Booksellers Owe Their Customers The Postman’s Rings

Ever wonder what the The Postman Always Rings Twice means? It has nothing to do with character or plot within the classic crime novel. James Cain worked out a system with his mailman. If he rang once, this means the envelope was thick, probably full of a contract and advance from a publisher. If the envelope was thin, it was a rejection letter and the mailman rang twice. James Cain was rejected many many times before receiving a contract and payment for his written words. He kept at it, wrote more, wrote better, was finally considered fine enough to be worth money and publication.

There are people who want to skip the entire work process, the honing your skills part of writing, and jump right into the publication part. Without the contract or payment, and often the reverse, the writer pays someone to publish. They have no interest in hearing bells. They find someone to print out their words via print on demand, deciding that’s all they need to be considered a published writer. No editing, no proofreading, virtually nothing except the raw unread manuscript. Printed. Or  virtually printed.

Bookstores should *not* stock self published books. Bookshops owe it to their customers.Plain and simple, just because someone put words together, does not make them a GOOD writer–good enough to be published. It MAY. Hopefully eventually it does. The thing is, the person may actually BE an excellent writer, but choosing to go via self publishing will stymie them from finding that out. Self publishing is the latest way of saying Vanity Press. Vanity press was a perfect description–vain enough to pay many dollars to have what the author believes to be important or good enough for the world to read–or the 10 relatives that will purchase the work out of politeness.

I for one, out of many many others, cannot fathom why people can’t understand this. People in life are paid by others for their product, and their product, whatever it may be, must be up to a standard worth paying for. Paying someone else to print writing is not how this works. Work is SUBMITTED to people who will look at it, judge it, decide if it is what they are looking for, if the quality is there. Usually an agent, less likely an actual publisher decides. The agent has read enough words to fill the earth ten times round, probably, they understand good from bad. If an agent doesn’t like the work, the answer is not pay someone to e-book it anyway, the answer is to go back writing, keep at it. The agent is the door keeper, their job is to filter out what will not stand up as literature for the public to lay down 30 bucks.

OK, I can hear people protesting, ‘but my publisher is legitimate, he publishes several authors, and I am paid royalties. If you were given an advance, in other words, paid by the publisher, and as the work sells, you are also paid royalties, then you are a published writer. If the ‘publisher’ takes your manuscript says, “I’ll print this on demand, as soon as some one wants one”, and you then get family, neighbors, friends to order the book, you are not published. Even if that publisher claims to have edited it–editing being a crucial part of what it means to be published, the likelihood is the editing was not done by a professional who knows how.

For example. I decide, I want to be a publisher. I’ll troll the internet, find people who want to be published. I won’t make them pay me for the privilege, but I will only print on demand, and the price will include cost of printing and much more. And sure, I’ll pay the pittance likely to be earned by the amount of books sold because not needing to actually PAY for the MANUSCRIPT I’ve cut out most of the cost. Do I have a professional editor, of course not–that adds cost. But I’ll look it over and fix whatever typos I see, missed grammar, etc. I’ll find 5 or 6 writers and it’ll be a nice side income.

No no no a thousand times no! Every bookstore owner should be aware of who is a POD person, and who has been actually published. I won’t use legitimately published because this term shouldn’t exist. There is no form of accepted published works other than those manuscripts vetted, submitted, paid an advance for, edited, and then printed–on paper, or if we must go there, e-pub.

And believe me, I know it’s tough to distinguish in this era of any thing goes. But do the homework! If an author asks for a signing in your store for their book, that’s the first clue. Yes, publishers are making authors do their own promotion more and more, but still, they are the ones who send out feelers to stores about signings. Or, as a bookshop, you check the authors you would be interested in having through publishers catalogs, Publisher’s Weekly etc. The BOOKSHOP sets up the signing, not an author calling or stopping in. Still there are times when an author who has a book being released from a major pub may ask for a signing–true. So, the next hint–what is the name of the publisher? If you, the book buyer, doesn’t recognize the publisher’s name, that should signal bells. But, that publisher may have slipped past you, so check on the internet. See how many books are published by them, find their requirements for publication, do they have an editor, have they a reputation, and in the case of a crime novel-check the MWA guidelines for published works, they are clearly stated. Most POD books and self pubs are pretty obvious. Bad artwork, quality is lacking in the product. And if the bookstore still can’t tell-ASK the author. If they are POD people or self pubs, it will be quick to decipher. Usually these groups are defensive when asked about the publishing credentials, and start to explain why their work is different from all the other PODs out there.

