either Will. Circulation isn’t down in my library by 25%, not by a long shot. In fact, it’s up 200% from a decade ago.

    • Andrew says:

      I like to think I do speak for the readers. If someone makes a request then we’ll bend over backwards to get it into our collection so they can read it. The harsh reality is that patrons don’t request self-published works. Those requests come entirely from self-published authors hawking their books because they read a blog post somewhere encouraging them to do a hard sell with as many libraries as they could Google.

    • Mark says:

      Andrew: another point. What writers need is not publishers but editors. A publisher can hire an editor but so can you or I. Wise authors know they need editors even when the process is like having a tooth drilled.

    • Michelle says:

      Will Entrekin, whose circulation is down 25%? Ours has sky-rocketed.

  11. M.P.McDonald says:

    Here we go again…I self-published because there was a disconnect between the many people who had read my book. I had several versions of it before re-writing it completely from scratch, but the reason I had to re-write it was because what started out as flash fiction had morphed into a 50,000 word story–all at the request of readers who had read it in writing forums. They kept asking for about the character, so I’d write another scene or two and post it,only to have more requests. Finally, I pulled it all down and re-wrote it rather than adding random scenes. I sent it to agents with very little interest. I knew there was a market for it, so I self-published it in June 2010. It hit the Kindle top 20 in June 2011. It has a 4.4 rating on Amazon and has sold over 40,000 copies.(not to mention three follow up books and another on the way.) I have readers who pester me, in a good way, to get busy and write the next book.

    So…in your opinion, I should have bowed to the gatekeepers and sat on my manuscript or just tossed it in a drawer? Agents didn’t like it, but actual readers do. Hmmm…I think I’d rather listen to the readers. They are a lot smarter.

    • D says:

      Congratulations, M.P. Despite a lack of encouragement from some influential sources, you continued to believe in yourself and work to create something you and your readers valued. This is an admirable lesson on perseverance trust in your own ability. I’m happy for your well-desreved success.

  12. Mira says:

    I find this stance confusing, as if the author were unaware of the e-book revolution. Print books are a technology that is being replaced, and all libraries, most likely over the next 5 years, will be transitioning to e-books. What will most likely rush the process is the failure of bookstores. Once Barnes and Noble goes under, which is highly likely in the next few years, the U.S. market for books will be almost primarily on-line.

    This is a very good thing for Libraries. Shelf-space for e-books is unlimited, so storage is no longer a problem. E-book lending will simply expire, so returns will no longer be a problem. Librarians can focus on helping readers rather than dealing with shelving and organizing print books. In addition, e-books make books more accessible and convenient. They eliminate many of the barriers to getting books into the hands of readers.

    However, Publishers are not sure they want to support libraries in the world of e-books. I have read quotes where they wonder if they should give books to libraries at all, if they are bastardizing their own sales by doing so. They have made e-books prohibitively expensive for Libaries, so much so that some States are forming legislation to prevent it. But whether that legislation passes or not, Publishers are not the friends of Libraries right now.

    In addition, the author may not be aware of several points. Many self-publishers were formerly published the traditional way. They chose to self-publish their books for the creative control and for the increased royalty rates. In addition, a very large percentage of top-selling books on Amazon are self-published. If libraries ignore self-published works, they will begin to ignore books their reader wants. Assuming that every writer who is skilled will choose the traditional route is under-estimating the scope of this revolution. Writers of ALL skill levels are choosing to self-publish.

    And make no mistake, this is a revolution. Publishers may have put out a well-edited product, but scores of authors were kept out of publishing because they did not have connections, or wrote books that were deemed unsellable based on the subjective opinion of a few people. Publishers could actively discriminate against women, people of color, people of lower classes, and people they just didn’t like. And they did. The percentages show that the majority of books were written by white men from middle or upper class backgrounds, many of whom had connections in the Industry.

    Librarians love books. It’s important to separate that from loving Publishers. The people who write the books are authors, They are the ones who provide the product that libraries make available. The question should not be HOW the author published, but whether they wrote a book that is worth reading. And more and more, authors who can sell, authors in demand, will choose to self-publish. It’s a better path for them – more control, more money, more fun.

    Books that are not worth reading will be easily stored in the digital dustbin. But to ignore self-published authors, that are demanded by readers, at a time when Publishers are working against libraries is not a good idea. A better idea would be to curate. Sift the books and find the gems and make them available to your readership. Authors – all authors – are the friends of Librarians. Returning that friendship would be helpful for everyone involved.

  13. aaaaa!! me! me! I self-published a novel. I dood it!
    and I did it because the model exists and it’s free. no other real reason. I even forget I did it. because no big royalty check from Amazon arrives to remind me.
    read it. I Came in Peece. it’s out there as a free EPUB or for a buck as a Kindle.

