Tag Archives: Thomas McKenzie

The Self Published Find their Promised Land…on The Internet

16 Mar

While browsing the archives of the Oberlin Alumni Magazine I came across an interesting article in their winter 2009 issue’s “Oberlin Writes” section.  In this article, OC class of 85 Alum Clifford Thompson discusses his self-publishing experience: “Instead of waiting for the publishing world’s elusive “Yes,” I could say “Yes” to myself; i.e., I could self-publish.”

Self-publishing, in which the writer pays to have his or her work printed, hasn’t quite ingrained itself into the mainstream writing community, probably because it doesn’t carry the sense of legitimacy that being published by an established house does.  That is to say, someone other than the author has found the work to be of quality.  In the case of the self-published author, the only meter of standards is the author himself.  If a self-published work is terrible, then it is to be expected.  And if, God-forbid, the work is a success (i.e. Eragon), a hole might very well appear in the special atmosphere breathed by the literati, exposing them all to untimely and painful deaths.  As Thomas McKenzie states on his blog, slushpile.net, “Some self-published authors…act like idiots and then wonder why they face such disdain.”  He goes on to argue, “When you self-publish, or go with one of the more questionable print-on-demand services, you are essentially going around [the established] system. You’re taking your ball, going home, and making up your own game in the backyard. Your game might be fun, it might be valid exercise, it might be the perfect thing for your situation, but it’s not the same way all the other kids play. And to pretend otherwise is to invite scorn and derision.”

Oberlin’s Thompson smartly addresses the stigma around self-publishing in his article.  “I find it helpful to remember that the content and value of the book do not change with each person’s reaction to hearing about it. And it is the book itself that matters.”  His concept seems to mesh perfectly with the ways in which modern modes of writing, sharing, and publishing are changing due to the Internet.  The canon of self-published authors is expanding daily as millions of loyal folks of drum happily away at their keyboards—posting to sites like wordpress, blogger, and others—because they are EAGER to share their writing with others.  Point being ultimately that publishing is in some ways entirely beside the point.  Most authors don’t introduce themselves as “published” or “self-published”; “I’m a writer” is most often sufficient and accurate.

Thompson sums it up better than anyone: “Gradually, the question becomes not ‘Why did he publish it himself?’ but ‘Is it good?’”