The good and bad of self-publishing services
In our world of digital technology self-publishing services like Lulu and CreateSpace have become increasingly popular to the aspiring writer, but at what cost to the world of published writing?
At one time, becoming a published author was a very big deal. Not just anyone could get a book published and out on the shelves for public purchase. These days, with digital technology accessible to so much of the population, becoming a published author is easier than it has ever been. With self-publishing sites like Lulu and CreateSpace among others, pretty much anyone with an internet connection can publish a book.
Self-publishing sites allow a writer to get around all of the things that used to hold them back. Write your manuscript, format it properly, upload it, fill out a form and voila, you’re a published author. Gone are the days when you might spend years or even decades trying to get your book accepted by a publisher.
I know from personal experience how hard it is to get a book published. I spent years buying copies of publisher listings, writing cover letters and submitting my manuscripts. I can’t remember who said that you’re not a success until you can wallpaper a room with rejection letters. If that’s true, I was a success many years ago. Unfortunately, it didn’t feel that way. For quite some time I felt that I would never be able to get any of my work published, and my writing may as well just be a hobby.
I found through time and experience that getting a book published wasn’t a matter of persistence either. Most publishers don’t even look at unsolicited manuscripts. If you can’t afford an agent and a slew of other expenses, your chances of ever getting your work out through a traditional publisher are slim to none.
A few years ago I ran across something that gave my writing career new hope. That thing was Lulu. A friend of mine who was a writer said that he was using Lulu to publish his first book. He was a fantastic writer, and I decided to check the site out for myself. I was in heaven! Finally, something had come along that would enable a writer to publish a book on their own and make it available to the public.
I have been using Lulu ever since, and currently have 24 books, both of writing and art, available in my personal shop. Having a way to get my books out to the public has given me a renewed vigor for writing, I am even trying to get those old manuscripts reworked for a modern audience. At this point, Lulu isn’t even the only game in town anymore. I have most of my books available for the Kindle unit, and there are a handful of other sites out there providing free publishing services.
Now, for someone like me these sites are a wonderful thing. I have always received good reviews on my writing, and I feel that with a little promotion my books will sell even better. Many authors also feel that this is a wonderful opportunity. However, there are many people that think Lulu and other self-publishing sites are a bane to the world of published writing.
Why would anyone think such a thing? Well, considering the ease of using these sites and the fact that it’s free unless you want an ISBN, anyone can publish a book. It doesn’t matter if your book is the best thing ever written or the worst, you can put it out there for sale. You could write pathetic drivel, give it a catchy title and synopsis, and sucker people into buying it. People might also fill the market with junk writing simply because they don’t realize that their work is junk. Because of this, many traditionally published authors have a rather dark opinion of the growing wave of self-published authors.
I can see both sides of the coin. I personally know of people who consider themselves to be authors, publish their work using self-publishing services, and end up with some rather scathing reviews from readers who are unhappy with having paid for such poor work. On the other hand, I know people whose careers started by using these sites, and have moved on to traditional publishing and great success.
I will continue to use Lulu and other self-publishing services to get my work out to the public. I hope that in time it will lead to a deal with a traditional publishing house. For those who have good work, these sites can save you a great deal of money and disappointment. Unfortunately there is no way to keep poor writing from hitting the market. Even some traditionally published authors have gotten out lousy work because they could afford to. Overall, I would say that self-publishing sites are a wonderful thing, allowing people whose work would otherwise never see the light of day be made available.