  14. I’m surprised by the hostility toward indie publishing I’m seeing here from librarians. Where is this coming from? I’m both a reader and a writer, and was an assistant medical librarian for a number of years, as well volunteering and doing work-study in school libraries, so I have most of the bases covered. The libraries I worked in were concerned with one thing: providing readers the material they wanted and needed. How is this imperative endangered by self-publishing? As Mira states, by outright rejecting self-published titles, libraries may be doing a disservice to the readers they are supposed to serve.

    What I’m seeing instead is some sort of perverse loyalty to traditional publishing masquerading as concern for the quality of books offered to readers. Folks, the only thing traditional publishers care about is dollars. They don’t care about quality literature. They don’t care about readers, and they certainly don’t care about libraries. I’m surprised that there isn’t any talk about the predatory practices the big publishers are inflicting on libraries, such as allowing an e-book to be checked out only a certain number of times.

    Writers turn to self-publishing for a number of reasons, several of which have already been mentioned on the thread above. But to equate works published by traditional publishers with quality and self-publishing with trash is simplistic at best. And hostility toward self-publishers will only serve to turn off some of libraries’ best customers: writers.

    • Sean says:

      “Hostility”? I’m not hearing hostility, but rather an acknowledgement of reality. How, please, would you advise selectors to go about evaluating the vast bulk of self-published books?

      I have self-published, I have read several self-published books and many, many self-published comics, and I have selected for a library. I love self-published stuff, indeed I do, but if I were selecting books for a public library, I can not imagine how I would go about giving any time and attention to them at all. I can’t read them all! I need reviews, and a recognizable assumption of basic competence I get with a “real” publisher.

      All of your points are valid. I pretty much agree with everything. But really, what practical help do you offer the overwhelmed selectors out there?

    • Jodi says:

      Sean wrote:

      ” How, please, would you advise selectors to go about evaluating the vast bulk of self-published books?”

      Don’t librarians look at Top 100 charts at sites like Amazon? Some of those include self-published, probably.

      Jodi

  15. John Williams says:

    ” Publishers are supposed to stand between the public and awful novels and “inspirational” works. The stuff that gets published through traditional means is usually bad enough.”

    Publishers are SUPPOSED to stand between the public and awful novels? Really? Says who exactly? Is it a Federal law? State law perhaps?

    Nonsense, publishers are gatekeepers for profit–their own. Sorry to burst your rose colored bubbles librarian, but publishing is just a business. And my bosses made sure we understood that (I remember hearing about the “special “meetings” with editors who thought otherwise, and how editors who did not fall in line were quietly fired).
    Publishers are NOT gatekeepers and never were. I worked for Simon & Schuster until two years ago. Listen and listen carefully –the big boys and girls care about the bottom line and that’s it. This is why they published Snooki and rejected other books. Snooki, a woman who has admitted to reading only two books in her entire life brings in SALES.
    I find it hilarious that a librarian is defending publishers. Because believe you me, they do NOT defend you. If it was up to my bosses they’d close ALL libraries down. Do you think big publishers want you to be able to borrow their books from the library? Hell no!

    I remember one of the new bigwigs Mr. Hansen here in Canada said: “a book borrowed is a sale lost”. Don’t believe me? Guess what, I’m too old to care. It’s the ugly truth, do with it what you will.

    The real gatekeepers have always been the readers and always will be to the utter horror of Big Publishing.

    Hey kiddies: Next week I can tell you about the delightful boilerplate contracts we would make authors sign! We’re they good? Let’s just say if the Company believed in the soul they would make their authors sign it away in blood.

    • anonymous anonymous says:

      If publishers are “supposed to stand between the public and awful novels”, then 50 Shades of Grey wouldn’t be a hit. Nor would its zillions of knock-offs also published by the ‘gatekeepers’.

      I don’t care if Snooki has a ghostwriter or editor or what. Her book is still utter trash. Trash published by those esteemed gatekeepers who so proudly “stand between the public and awful books.”

      Uh huh. Tell us another one.

    • Library Nerd says:

      hey anonymous anonymous

      read the entire post by Williams.

      He is saying the opposite of what you think he was saying. The first paragraph is a quote from annoyed librarian that he posted so he could repsond to it.

      He is attacking the idea of publishers being gatekeepers of literature. he is not supporting it. geez.

    • Mark says:

      Medicine is just a business too, but we justly execrate those who do it poorly. We expect grocers to sell only non-rotted groceries. Why should publishers get a free pass? We needed someone to help us know what was likely to be good, and publishers were all we had, so we gave the job to them. It’s one of the reasons that we gave them money, whether they understood that or not.

