Self-Publishing and Cruelty to Authors

My employer, the Chalcedon Foundation, has a policy not to review self-published books. I adhere to that policy. We don’t want to encourage a shady business.

The other day someone sent me a self-published book for review. I often get these in the mail. I don’t know how much the so-called publisher charged the author, but whatever it was, it was probably too much.

Even at some of the reputable, professional publishing houses, where they pay the author rather than hoodwinking the author into paying them, editing has become almost a lost art. But here the self-publisher took the author’s money, and in this case provided no editing at all. And so the reader is treated to misspellings, quotation marks strewn around the page like confetti, misuse of words, and weird sentences that fall apart before they get anywhere, reminiscent of some of the stairways at the Winchester Mansion that simply end at blank walls.

Speaking for myself, I would be embarrassed if one of my books were published without careful editing. We all need editing!

But to take the author’s money and then publish the book as is, with all the errors for all the world to see–that’s not only dishonest, but cruel. I say no writer can afford to have a book published in a state of nature, any more than he would want to board a bus in the nude. Here they stripped the author and shoved him out onto the sidewalk at high noon.

The immortal Rocky Bridges once said there are three things that everyone in the world thinks he can do: run a hotel, manage a baseball team, and write a book. The expansion of the self-publishing industry feeds the third part of that delusion.

I wish I had a nickel for every time someone said to me, “Yeah, I’d write a book, too, if I had the time.” Sculptors and composers and ballet dancers never have to hear that, but every writer does. Durned if I know why.

I grant that every now and then, a worthwhile book is self-published. But I have been sent many of them that are not worthwhile by any stretch of the most feverish imagination.

If your book is worth being published, you ought to be paid for it. Keep your life savings under the mattress, where the self-publishing company can’t get at it.

3 comments on “Self-Publishing and Cruelty to Authors

  1. Hear, hear! These are words to the wise. I have seen (briefly) some
    writings, including books which should have had a thorough editing. One memorable article written by a college graduate with a doctorate in some scientific field had so many errors it was almost unintelligible. It was embarrassing. Needless to say, I don’t read far into any unedited book or article. Waste of time.

  2. Lee,

    Nothing bothers me more than seeing simple editing errors in books. I know people that do self-publishing because they believe there is no other way to get information out. But if the information isn’t presented professionally, then it makes you and the information look bad. You have accomplished nothing but lost time, lost integrity, and lost money.

    Jeri Lynn Ball is a communitarian researcher who did some self-published books ten to twenty years ago, which were done professionally (she also made money doing it).

    1. No published book ever turns out 100% error-free. But some of these self-published thingies are not edited at all. You have to see it to believe it.

Leave a Reply