Why shouldn’t bookshops carry self pubs and PODSs? Because your customers depend on you to provide well vetted, edited works for their reading pleasure. They shouldn’t need to worry if they pay 15 bucks for a softcover is it going to have a billion typos, bad grammar and no plot. But even if the bookstore isn’t looking out for the customer, they should consider their bottom line. If  PODs and self pubs are intermingled with all others, and patrons are buying them and finding their inadequacies, why would they come back for more? Why trust you the bookseller to make sure their money is well spent?

Of course, we all know there are books that are crap that have been vetted, edited, published. The difference still is, they’ve been vetted, edited and published. And contrary to beliefs, the majority are not crap. And the reverse is true. There will always be the exception that proves the rule when it comes to PODs and self pubs. But booksellers can not risk the relationship with customers by allowing ‘works’ that 20 years ago would not have left the vanity press convention to infiltrate their shelves just because technology has made it easier for vanity to exist.

If a writer is good enough, and then lucky enough, the postman will ring once. And the bookstore, customer, and the entire book industry is better for the process.

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  • Though I’m not an author, I take strong offense at your statement that “If the ‘publisher’ takes your manuscript says, ‘I’ll print this on demand, as soon as some one wants one’, and you then get family, neighbors, friends to order the book, you are not published.”

    Your view is a narrow one and completely unrealistic in today’s marketplace. With fewer “real” publishers (or whatever you choose to call them), and more going under everyday because they were too ignorant to jump on the digital train when it came by, talented authors have had to turn to other means to get their books out because they don’t yet have a name established among readers.

    In fact, there are plenty of good POD books available that a smart and savvy indie bookstore owner will and should stock. How will readers find new authors if they never have the opportunity to read they’re never available to the reading public?

    A smart bookstore owner will judge EACH book on its OWN merit, and not some blanket generalization about writing quality and how it was published.

    How do you think early writers — some of whom are now regarded as some of the greatest in history — got THEIR books published? Simon & Schuster weren’t around in the 1500s, in case you didn’t know. In fact, if you do a little research, you’ll find that many of the greatest authors ever in print self-published their early books — if not all their books.

    You’re doing authors, readers and bookstore owners a disservice by making the statement, “Bookstores should *not* stock self published books.” In fact, there are so many misguided statements in your article I have neither the time or inclination to point them out individually. Suffice it to say that you need to rethink your position and consider a bookstores customers and readers, and ask yourself why you would deny them the opportunity to discover new authors based solely on who printed their books.

    Since I don’t believe you’ve kept up with the publishing industry, I should point out that that’s pretty much all that “actual” publishers do anymore for authors, other than those who are already long-established — such as Danielle Steele, whose writing is some of the worst I’ve ever read. No serious indie bookstore owner should stock her trash though according to your standards, she’s a “legitimate” author and therefore makes bookstore owners’ A-list.

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    • Jules.
      It is clear from your e-mail address you do write.
      And you may be an excellent writer.
      Yes, publishers are becoming fewer and fewer. The major publishers are finding things difficult in this market. But, filling the gap are wonderful small presses that are NOT self publishing, not POD. They vet manuscripts, they PAY the author an advance, they PRINT without the demand part. They have editors that vet the work. And proofreaders. One of the fantastic small crime fiction presses is The Poisoned Pen. The publishers have spent their entire life selling and reading crime fiction lit, and have hired the appropriate people.

      The established publishers are using the e-book format. Books published in paper are being sold and read on Kindle etc. If they were behind in anything it was to offer the public an e-book version of printed books. Their not providing for this advance in technology sooner has nothing to do with POD.

