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Letters to the Boston Phoenix  editors, July 20, 2012



As a literary novelist who is self-publishing a book this year, I couldn't agree more with Eugenia Williamson's defense of the publishing industry (see "The Dead End of DIY Publishing," Arts and Entertainment, July 6). It's certainly better for authors to get paid than to shell out, and the traditional model is preferable in almost every way. But Williamson overlooks one compelling reason to self-publish. Yes, ideally the industry functions, at least in part, as a farm system that allows "the nurturing of young writers . . . as well as critically worthy mid-list authors." But the number of farm slots is so small, and the pressures on agents and publishers so great, that it's very hard even for an excellent writer to break through without cronyism and connections. It does happen, but — despite years of work and plenty of praise — it hasn't happened for me. Therefore, if I want to see my work in physical form before I'm 50, I have to do it myself. As for "fame, adulation, awards, and buckets of cash," I'm under no illusion that they will come with self-publishing.


A lot of indie publishers won't make a lot of money? Yeah, neither will a lot of traditionally published ones. The big deal with the explosion of indie publishing now is that it has opened the floodgates and removed control from the gatekeepers. Sure, a lot of trash will come through, but so will a lot of quality stuff that has been ignored.

Further, who says that traditionally published books are that much better? Quality might be implied, but have you picked up a book from a traditional publisher recently? Lots of garbage on that side as well. Given that Harry Potter was rejected 12 times, that Twilight got told no 14 times, and that The Help saw more than 60 rejections, it seems that breaking in is less about quality than it is about whether you struck the right cord with the right person in power on the right day. In other words: luck.


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