  16. John Williams says:

    yes yes for the grammar nazis I know I said we’re instead of were. Relax, I was not in the editing dept. I work in legal.

  17. PW says:

    I think the self-publishers are missing the major librarian point: the volume of books we see can be overwhelming, so we need some ways to pare down the potential purchases to manageable levels. Instead of becoming defensive about the high quality of your own works, look for solutions to the real problem. Help create the review sources for indie publishing that would help librarians find the good books which have been self-published.

    • PW, the point was sidetracked by the attacks on indie-published books, including the one in the post that started this discussion. Librarians above state that they won’t even look at a novel if CreateSpace is listed by Ingram as its originator. They say they won’t even consider looking at self-published books. The response from indies isn’t exactly uncalled for. Those critics are throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

      Perhaps instead of insulting indie writers, librarians and indies could get together and figure out a way to help each other, although I don’t see why indies need to create their own review sources. Review sources already exist, but they’re utterly skewed towards legacy publishing. Push that wall down, and you’ll start seeing more indie books in libraries.

      Perhaps librarians could start with the Amazon best seller lists. The readers are the ones who vet the independent authors who write those books. Drill down the categories, and you’ll find those midlist gems (many of whom are now indie) that traditional publishers never had the time to market. And there’s the “look inside” feature, which allows you to tell in a heartbeat if the writer has any talent.

      There are many different ways to discover indie writers. Denigrating them as non-writers–

      “If an ebook is published in the wilderness and nobody reads it, does it still count as a book?”

      –isn’t one of them.

    • me says:

      Here is the Amazon bestseller list for 2013: http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/2013/books/ show me the Createspace published works.

  18. As I said on “Passive Voice,”
    “The stuff that gets published through traditional means is usually bad enough.” I rest my self-publishing case.

    I am tired of what “Traditional Publishers” dish out. It is same, same, same. Genre parameters restrict not only authors, but readers as well. Boring.

    Here’s my favorite rebuttal to this librarian’s 20th-century opinion:
    http://bondwine.com/2013/10/04/told-by-an-idiot-no-6/

  19. Terrance Green says:

    Annoyed Librarian have you read the great responses on here so far? By Mira and Meryl and some of the other folks posting?

    Respectfully I’d like to say: you know a librarian should have an open mind and consider the (in this case) excellent logic that others are throwing at you my friend. It would be the difference between being an ‘annoyed librarian’ and an ‘annoying librarian’!

    I’ve published both traditionally and self pub. I outsource the technical stuff and editing. Believe me I did more for my books than any traditional publisher ever did.

    My readers can’t tell the difference (nor have ever mentioned anything) why should you care either way? Librarians are there to serve readers are they not? Aren’t readers the real gatekeepers anyway? In the end we know in our hearts it’s true.

    I remember reading about how Dickens was savaged by the critics for writing ‘penny dreadfuls’ and now, today, he is studied as a master in universities throughout the world. Only time will tell what novel is ‘inspirational’.

    • Mark says:

      Good for you. Today, authors don’t need publishers; they can hire their own editors, proofreaders, designers, illustrators, manufacturing and distribution. The question is, does one have the time, talent, and interest to develop those contacts and marshal those services? Some do; some don’t. Happily, nowadays authors can choose what best suits each.

      The publisher is basically a workflow engine that pushes a book through its pipeline of specialists and contractors. Those who don’t mind the work can do all that themselves. As always, good idea plus good choices should yield good book, with profit to all those who labored.

  20. Kelly Hand says:

    If a writer has invested the time to write a book, solicit feedback, revise it, etc., then it seems unfortunate to let it go unread. As I was writing my novel, Au Pair Report, many friends and family members expressed a desire to read it. I gave a couple of people print-outs or sent them PDF files, and they did not find that an appealing way to read. Because I had already wasted a year of my life querying agents for a previous novel, I decided to publish this one independently. I have not made a lot of money, but I have covered my initial costs, and my sales figures are similar to those for novels published by small presses. The difference is that self-published books have a longer shelf life, especially as a writer publishes additional books. I believe in paying for professional help with editing, book cover design, etc. and consider such expenses an investment. It would be nice to have the prestige of a traditional publisher, but many people have commented that the quality of my book is comparable to traditionally published books. There is nothing wrong with having a small audience, and that small audience can grow into a larger audience. I am a former medievalist who studied Chaucer, etc. In manuscript culture, there was a tiny audience for each book–perhaps just one person or the members of a single household. Chaucer was a civil servant who was clearly not writing for the money. He wrote because he had the creative drive to do so, and this is true of independent authors today. Annoyed Librarian should learn a lot more about the diverse world of self-publishing before passing judgment.

