- "Publishers are supposed to stand between the public and awful novels and “inspirational” works."
- [Speculation about the motivations of self-publishers (which are presumably significantly different from trade published authors).]
- "But with almost 400,000 self-published books a year, the amount bought or preserved by libraries is going to be negligible. In the future, it will be like the vast majority of these books never existed."
- "Or maybe that’s true now. If an ebook is published in the wilderness and nobody reads it, does it still count as a book?"
- Trade published books are not necessarily going to be better edited than a good quality self-published book.
- Library users want the most popular books, not niche books.
- Librarians rely on certain sources (Library Journal, Publisher's Weekly, etc) for reviews to allow them to make book purchase choices.
- Librarians do not have the time or budget to evaluate quality individually, so a librarian is infinitely more likely to choose a trade published book which has been reviewed by a trusted source. Most of these sources do not deal with self-publishers (or only do so on an exploitative payment basis).
I disagree, however, on the question of posterity.
Print on demand and ebooks have completely altered the question of how long a book is remembered. Unless the book world goes through another revolution, every book I release will be available for as long as I allow it to be available and then it will linger on on pirate sites and eventually public domain. For as long as there is a version of the internet, my books will remain.
I already have over ten releases. Each year (except for the ones where I am exceptionally slack), I will release a new book. Physical copies of my books are purchased by readers who particularly like my work (or just prefer to read from paper). Some of these will circulate to second hand book stores. Two of my books have finalled in 'creditable' awards. I am linked three times in Wikipedia, though probably don't quite meet the notability requirements to warrant a page of my own.
I've never been reviewed by Library Journal or Publisher's Weekly and don't really expect to be. I have been reviewed by Sherwood Smith and Rachel Neumeier, and believe me, the Library Journal isn't going to make me squee nearly as much as the idea that People I Read Have Read Me. It's possible for any of my books - new or already released - to become a break out hit, or at least a minor success, but even if I simply continue on at my mildly improving growth rate, I have still made tens of thousands of sales. There are people who consider me an auto-buy author, which (along with re-reading) is one of the biggest compliments a writer can have.
I do not suggest, however, that libraries are irrelevant. Libraries were my lifeblood, back when I was a kid in a poor family who got new books on occasions like birthdays, if I was lucky. For a book-a-day girl like I was, libraries were essential. And the collection of the libraries I had access to shaped me. My libraries had lots of Norton and McCaffrey and McKinley and Jones, and thus for me science fiction and fantasy has always revolved around female writers. I gather that some libraries somehow failed to have much if anything in the way of SFF written by women, and thus some people actually don't associate SFF with women. [That's a hard idea for me to get my head around.]
For the kid I was, growing up in a family where you got books from the library or for your birthday or not at all, a writer not 'preserved' by a library would simply not exist. But that kid still would have grown up, and transitioned to second hand stores, and then the luxury of buying brand new books on the day of release - sometimes in hardback!
And that was back then. If I was myself, and ten, in 2013, that once-a-year gift would have been an ereader, and I would be fully appreciating Project Gutenberg, and the plethora of free ebooks used as promotional tools by publishers, and I would shamelessly download pirated books because, after all, it was the books which were my lifeblood, and libraries only the intravenous system which delivered them.
The system has grown.
I started this post because Flannery, Readventurer Extraordinaire, excitedly tweeted to me that she'd seen Stray sitting out on display at her local library. In the nearly four years since I first published a book, this is the first - the very first - time I've had an "in the wild" sighting of any of my books. I was so excited I
Flannery checked the library system, and there are five copies of each of the Touchstone books, and four of And All the Stars. King County Library System is apparently the busiest in the US, and evidently has managed to spare a little bit of time and budget for the occasional self-publisher. [I suspect it was making the Cybils finals which may have triggered the purchase - that definitely did raise my profile generally.] What a lovely picture that is, Stray being a real book and not looking out of place at all. My excitement demonstrates that libraries are still an important part of the system, but they're not the only part of the system.
My posterity's doing fine, thanks very much.
Edit: Now with a bonus picture of my books in Minette Public Library! [Or some of them - the rest were apparently checked out!]
Gosh I write skinny books.