      Your problem is with a system that demands a standard. And it’s a very easy standard to follow. A writer is PAID for their manuscript. One can believe that POD books are by talented writers. And there will be a small percentage where that will be true. The majority will be of mediocre work, to poor work and no respectable bookstore wants to sell that kind of book. You may decree Danielle Steele the worst writer ever, however she has people other than immediate family buy her books. A savvy bookstore owner will stock her book to pay for the more talented obscure but PAID writers.

      It’s not realistic to believe that each bookstore owner has the time, patience and interest to read every book that crosses their path to decide it’s merit. To think they should muddle through every POD book written for merit is impractical. They haven’t the time even for actual published books, that’s why they have REPS. Publishers either phone or come to the store to showcase the upcoming list, and to hone what would best fit the store’s customer base.

      The bookstore orders a certain amount of books. If those books do not sell, they return them. POD books many times are not returnable. If they can’t recoup part of their money, they are not likely to buy from that pub again.

      Simon and Schuster didn’t publish Shakespeare? You are completely correct about many people publishing their own work back then. Consider that, until a certain point in time, the only people publishing anything at all were monks; and doing it by hand. Self publishing would have been the only available method. Clearly, despite what may seem like less publishers, this is not the case today.

      Why would I deprive POD people the ability to be found and read by customers?
      Let me ask you this. Do you want a doctor when you have an accident, or someone who is excellent at first aid? Is it important for someone to be skilled enough at their profession to be paid for it? Would you want to use an electrician for your home who is not licensed and bonded, just because he’s sure he’s excellent at wiring?

      Books are not life and death decisions. But a person who is ready to lay down discretionary money for the one book they can afford this month, should not have to wade through someone’s vanity press piece to get to someone’s book that has been edited, proofread, and dare I point this out again, PAID for.
      I notice you never address the points regarding edits and proofreading. I suppose the individual bookseller is responsible for checking each POD book for those too?

      An indie bookseller is not discriminating by who published a book, they are distinguishing a book that’s been published and a book that’s been bought and paid by a writer to have a manufacturer print it on paper, or download it to an ipad.

      I’m afraid that it’s not me that doesn’t understand the publishing industry today, it’s POD people who believe they are ENTITLED to be published just because they wrote something. And I’m by no means alone in this thinking. Agents, publicists, small, midlist, and large publishers, newly published and veteran writers and well established indies agree.

      Try the American Idol comparison. Every one goes into the audition thinking they will blow the judges away with their gorgeous voices. Some do. They move on to be recorded. Some are awful. Are told they are terrible. And, will not believe it. And continue to sing and go pay someone to create a demo record.
      Is a record store, or I-Tunes expected to carry a demo record just because it exists? If they don’t aren’t they denying the public the ability to find new artists?
      Some singers who are good, but perhaps not yet ready, will continue to take voice lessons and try again.

      There are judges on American Idol for a reason. Not everyone who believes they are good at something are. And those who aren’t are judged so by experts.

      Just because someone writes a manuscript and is convinced it is good enough to be published and believe there aren’t enough publishers to address the amount of available talent, and after all people published themselves in the Middle Ages, doesn’t mean that bookstores should automatically carry their vanity books. The public has zllions of books available that have been PAID for to choose from, including newly found authors who worked at their craft to hear the postman ring only ONCE.

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  • I’d disagree in one specific area of self publishing: pamphlets. There’s simply just not a big enough general audience for many of those items for a regular publisher to take them on profitably.

    But if a local historian writes a pamphlet on a specific bit of local history, those ARE likely of interest to your customers. No matter how well written or how times its submitted to a publisher they probably won’t pick up something that specialized just because its such a narrow market and 20-40 pages is just not long enough to be printed on its own.

    They’re not generally a big investment and they do make you stand out from a chain. We’ve sold a lot of local history pamphlets for a non-profit group.

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  • I can agree to that Nora, definitely. Local history is something that is invariably self pubbed. My major point dealt with fiction, although the idea of a, say bio of Ben Franklin self pubbed, is scary. LOL.
    Do you find many POD people contacting you asking to carry their book or even set up a signing?

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  • I would have to disagree with your assessment of self-published books. The big publishers are now rejecting much that is new, regardless of quality, because they want a sure return. Danielle Steele or Nora Roberts are publishers’ dreams. Doesn’t make them good writers, merely succe$$ful writers.