  21. Naomi B. says:

    I have to say that this is a really sad article. I always look for my library and librarians to be open to new ideas and bring new ideas to their patrons. Isn’t that part of a library’s “motto or creed”? Isn’t part of the ALA’s motto that they don’t censor books, yet in categorizing Indie books as garbage and refusing to purchase them for their patrons, isn’t that exactly what thy have done?

    I come to this “conversation” from a very unique position. I am a Goodreads top 1% reviewer and have reviewed over 2500 books with 500 books read this year alone. I am also President of my library’s Friends Group and a very proud volunteer, including Chairperson of its Ethics Commission. My library’s Director asks me to jump and I always ask “How high?” I also work as a literary business consultant and am in the process of launching two literary magazines. I must admit that I found it very sad that when writing a job post recruiting librarian/MLS students for PAID Indie book reviews, I had to include that the person must come with NO bias against Indie books. How sad to have to say that in a job posting for LIBRARIANS.

    On that note, as I stated earlier, I am a Goodreads top reviewer and have already reviewed 500 books this year. Obviously, all of those books are not legacy published books. In those 500 books I have given just as many one star reviews to traditionally published novels, as I have Indie published books. This includes telling one publisher that I could not believe that they actually paid for the manuscript! What do I love about Indie books? I love that they are not cookie cutter. I love that they aren’t all tied up with nice red ribbons or so generalized that I could map they storyline myself. I love that they aren’t so formulaic that 20 books from the same author follow the same pattern. Are there cruddy Indie pubbed books? There sure are, but there are just as many traditionally published books that make me want to gag!

    For the LIBRARIAN who made the comment regarding editing, I can tell you that I have worked with credible Indie authors who put just as much effort into hiring editors and other professional vendors to ensure their books coming to market are as professionally produced as their major publishing house competitors. I can also tell you that I have read books coming from the traditional publishing houses that I wondered if they fired their editing staff.

    I hear debate ringing if libraries are still a valuable asset to a community and if they are still needed. One has to wonder if that debate has legitimate legs if the librarians running them are showing themselves as being closed minded to new options in book reading choices for their patrons. It is a question that I would seriously ask when just last week the Huffington Post released a poll that 28% of Americans haven’t even picked up a book in the last year and the numbers are staggering low for the number of Americans who have read more than 11 books in a year.

    • moi says:

      Since you’ve mentioned it a few times, I’ve got to question you on whether you’ve actually read 500 books in 296 days. That averages out to 1.6 books per day, and with all the other stuff you say you’re doing, I’m wondering exactly how deeply you’re reading each book or how long each of these books are. I’m not saying you’re lying when you mention you’ve read 500 books in 296 days, but I have serious doubts that you didn’t just skim some of them before reviewing.

      For library selection, most libraries don’t have as much time to devote to selection as self-published folks wished we did. In public libraries, resources are definitely going to be selected based on what patrons are requesting, with leftover funds being devoted to filling holes in selected areas as needed. Though it stings for a lot of self-published authors, there simply is not enough time in the work day to browse through Amazon’s self published authors or to sit down and read every book that comes to us to be reviewed. It’s not as much a prejudice of quality as much as being able to rely on trade reviews for things that are likely to move and be enjoyed by patrons is easier to manage when there are many other responsibilities on any selector’s plate. If I have a choice between going with something that I know the people I serve will want because it’s gone through all the traditional publishing hoops and has some proven popularity and something where I have to take a chance on it because there’s few reviews and it takes extra hoops to acquire it for my library, I’m going to go with the one I know more about. (I’m also seeing a lot of comments that indicate that self-published folks frequently have no idea what librarians do all day, which is not unexpected considering the varying nature of the job title.)

    • JR says:

      This is for moi:
      I am a reader not an author and have worked in libraries almost 4 decades. Yesterday, after accomplishing several duties, church, and brunch out with friends some 45 miles away driving back home and settling down for the evening it took less than 3 hours to read a 352 page mystery I had just been given and yes I actually read it – no skimming. Many, many people are able to read fast and comprehend what they have read. It also doesn’t take too much time to browse a best seller list on Amazon and my library does occasionally buy self published books, very few admittedly because we have to keep buying the same old (mostly boring to me) “best seller” authors and our book budget is on the tiny side of small but my director isn’t afraid to try new authors and definitely does not go into hives over seeing a Createspace note. And we all have to face this – No one, let alone authors OR city councilors, ever knows what librarians do all day because we might be mopping the bathroom floor one minute and dealing with cricket invasions the next, let alone finding time for selection, cataloging, processing, shelving and oh checking books in and out.

