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The Word on Self-Publishing / Print on Demand

I thought it wasn't long ago that John K. complained that there was not enough material on BMN that stimulated discussion. With a cursory search, though, I have not found anything relevant. Nevertheless, I will upload an item below, - and if, in reply, I get only offers to buy insurance, blogs telling me how much emotional support someone derives from his/her religion, and photos of his/her children and grandchildren - I might withdraw from BMN.



In the New York Times issue of July 29, 2011 there appeared an article by Alina Tugend with the title, “Options for Self-Publishing Proliferate, Easing the Bar to Entry.”  You might want to read it in reference to my comment on BMN.

In support of this article, I will submit the following. In order to get published by a commercial publisher, an author must:

1- Have some sort of connection to the publishing world through an elite university or have an elite social status that gives clout.  (A university education costs real money.)

2- Get initial approval for a book by someone in that system.  (And this can be bought.)

3- Might have to hire a typist, too, because not every author has the patience and skill to type, edit and re-edit a long work.

4- Get a reader, and more than one.  (Maybe you’d get a friend to do it, but most likely you’ll pay someone to do it.  This is becoming a profession.)

5- Get a mentor, an academic and/or someone who has been in the field. (Maybe a favorite professor would do it, but more likely a subordinate academic would do it for a promise to mention him in the book, or for a fee.)  (Not too many years ago, it was noticed that a high percentage of students at Bennington College’s writing program were getting published and someone wondered at the concentration of literary ability at that school.  But it turned out that a professor in the writing program had contacts with the publisher.)

6- Get an editor, a copy editor, a proofreader, and maybe more than one of each. (You have to pay for this; it’s an entire industry.)

7- Get permission to present a work to the editor of the publishing company.  (And probably for something in return – such an editor gets paid from the profits of books sold, the author’s included, of course.)

8- All of these people including the typist will make suggestions for changes and, for the most part, if they are professionals, you will not take their suggestions for changes at your risk!

9- This is especially true for the chief editor who might require you to change your book radically, I mean in structure, expression, and theme, to say nothing of changing title and subtitle – and use for it the anthropologists and MBAs employed by the publishing house to hone your book for their purpose/profit. 
You must take his/her advice or your work will not be published.  LET ME SAY THAT AGAIN:  IF YOU DON’T TAKE THIS EDITOR’S ADVICE, YOUR WORK WILL NOT BE PUBLISHED.  (The era of editors who loved books and were accomplished readers in tweedy jackets smoking pipes has been obsolete for at least 60 years.) 

(By the way, there used to be a perennial dispute about who was the real author of the novels attributed to Thomas C. Wolfe, he or his editor Maxwell Perkins of his first two works or of his other editor Edward Aswell who published other works from the mass of manuscript that T.C. Wolfe left at his death.  I have concluded, after many decades, that the authors should be M. Perkins and E. Aswell – because anyone can leave a mass of material that has no value unless culled, edited and structured.  If an author can’t do this himself, then he shouldn’t be writing.  You should consult Gustave Flaubert in this matter.)  I once met a young guy, early 20s who said that he had written a S/F novel of over 3 million words!  Oh, yeah – but was it going to be published in any form or used for landfill?

10- Then, if you are fortunate to pass all these tests and take all the advice for which you paid and will pay, and your book is published, then:

11- Unless you are an A-List author or they decide to make you one that’s dependent on social status and such:

12 – You are a B-List author that means:

13- You do your own marketing and publicity for your book and pay for it.

So – In view of this process and all the money you’ve spent, the questions arise in my mind:

A-Who exactly is the author of such a work? 
I wouldn’t say that the person whose name is on the book is the author anymore than most of the other people who advised him in different capacities on how to change it is the author.  Or, worse, the author is a committee, and a work, fiction, nonfiction (academic books published by University Presses are different, as they are peer-edited) and whatever supposedly creatively work written by a collaboration of persons, to wit, a committee, is by definition mediocre.  As for poetry, you get published by a commercial press because of your background, status and university appointment. 
No one cares enough about poetry to read it and critique it --- and
this, by the way, is a factor in the dumbing down of American literature and
thus of our culture.  (This is exactly
what we have in the commercial book publishing industry.  Claims of literary excellence are marketing
hype because no one knows what’s any good and the commercial companies are not
even interested unless it helps them sell book. 
Or, rather, the companies are interested in making money.  Sometimes, further, publishing houses will
approach an academic and give him a contract to produce a book, hoping to
profit on his name.  Oh, wow – talk about

Such books are written by a committee and they are mediocre.  In fact, they are near generic works, as written for a target readership.  They are “committee-novels” or popular nonfiction books written by a committee. 
A dark age has descended on American literature while everyone was watching.  (Even most of the novels reviewed by The New York Review of Books are either by foreigners, by books written in another century or written by certain favorites of the system who are ancient – J.C. Oates, J. Didion and a number of others.

B - In what sense could such a book be considered not to have been paid to be published?  I REPEAT: IN WHAT SENSE COULD A BOOK THAT WENT THROUGH THE PROCESS ENUMERATED ABOVE NOT BE CONSIDERED TO HAVE BEEN PAID FOR, SELF-PUBLISHED?

In the 1960s, the book publishing industry went through a complete capitalist rationality. It became totally bottom line – and in terms of the above and has gotten worse.  A person who gets published under such circumstances is less a literary individual than a manipulator of the commercial publishing industry.

Therefore, the book industry is going through a long re-orientation to SP / POD. 
There are many options for getting your book up and out there.  Have fun! 
At least in this mode, you will retain your integrity and what you write
will be your own (perhaps with minor errors that are your own) and not mediated
by anthropologists, MBAs or back office hacks, slick-asses all.


T.R. Catanzarite

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