    OTOH, Thoreau couldn’t get a publisher interested in Walden Pond so he published it himself. He later told Emerson, “I have over a thousand books in my library, most of which I wrote myself.”

    When a self-published book comes into the store I treat it the way I do any other used book that I’m not familiar with – I read the synopsis and I open the book and read a paragraph. That’s usually enough to tell me if I want the book.

    CBC Radio in Canada does an annual ‘Canada Reads’ series of programs featuring 5 books by Canadians. One of the books this year was rejected many times so the author read it on youtube, chapter by chapter.

    Bob

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    • Bob,
      Where is the evidence that big publishers are rejecting much that is new regardless of quality. From the piles and piles of new authors being published, I find that unlikely. And yes, lol, there are writers that make money, that most do not consider good, true in every area of life–acting, art, etc.

      There will always be exceptions that prove the rule, Thoreau, obviously one. But, how many really bad writers also self published back then no one ever hears about, because, the quality was awful, and I’m not simply meaning literary, I mean proofreading, editing.

      You have a new bookstore or used?
      You sound as though you run a used bookstore, which is entirely different kettle of best sellers. There is not as much risk in used books as with new. A customer is not paying full price. There is no concern about returns.

      And, no offense, but you are the only bookseller I’ve heard of who has time between unpacking, shelving, ringing up sales, ordering, etc etc to read the first paragraph of each book that comes in. If you do, that’s great, and you can be the arbiter of quality. Are you also able to tell if it’s been proofread or edited by the first paragraph and synopsis?

      And your point about reading an unpublished book on youtube is? Cats play pianos on youtube. Should they be given a concert hall?

      My difficulty with particular books being singled out, is just that–there will always be, as I wrote in my post, those who do not fit the POD category in that their work is outstanding.

      I know of one mystery writer who published her own first book and then was picked up by a publisher, and she’s excellent.

      But one exception does not make up for all the others.

      I do not understand why the idea of being paid for quality is so horrible. Yes, it can take quite some time until you are published, yes you probably will receive tons of rejection slips as did James Lee Burke for his first book, but if not only you and your friends and family tell you how great you are as a writer, but an agent, an editor, and established real publisher, isn’t that truly the measure of being published?

      I’ve had so many people stung by the POD books out there, they are wary of what they will buy next. And it simply shouldn’t be that way.

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      • Hello Dianne,
        First, I think what bothered me about your original article was the blanket statement: “Bookstores should *not* carry self-published books.”

        Taking your points as they occur… && indicates your words, ** indicates my response.

        && Where is the evidence that big publishers are rejecting much that is new regardless of quality.

        **Don’t remember where I read it. I read something, consider the source, and retain it if I think it’s good.

        && There will always be exceptions that prove the rule,

        ** A little lesson in etymology: An earlier meaning of ‘prove’ was ‘test’. The original statement was, “To prove (test) a rule, look for an exception.” meaning, that if you found an exception, the rule was no good. This applied to math and the sciences. In modern usage, exceptions tend to *disprove* rules.

        && Thoreau, obviously one. But, how many really bad writers also self published back then no one ever hears about, because, the quality was awful, and I’m not simply meaning literary, I mean proofreading, editing.

        ** How many really bad writers are published by major publishers today? Proofreading and editing don’t make Danielle a good writer, and I find typos in many good modern books.

        && You have a new bookstore or used?
        You sound as though you run a used bookstore, which is entirely different kettle of best sellers. There is not as much risk in used books as with new. A customer is not paying full price. There is no concern about returns.

        ** Yes, used. The only new books I carry are self-published local histories – not just pamphlets, but thick, well-made hardcovers as well.

        && There is no concern about returns.

        ** I can’t return what doesn’t sell, so I do have a concern about what I stock.

        && And, no offense, but you are the only bookseller I’ve heard of who has time between unpacking, shelving, ringing up sales, ordering, etc etc to read the first paragraph of each book that comes in.

