This unfortunate reaction to change was described in depth nearly 40 years ago by futurist Alvin Toffler, who put forth the idea that people find the accelerating pace of change overwhelming. His book, Future Shock, published in 1970 described a feeling of dread connected to rapid technological change, and a difficulty in adapting to it.
Today, even though self-published books, books published by family-owned publishers, and books printed using print-on-demand (POD) technology make up a large share of the new books published each year, this change is not welcomed in much of the publishing industry. We are the wave of the future, and we are making inroads. But attitudes don’t change as quickly as technology.
For example, a respected nonprofit website named Preditors and Editors, which bills itself as “a guide to publishers and publishing services for serious writers,” offers some general rules for spotting a scam publisher. They have a long list, which includes the following:
- The publisher gives no or very low advances.
- The publisher's books are rarely in any bookstores, particularly the large chain stores that carry books from just about all reputable commercial publishers.
- The publisher's books have never been seen on a bestseller list published by a reputable source such as the New York Times.
- The publisher's books rarely sell more than 5,000 books to readers in individual purchases.
Unfortunately, such outdated criteria put most self-publishers and many indie publishers in the scam category. The criteria show an inability to adapt to the new publishing world. They are based in fear and they scare authors away from today’s new publishing opportunities.
I'd like to be able to shake writers loose from the belief that if they can't get their book published by a major publisher, they might as well keep it in a drawer. I’ve seen some very good manuscripts that have been sent out to agents and publishers for years but never picked up. I think that's too bad. I encourage these writers to self-publish, but they fear they wouldn't be seen as "real" authors if they did.
I know how scary it can be to step out onto the cutting edge. Self-published authors are disparaged, stigmatized, and ridiculed by the old guard. My hope and mission here is to change this marginalizing of authors who don’t follow the traditional path to publishing.
A good book is a good book regardless of how it’s published. Authors who rise above their fears can get the books out there to readers. Isn’t that why we write books?