I just spent the weekend at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold conference. Very interesting for an independent publisher like myself. One of the editors who attended, a man I hold in the highest respect had a couple of very interesting comments about self publishing.
We had a room of about 50 writers listening when our speaker asked, "Who here is self publishing ebooks?" I was one of two or three to raise my hand. He went on to say that it was a possibly self-destructive move and urged caution lest the wannabe author ruin/lessen their chances of being traditionally published.
When he received a manuscript that had promise, he would look up the author on Amazon. If there was a book there (self published or otherwise) that was not selling, that would be a big mark against picking up that author. In effect, by publishing a non-selling book the author had already harmed their writer's platform.
He further went on to say that the whole self-publishing phenomenon didn't concern him as a potential challenger to trad. publishing. His reasoning?
"Readers will quickly discover what publishers do for them and why the slush pile exists."
Basically, he felt that enough poorly written and edited content was being released, that the majority of readers would quickly decide to stay away from self pub. work. It was a self limiting-trend. He was not religious about it or vindictive, just matter of fact. His company has picked up some self published writers and would do so again, but that was a tiny fraction of their writer's stable.
I believe he was spot on. I've encountered a lot of poorly written and edited material on Amazon. It annoys me when it happens. Here is someone who is demonstrating a lack of concern or respect for my time as a reader--and I have every reason to give these authors the benefit of the doubt. What is your average 5 books a year reader going to think?
This is where bodies like the Alliance for Independent Authors, other writers groups, or reviewing bodies can save the day. How? With a seal of approval. That seal cannot be just handed out to anyone who can cough up the money to join. Endorsement needs to be earned. There must be standards of editing and writing in place. Without this, independent authors are at the mercy of the lowest common denominator. As usual, a few bad apples can ruin the whole barrel.
The trick is to be in another barrel.