Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Perils of Self-Publishing

It is great that nowadays anyone can publish a book through self-publishing/”vanity” presses. Writers with little or no chance of book contracts with regular publishers can now write about their experiences, express their feelings, exercise their creativity, and see their names and words in print. Self-published books are especially good for those who mainly want to share their writing with family and friends. And some of them are quite respectably well written and produced. (Full disclosure: Some years ago, two colleagues/friends and I edited the self-published memoir of our late academic mentor and friend.) But there are often serious problems with self-publishing as well. Books definitely suffer without the editorial and marketing support provided by a traditional publisher. A huge negative is the lack of editing. I was reminded of this recently while reading a self-published memoir (which shall remain nameless) that was so badly written as to be almost incoherent in places. The author was obviously passionate about his topic -- a certain aspect of his life story -- and that angry, betrayed feeling came through loud and clear. But the writing was terrible in so many ways. It was disorganized, illogical, and ungrammatical. Words were misspelled and misused. It sounded as if the writer had sat down and spewed out a long rant, and then never revised or edited it in any way. I wish for his own sake that the author had hired an editor, or at least asked a literate friend to help him edit the book. Reading this book was a painful process; I only persevered because the book was useful for my research.

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