  22. Naomi B. says:

    One other point that I forgot to make. One has to look at the financials on publishing traditionally versus Indie publishing.

    As an MBA with over a decade experience in the business development/marketing/sales area, I have had the opportunity to study the royalties, as well as marketing options for the traditionally vs. Indie author. Indie authors have more opportunities to keep more of the money that they make off of the sales of their books.

    In an age when legacy publishers are bankrupting and/or merging due to poor financial performance, funds to blindly market all the authors that they bring on are gone. I have worked with just as many traditionally published authors desperate to market their books because the legacy publishers that they are giving their royalties to aren’t doing it for them or the amount that would need to be done. When the book doesn’t become a money maker for the publishing house, the author is tossed aside like yesterday’s garbage with the legacy publisher looking for their next big name. I have seen this happen to many an author with the publishing house keeping their book or the author having to purchase back the book they gave their blood, sweat and tears to. Another option that these publishing houses that Annoyed Librarian oogles over is to use Indie authors as their “minor” leagues as sort of a safety net. According to AL and other librarians criticizing the Indie movement, would these authors, such as Darcy Chan or Barbara Taylor Sissel, stink as Indie authors yet rock the second they become traditionally published?

  23. carolyn manning says:

    I am a library director and have not jumped into purchasing self-published books for our shelves. My fear is that I will spend limited collection development funds on items that my patrons won’t read. Here is an example of why I hesitate to purchase self published books- my neighbor, who is a retired school librarian, has been reading a self published book by a former English teacher. It is a tome (over 500 pages, I think) and is riddled with spelling, punctuation and maybe grammar errors. Her friend had many people read it for her. No one picked up on these errors? I realize even best-selling authors end up with some spelling/punctuation errors in their books, but very few compared to the one my friend read.
    Eventually I would like to give some of these self publishers a chance because I am sure there are some really good writers out there.

  24. Kronan the Grammarian says:

    This has been a fascinating discussion to read. I have 20 years of experience as an editor, primarily as a freelancer. I’ve been the editor for five published books, which were either self-published, published through a small indie press, or published by a library, & extensive experience in editing anything from STEM-field journal papers, theses, & dissertations to coupon books, PR materials for an ad agency, & a 20-page monthly newsletter for a mothers’ group. I also have an MLS & two years of experience as an academic reference/instruction/writing librarian. And not surprisingly, I’ve been an avid & voracious reader my entire life. W/all of this, I can safely say that traditional publishers are shaving costs by getting rid of their editing staff; I find more errors, both grammatical & continuity, in newer books than I do in older books. I can also say that fewer & fewer people know how to write well; the college students I helped generally came from what are considered to be good high schools & the college itself is a very selective four-year liberal arts institution, yet most students’ papers suffered badly from a lack of organization & clarity of thought, & almost complete lack of knowledge of grammar, punctuation, etc. In my opinion, this is due to the de-emphasis of these skills over the last 40 years. Even though every job description lists as a basic requirement “excellent English skills,” our educational system is not providing people w/those “excellent English skills,” & authors, whether published by a traditional house or not, reflect that. When doing collection development, I would say that while traditionally published books *might* be better written/edited, it’s certainly no guarantee that those books are of better quality. Several posters have mentioned Snooki’s book & the 50 Shades of Grey series as examples of traditionally published works that are of poor quality & I heartily agree. Refusing to look at non-traditionally published books is to ignore some gems. Overall, it’s not possible to read & evaluate everything, traditionally published or not, so in doing collection development it’s always going to be a crapshoot. (BTW, if it’s not too self-serving to say this, as one of the legions of unemployed librarians, I’m looking for editing work again.)

  25. M.P.McDonald says:

    I think this whole thing about traditional publishers vetting books is such a joke. They look for what they think will sell. I recently turned down an offer by a new imprint. The publisher used to be a VP at Simon and Schuster, and has a history at other Big 6 publishers as well. I was offered the contract even though they hadn’t read my books. Not only that, they wouldn’t have even had to re-edit them since the person who put us in touch was my freelance editor who does their work too. The publisher even complimented my covers and asked who did them. (FTR, another indie author did one of them, and helped with two others–all free. Cost was the price of a few stock photos). I think he was planning on using the same covers. All they were going to do was slap their name on the spot where it says ‘Publisher’. They said they would get them into brick and mortar stores, but their advance and ebook royalty wasn’t even close to being acceptable. I turned them down about five minutes after I saw the contract. The funny thing is, if I had gone that route and my book showed up in your catalog with that publisher’s name there instead of Createspace, you would have considered it even though the exact same book would be ignored with me listed as the publisher. Exactly what value would the publisher have given me?

