Experts in the self-publishing business have been particularly vocal about the futility of conducting a survey on this topic. Here are some of their criticisms:
- Instead of surveying authors about their experiences with subsidy publishers, I should survey booksellers, reviewers and librarians about how they view subsidy presses. Such a survey would reveal the subsidy-published stigma that keeps these books from being reviewed, sold in bookstores, or purchased by libraries.
- I don't need to survey authors because experts already know what I will find out—the books are poorly done, the authors lose money and the only beneficiary is the subsidy-publisher. The many instances of poorly-written, unedited, badly designed subsidy-published books is evidence of their unprofessional quality, which shows that authors should not use this publishing choice. Although authors may like the convenience of using a subsidy publisher, the costs are so high that it is a poor business choice.
- The survey is unscientific because the respondents aren't a random sample of the population of subsidy-published authors. The results are likely to be skewed and will not be statistically significant.
- The author's satisfaction doesn't matter. The criteria for judging an author's success is number of books sold, and/or profit made on the book. Furthermore, any authors whose books sell well enough to meet the criteria for success are not typical and their success doesn't invalidate the argument against subsidy publishing.
- Authors who fill out the survey may not know their own minds. Many of these authors are so naïve and want so desperately to be published that they don't realize they've been taken, but actually think they are satisfied.
- Even though some authors may be satisfied with their experience with a subsidy publisher, it's not good to share this because it may encourage new authors to choose a publishing method that is a bad choice for most.
I haven't analyzed the survey data yet, because the survey is still open. I'd like to give as many subsidy-published authors as possible a chance to give their opinions by filling it out.
But I do have some responses to the experts' points:
- I think they may not be clear about what I'm trying to find out. We already know a lot about how the industry views subsidy presses.
- I want the authors to speak for themselves so we can see what their experiences have been and whether or not they think they made a good choice.
- I am well aware that the survey respondents are not a random sample of the population of subsidy-published authors, but I can't do a random sample without a comprehensive list of subsidy-published authors. I'm not aware of such a list and I don't want to go through subsidy publishers to get lists, as that would probably introduce more bias. Also, there are privacy considerations with anyone giving out lists.
- This survey uses a convenience sample, which will give us a picture of one self-selected group of authors' perspectives and experiences, in the same way that a focus group would. In an attempt to get diverse participation I have posted an invitation to complete this survey on 15 online author discussion groups, forums and/or websites.
- As far as the likelihood of results being skewed, it would seem that if in fact authors' experiences are as universally negative as the experts believe, and if authors who have had negative experiences are as vocal as the experts say they are, any skewing would be in the negative direction.
- I don't see how anyone can argue on the one hand that if you are a subsidy-published author who has seen the light and realized how bad things are for you and your book, then your comments mean something; but on the other hand if you are a satisfied subsidy-published author, you are naïve and deluded and your responses can't be taken seriously.
Note: Confusion about the terms self-published, subsidy-published and POD continues to be a major problem in discussing this issue. I've had to include the term POD in some of my posts announcing the survey because subsidy publishers are so commonly called POD publishers. To be clear, POD (print-on-demand) is not a type of publishing. It is a printing method, using digital technology. Any publisher can use it and many do. A self-published author has started a business, purchased ISBN numbers, and published his/her own books. A subsidy-published author has paid the costs for someone else to publish his/her books.