        ** Out of context – I said books that I’m not familiar with.

        && If you do, that’s great, and you can be the arbiter of quality. Are you also able to tell if it’s been proofread or edited by the first paragraph and synopsis?

        ** Synopsis tells me the outline of the story. Sometimes I can reject on that basis. I don’t read the ‘first’ paragraph – usually about a third of the way in. Sometimes that one paragraph will tell me the quality is low. If it looks good I’ll read a couple more.

        && And your point about reading an unpublished book on youtube is? Cats play pianos on youtube. Should they be given a concert hall?

        ** My point is that many publishers rejected him, but he was chosen as one of the better Canadian books this year – over many that publishers didn’t reject.

        && My difficulty with particular books being singled out, is just that–there will always be, as I wrote in my post, those who do not fit the POD category in that their work is outstanding.

        I know of one mystery writer who published her own first book and then was picked up by a publisher, and she’s excellent.

        But one exception does not make up for all the others.

        ** There are many exceptions, and each one disproves your rule about not selling self-published books.

        && I do not understand why the idea of being paid for quality is so horrible.

        ** Who said that? Or do you mean that quality can only come from an established publisher and if you didn’t make money it was lack of quality? Is the converse true – if you made money through a *legitimate* publisher then it’s quality writing?

        Maybe we should just agree to disagree.
        Bob

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        • Bob, Thank you for the lesson, it is interesting. Especially since although that’s the true origin, it’s not how it’s used in speech today-it’s used exactly as I wrote it. But that isn’t really the point you are making. You believe that stating not to sell *any* PODs is incorrect on that point.

          The point about bad writers publishing themselves in the past and not surviving time has no relationship with authors some perceive as bad being published now. Whether Steele is a literary genius isn’t the point. A legit publisher took a chance on her work, good or not, and it struck some sort of need with a particular public. Typos are in every book, it’s the quantity in PODs that is unprofessional and readers should not be subjected to.

          My statement about returns was directly related to self pubs. If you purchase used books, of course they aren’t returnable, but they didn’t cost you the full price of a new book. I didn’t know about the histories you buy, and it follows my point–if you can’t return them, you’re stuck if you can’t sell them, great writing or no.

          Sorry, I didn’t register the ‘books I’m not familiar with’. My mistake there. Still, I’m amazed at your ability to scan books, for plot, quality of publishing etc, of the books you don’t know. I never had time. The stores I worked in had recent releases therefore I read the synopsis’ from the publisher’s catalog months in advance. I haven’t seen catalogs from PODs but I won’t make the mistake of claiming there aren’t any. If a legit publisher, I would think they’d provide booksellers catalogs. But I see, used bookstores wouldn’t be able to take advantage of that.

          Again, we can site 100 self pubbed writers out of 100,000 (numbers completely made up just to make a point) that disprove my point about not carrying any PODs. It’s all the others that most bookstore owners and workers who do not have the time to read a few paragraphs of each book they are not familiar with that should not risk carrying PODs at all.

          The point about money is not how much they make after being published, it is about being *paid* for their work. The standard must be the writer is paid for the manuscript, given royalties, had the work edited and given an actual print run. Legit small presses, which I have already mentioned, can and do offer these basic standards. More and more presses like these are starting, and finding writers out in the wilds who believe their worth as a writer should not be undermined by their *paying* someone to print out their work they then must foist it upon the public.

          And *yes* I am absolutely saying that being *paid* for your work indicates quality. As it does in practically every other area of life. But that is *not* saying that writers out there who have not yet been published are terrible. Vanity press has been around forever, and it is called that for exactly what is is. Vanity to publish your own work, to pay someone to do it for you. Just because technology has made is soooooo much easier for a vanity press to exist and take one’s money, doesn’t make it any less vain.

          There *must* be a standard for published works. If not, then every idiot in the world, including myself, can print out opinions such as these and call myself an author. A published author. And the reading public will be over run with volumes of crap mixed with brilliant mixed with Danielle Steel mixed with unreadable, mixed with whatever any one any where decides is published.
          Again, the American Idol comparison–every one that auditions for that show is given a record deal, itunes has gazillions to choose from, and who knows which music is angelic or an assault on the ears?