  26. Sarah Stegall says:

    “Knowing that a book has gone through the numerous gatekeepers of traditional publishing and the review process at least lets librarians know there’s a minimum expectation of quality though.”

    What a hopelessly naive point of view. You’re talking about a fantasy world, the image of the pipe-smoking, tweed-wearing Maxwell Perkins of publishing, a world that probably never really existed. Professionals who have been in and around the modern publishing industry — and it is an INDUSTRY, not a literary club — will tell you that many editors never get a chance to read the books they publish. They read the “coverage”, or the summary from the agent, and guess at its ability to sell. Note well my phrasing: ability to sell. Editors do not pick books to publish in big publishing houses on the basis of their innate quality.

    Let me state that again, just to drive the point home: Editors DO NOT pick books to publish based on their quality.

    Editors do not even see most manuscripts. Traditional publishing long ago outsourced the slush pile to literary agents, a breed that requires no training, no experience, and no certification, whose intent is to sell a manuscript no matter what its literary merit. Editors accept a submission based on many criteria, all of them COMMERCIAL: will it sell? Is the author a Big Name? How did his/her last book sell? Does it fit our current line? These are questions that can be decided without even opening the manuscript, and often are. After accepting a book, an editor then attends endless meetings trying to persuade executives, marketers, salesmen and other non-literary types to back the book. Actually, editors do not have readers in mind when they look over a manuscript, because editors do not sell to readers; they sell to internal sales execs, who then sell to distributors. New York publishers have no more idea than the man on the street what will sell; otherwise everything they published would be a best seller.

    And let’s talk about quality, shall we? Back in the 1990s, a huge purge in New York ended up in the layoff of thousands of editors, copy editors, copy writers and other literary workers. Those people have not been replaced. There are literally thousands of excellent and well qualified copy editors who used to work for New York publishers, who are out of work or freelancing. Meanwhile, no one is doing their old jobs. I have paid upwards of $25 for a hardcover book from a Big Publishing House that was full of typos, misspellings, grammar and punctuation errors, or even duplicated pages. Various posters here have stated that they do not have time to read all the books submitted to libraries, but then turn around and state that they go for the traditionally published books because they think they will get higher quality. They won’t. Thanks to the penny-pinching ways of New York, you are just as likely to get poor quality proofreading, bad editing, a useless cover, and other errors.

    On the contrary: when you buy a self-published book, you have a better chance of a good quality piece of work. A New York publisher handles hundreds of books a year, and now do not have the staff to handle editing, proofreading, or the other “quality assurance” functions THAT ARE NO LONGER PERFORMED on most books. But an indie publisher can lavish all the care, time and attention a book needs on their work. An indie publisher takes pride in his/her work, can hire one of those top notch out-of-work editors or illustrators or whatever, and produce (thanks to Createspace, LSI and others) a book of the same quality as New York (you guys do know that Big Publishing often uses Createspace, right? Right?).

    In short, you guys need to do your research before you start spouting off about “quality”. There is no literary club in New York where grave and wise editors peruse each manuscript. It’s a factory that produces 99% forgettable books and 1% blockbusters; it has no use for “quality” or literary merit. If you don’t believe it, spend a little time in your own periodicals section, reading “Publishers Weekly”.

    • Me! says:

      Naivete of a literary champion, I see you standing there fighting against the injustice of it all.

      If you think for one second those indie publishers don’t have a bottom line you are seriously deluded. In every business there is niche and the big publishers fill their role as do the indie publishers.

      Most librarian have to buy from the big publishers so that the masses can have their bestsellers and from the indie publishers so that those few pretentious patrons (who pretend that they are the original hipster so they can only read novels of those who deem it necessary to abuse a thesaurus).

      Indie publishers may produce a better edited piece of work but quite frankly I wouldn’t say the content is much better.

    • carolyn manning says:

      Goodness, Sarah, calm down! Unless we work in the publishing business, we don’t really know what the bottom line is. However, we do have this forum for us to give our thoughts and opinions. As librarians, we are unsure about self published books. It is a relatively new platform for would be authors. I am all for people giving this avenue a try. I want, though, for the book to be 99% free of spelling and punctuation errors before I add it to the shelf.

    • Sarah Stegall says:

      “I want, though, for the book to be 99% free of spelling and punctuation errors before I add it to the shelf.”

      You’ll have a long wait, then. I just finished a Nora Roberts novel that was rife with misspelled words, grammar glitches, and missing punctuation. Guess you won’t be adding her to the shelf, eh?

  27. Robert Stava says:

    AL: Obviously a thought provoking post based on the responses. BTW, someone left out Frank Baum who had to self-publish the Wizard of Oz since no-one would touch it.

