Special Post: The Self-Published Slush Pile

Lately I’ve heard a lot of talk about the horrors of self-publishing. Many seem to frown upon it. It seems the general census is authors who take the self-publishing route fall under one or more unsavory categories:

  • Their writing is crap and isn’t worth publishing
  • The author is too impatient to go through traditional means (literary agents or editors)
  • Their work isn’t marketable
  • <Insert reason here>

Of course there’s always the exception–the awesome self-published book that takes literary agents and editors by surprise. But like I said, it’s the exception.

Anyway, there seems to be some horrible consequences of allowing anyone and their mother to self-publish. That crappy unmarketable work gets into the marketplace! <gasp>

The guardian.co.uk points out one of the effects in the post As literary world’s floodgates open, who must wade through the slush? Yes, us. A quick summary of the article reveals agents and editors as gatekeepers who keep horrible writing from reaching the eyes of the public who prefer high grade products. In essence, agents and editors perform a service for readers by only allowing decent stuff to grace our eyes.

I’m not being sarcastic here, though the words might suggest. In many ways, editors and agents are a good thing. I don’t like reading crap. It’s a waste of my time and a disappointment when I do. And if I purchase the crap myself…I’m pissed.

The guardian’s article ends by implying readers may lose interest if faced with mounds of mounds of unsolicited slush by aspiring authors who just don’t make the grade.

Here is where I disagree. Every time I walk into a bookstore, every time I open my browser to an online bookstore, I’m faced with slush. That’s right. The entire bookstore is a slush pile to me. I generally have to travel ALL the way to the back of the store to find my favorite section (romance). Once I’m there, if I don’t already have my favorite author picked out, I sift through book after book after book trying to find the perfect match. Sound familiar? Seems like the job editors and agents have–the goal of looking for the right fit.

Even after the time I spend in the bookstore, get home, and dig into my prize, I often find my book is not all that great. Even worse is when I purchase a book by my favorite author and discover the work is so bad it shouldn’t have ever EVER been published. Shouldn’t someone have stopped my bestselling author somewhere along the line? Surely someone should have put their foot down and said “No! This is worse than what comes out of our slush pile!” You readers know what I’m talking about.

Yet even after reading some not so great books, I still return for more. Why? Because I LOVE to read. I will wade through the slush pile called a bookstore happily with the hope of picking out a winner.

Self-publishing doesn’t mean readers are going to stop reading. It doesn’t mean editors and literary agents can’t still be gatekeepers. Readers still want kickass books. When readers go to the bookslushstore and pick up a self-published book that’s crappy and full of errors, they’ll put it back. Then they’ll pick up the next book and the next until the find the perfect treasure. Whether the winner happens to be the overlooked self-published book that takes the world by storm or the book which went through the submission process we all love and enjoy (now I’m being sarcastic), I can’t say.

Embrace the change and adapt! Self-publishing has been here for awhile, and it’s not going anywhere. Yeah, it may be easier now with simple uploads, but there’s nothing to fear (at least not for the reader). On our end, the slush pile looks exactly the same. We pick through what we want and leave the rest.

So what’s your take on self-publishing and the toll it’s taking the industry?

0 thoughts on “Special Post: The Self-Published Slush Pile

  1. As a reader, I have no problem with authors self-publishing. You’re right; the bookstore has plenty of “slush” books from big publishing houses. One of my favorite paranormal romances that I read last year, ETERNAL SEDUCTION, was self-published by the author Jennifer Turner. She said in an interview with Bitten By Books that she had a difficult time “selling” her unconventional heroine (a homeless, drug-addict) to an agent. (http://bittenbybooks.com/?p=2780) Of course, the book was successful, and according to her website she now has an agent that contacted her! I’m so glad because I really want to read Book Two!

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