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Gatekeepers and Self-Publishing — 5 Comments

  1. James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, like dozens of other once self published classics, were struggling unknowns until librarians introduced them to the public.

    Even today, many independent titles are not available in public libraries, let alone in commercial bookstores; Publishers Weekly and the media won’t give them a mention unless paid to do so.

    As a result, readers don’t even get to see half of the available books and most new authors are not able to reach libraries’ patrons. They aren’t given to freely choose for themselves, simply because the majority of today’s literature is self published, and unavailable in libraries for no other reason.

    Not all self published books are worthy of that name. But many good books among them are in hiding.

    Our literature deserves a better treatment.

    Until libraries start purchasing self-published books, the literary market will remain an uneven playing field, and readers will be deprived of choice.

    Good self-published authors deserve to be let in so that readers can find them. At http://www.indiePENdents.org, we try to open the gates by reviewing self [ublished books against a set of standards and awarding the worthy ones a Seal of Good Writing.

    The indiePENdents ia a free, non commercial, non profit 401(c)3 entity dedicated to one purpose only: achieve te place in the sun for deserving self published authors.

    • Though I think the “we’re locked out” argument is fundamentally groundless, I like what you’re trying to do. Indie publishing has long needed a standards body. If anything, it sounds like you’re doing what the article suggests: assuming a gatekeeping role in order to establish credibility with book distributors (libraries, in this case) that don’t have the resources to filter quality offerings from the hill of self-published offerings. The difference is that libraries, like big publishers, aren’t consciously locking anyone out; they simply don’t have the resources to consider a million book prospects each year. As a designer, I’d love to see you advocate for higher standards of typesetting and cover design along with quality writing, but anything that helps to certify “better books” can only help. Let me know how I can contribute.

      Of course, the second-level problem is who certifies the certifiers? Do you have experts from the publishing industry or MFA writing instructors reviewing books? Without business or academic credentials (even though these are often poor indicators of true skill level), your certifications may not be taken seriously.

      • Imaginative, pleasing typesetting has been the love of my long life. Unfortunately, today’s selections of typesetting available to self-published authors just a tad richer than colors available to the purchasers of the original Ford automobile. We have become a cookie cutter society in many aspects of our life, and affordable typesetting is just one of the victims. Remembering the literary heydays of yore, I published a limited, numbered edition of my Requiem for a Country, but even then didn’t get a satisfactory choice of type design, just a prohibitively expensive 50 copies of acceptable, not great printing artistic merit.

        • Jasha, I respectfully disagree. It’s trade publishing that’s limited by budget considerations related to huge print runs. Self-publishers are as unlimited as the designer’s knowledge of typography. All of my self-published books are designed to embarrass big publishing houses. It’s just not that difficult to do if you care about quality and know what you’re doing. The standards are low and easy to surpass.

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