    Personally, I’m pursuing the Self-Pub route out of necessity – in pitching my 2nd & 3rd novels I ran into an unexpected obstacle; while the publishers were sold on the material they’ve been telling me there’s no market for a Horror series and to stick to stand-alone novels. As a career Creative/Art Director I’m more than capable of designing my own books and promotional materials, I found a local editor I like a lot, so to heck with it – I’ll do it myself. Plus if there’s one thing I’ve learned over my 25 yr. creative career it’s that if you want to be truly successful never do what everyone else is and if someone tries to push you into doing something that ‘sells’, ignore them.

    As one commenter pointed out, most of everything that’s out there is crap, whether published by a major imprint or Createspace, which was also a motivating factor in my deciding to take control of my own writing career. Interestingly enough, I’ve exchanged a few emails about this with author Anne Rice and she advised to self-pub route and actually said that if she were starting out now that’s what she would do, based on the current state of the industry and most publishers inability to come to terms with it.

    Food for thought.

  28. Robert Stava says:

    Ah, one more thing. The assumption that a self pub work is bound to be inferior to a major imprint book (i.e. typos, layout mistakes etc.) no longer holds true, as I can attest from personal experience. I had a non-fiction hardcover title (‘Combat Recon’) published by Schiffer – one of the top military presses in the world – and the editor they assigned me literally did nothing. The book was printed with all my typos and misspellings and format errors and from what I later found out, this is quite common these days. On top of that most authors on major imprints are still required to do pretty much all their own self-promotion unless you happen to be in the top 5% best seller niche. I know at least one author on a major imprint (and he sold a respectable 30k copies of his first novel) who said the PR support he was given was pretty much criminally negligent – I think he said there was one intern at the publisher handling around 100 authors.

    So it kind of begs the question; how much value major publishers used to bring to the industry still holds true today?

  29. rodrigo says:

    I am certain good titles were published by vanity press, they were just very few and far between. Maybe still a few today. The same holds sway for self pub. That is a fact authors have to deal with. As a chemist looking for tenure would you ignore Elsevier publications on moral grounds? Perhaps, but to your own detriment. Too much of the self pub world smacks of infomercialism, and unfortunately that does cast a pale on those without a reputation to lean on.

  30. dan cawley says:

    as a public library book selector, the only thing that wrankles me about self-publishing is authors, pretending to be card-carrying patrons, who submit purchase requests. just be honest, please.

  31. Erasmus says:

    Most people have nothing of interest to say and can’t write for sh*t. Period. That’s the reality, regardless of whether it it flatters your fanboi/skinny-jeans persona or not.

  32. KidLib says:

    Given the huge number of books coming out of traditional (and at least presumably vetted) houses that already can’t afford to buy, I’m not going to waste my time going through books that would be sitting in a publisher’s or agent’s slush pile. That’s their job.

    It’s not to say that there can’t be very good self-published books. Some authors may not have patience, or may buy into the idea that they’ll “lose control” or someone will re-write everything, or that New York is filled with EVIL EXECUTIVES BLOCKING THE WAY… but they might still be good authors. There are also good authors waiting around in the slush piles that we haven’t seen published yet. There may be some fine things in any slush pile, but the amount of dreck you have to sludge through to get to it makes it a ridiculous thing to do, unless your job happens to be “editorial assistant” or, even better, “unpaid intern.” Librarians are a few steps down the line from there… we rely on first, the publishers, then the jobbers, then reviewers. Once you have all three of those, the field is narrowed enough to give them a little bit of attention.

  33. carolyn manning says:

    Very good comment, KidLib! As librarians, we don’t have the time to read everything we want on the shelves. We need the publishers, jobbers, reviewers, to help us make choices.

    • Rabiit says:

      I think this will shake out in time. Vanity publishing has always been around. Now, people are able to do it without acquiring boxes of unsold books in their garages. Some of these books, such as memoirs for grandchildren, local histories, and how-to tomes from dynamic speakers serve a valid purpose and will continue. Others may, eventually, come to be seen as the waste of time and money they are. I don’t blame the authors. They don’t know. I do blame the freelance editors and other “professionals” taking advantage of them. They do know better, but do it anyway. If you believe in your novel and it is good, keep looking for a traditional publisher who believes in it to. If you don’t believe in it enough to persist, why should the rest of us believe in it enough to spend several precious days of our lives reading it?

  34. Howard says:

    The web site is a publication for the library community.

    The author is a self proclaimed Librarian who publishes anonymously for some reason.

    The article attacks anything that threatens librarians’ interests, librarian’s jobs, librarians income.

    I think this explains a lot, people !!

    • me says:

      How would the proliferation of self-publishing hurt librarian’s jobs? If they actually became the dominantly read form of publication then libraries wouldn’t be dealing with the current eBook crisis.

  35. D says:

    Many of he librarians reading and contributing to this exchange have good reason to feel chastened and a little ashamed. The self-published authors express passion, intelligence, a love for literature, and a belief in books and writing that we should only admire. We should want to help them find more readers. I wish this were the collective voice of librarians. Instead, we seem to be saying “finding great self-published books is hard, so we won’t try, or we won’t try very hard.” It may be difficult for us as librarians to identify and acquire self-published works and books published only as ebooks, but if we care about our readers and if we care about great books, we’re smart enough to find a way to do it.

    • me says:

      When I have an endless budget and circulation statistics don’t matter anymore I’ll shift my collection strategy from “Buy what the people want” to “Help self-published authors find more readers”.

  36. Rabiit says:

    Thank you for your honesty. You are right. Whether people like it or not, the great majority of self-published books are like websites. It’s easy to publish a blog, which people probably won’t visit. It will have many advantages over a self-published novel or children’s book, though. It’s free and quick. Librarians are not assistant editors, hired to wade through slush piles. They serve the needs of readers. They are not there to stroke the egos of people who do not want to face rejection. Nobody likes rejection, but most writers know that the worst fate is the publication of a book that is not their best work.

  37. Liana Mir says:

    If you want the gems of indie published books, just buy what’s on the bestseller list. They ARE there. No need to review beyond the number of reviews and final star rating. You’re done.

  38. carolyn manning says:

    I don’t feel chastened or ashamed. Just because we are librarians doesn’t mean we need to be the champion of all writers out there. I would consider adding more self published books if I had the money to hire an assistant to read them for me and make recommendations. Self published authors make the decision to self publish therefore I am not obligated to feel sorry for them if their books aren’t selling.

    • Liana Mir says:

      I think the point you’re missing is that many of these books ARE selling and in huge quantities. The indies here not asking you to feel sorry for them. They are asking you to respect the fact that authors do not need a separate publisher anymore to succeed and that the blanket statements made in the article are not true as blanket statements.

  39. carolyn manning says:

    Good one!

  40. David says:

    As a writer (not familiar with this blog, having been led here by an outside link), I think I can come up with one answer to the “why self-publish?” question that hasn’t been delved into much, here, and that is “it’s the only safe route some mid-list authors have, any more.” At least, unless we want to be screwed over by the agents and publishers.

    The publishing world is in tremendous flux, right now. The big five\six may be acting as “gatekeepers,” but they are also foisting poor, sometimes even bad-faith contracts on any but the top-level (blockbuster) authors. They have partnered themselves with organizations (such as Authors Solutions, Inc., who operate both for Random\Penguin and Simon and Schuster) who are alleged to defraud authors (see the ongoing class action lawsuit against ASI). In some cases, they are doing things like telling authors “you have to pay for your own marketing,” which is the main reason authors go through the big publishers to begin with.

    Yes, there are small and independent publishers. However, they are often fly-by-night outfits which defraud authors instead of actually publishing them. If you do a lot of research on them, you can find some good ones, but as an author you have to be careful submitting to them… and even then they can go out out of business at the drop of a hat.

    In todays world, as a self-publisher, you can get good services by hiring a quality freelance editor and cover artist, and through self-promotion you can sell them about as well as a small press can (with better royalties). And if you’re successful enough, a Big Five\Six publisher will occasionally look through top-selling self-pubbed books as they would a slush pile, and then would make you a contract offer where the author actually has some negotiating power (you give me a contract which isn’t abusive or I’ll just keep self-publishing being the normal position).

    There are definite advantages to all three of the modern branches of publishing (trade, small and independent press, or self), and definite disadvantages as well. I’m making the case for self-publishing, here, and not delving into the problems of self-publishing or the advantages of the other options. I’m just answering the “why self-publish” question.

  41. Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore says:

    Having worked in public libraries in technical services, I can honestly say most librarians don’t read books.

    They consider themselves the gate keeper of public opinion and until recently the gate keeper of information.

    What they fail to understand is that both of those aspects of their job are becoming extinct. The public no longer needs gate keepers of quality reading material or information.

  42. acey says:

    I suspect the reason some CreateSpace and Smashwords titles are coming up in the catalog is because some small presses (I’m talking about real, legitimate small presses, not selfies pretending to be small presses by calling themselves “indies”) use this service to print their books. One biggish small press that I know of off-hand is Permuted Press, a niche publisher of horror novels (though they co-publish with Simon & Schuster on occasion). So, yes, CreateSpace/Smashwords is usually a big red flag that a book is self-published — but not always.