          If you can live with that kind of world in terms of the written word, OK. I don’t want to see it come to that, and stand by my call to not carry POD books. And disagreeing is a healthy sign that we all care about the book industry.

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  • I’m with Diane on this one. A bookstore is doing a disservice to its customers by selling self- or subsidy-published books, with a few very rare exceptions. But I’d like to point out that POD, publishing on demand, is not the culprit. That’s merely a technology and one that more and more traditional publishers are using, almost always to keep backlist in print, which is a commendable goal. The culprits are predatory entrepreneurs and naive writers who embrace POD technology. There’s a very useful website from SFWA, Preditors & Editors, that lists unscrupulous publishers and agents.

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    • Enid–absolutely right–I’m not down on POD so much as unpublished works being printed this way, and then the authors and so called publishers claiming this makes the work legitimately published.

      Backlists and reprints are perfect for POD. There’s nothing more depressing for a bookseller than to order from the backlist only to find they misjudged and ordered too many, and now need to return them. If the store is able to acquire the amount wanted quickly and accurately by POD, it saves both publisher and bookstore money.
      Thanks for the info about SFWA–I’ll check the site and perhaps list a link here.

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  • DIANE: Bob, Thank you for the lesson, it is interesting. Especially since although that’s the true origin, it’s not how it’s used in speech today-it’s used exactly as I wrote it. But that isn’t really the point you are making.

    BOB: Actually, that is exactly the point I’m trying to make – that the current usage is wrong. The fact that people use it that way all the time doesn’t make it right.

    (large snip)

    DIANE: And *yes* I am absolutely saying that being *paid* for your work indicates quality. As it does in practically every other area of life. But that is *not* saying that writers out there who have not yet been published are terrible. Vanity press has been around forever, and it is called that for exactly what is is. Vanity to publish your own work, to pay someone to do it for you. Just because technology has made is soooooo much easier for a vanity press to exist and take one’s money, doesn’t make it any less vain.

    BOB: Getting published and paid is an indication of saleability – not quality. An excellent book with a very limited market will have trouble getting published. If the writer feels strongly enough that the message is important then self-publishing is the way to go. If you consider that that can only mean misguided vanity, well, you have that right.

    DIANE: There *must* be a standard for published works.

    BOB: I wish there could be a ‘standard’. That way, maybe Ann Coulter wouldn’t be published. Or Danielle. But if the standard is set by major publishers who are only interested in the bottom line, then literacy is in trouble. Actually, literacy is in trouble, as is logic, and a few other things.

    DIANE: If not, then every idiot in the world, including myself, can print out opinions such as these and call myself an author. A published author. And the reading public will be over run with volumes of crap mixed with brilliant mixed with Danielle Steel mixed with unreadable, mixed with whatever any one any where decides is published.

    BOB: Near as I can tell, the public IS over run with volumes of crap mixed with brillian mixed with Danielle Steel – all from ‘publishers’.

    DIANE: Again, the American Idol comparison–every one that auditions for that show is given a record deal, itunes has gazillions to choose from, and who knows which music is angelic or an assault on the ears?

    BOB: I haven’t watched television in over 15 years. I don’t listen to music on the radio – I think most of it is crap, too, but since the performers and writers are making piles of money, I guess it really is quality music?

    DIANE: If you can live with that kind of world in terms of the written word, OK. I don’t want to see it come to that, and stand by my call to not carry POD books. And disagreeing is a healthy sign that we all care about the book industry.

    BOB: Actually, I don’t give a damn about the book industry, but I do care very much about literacy and provoking people to think instead of feeding them mush.

    Enough. I will say no more about it. You may have the last word if you wish.

    Bob

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    • Just quickly–it’s clear to me now that it’s now self publishing we’re really disagreeing about, it’s the publishing world, and your perception of it producing *nothing* but trash, and the poor artist out there being forced to go it alone to get this word out.

      Again, there are many many very good small publishers out there to cover what you consider a vacuum of quality, literacy. And they pay the writers for their work, the artist does not pay them.

      You keep insisting that I’m claiming if artists, be them writers, singers etc MAKE money it’s an indication of quality. And I’ll repeat this again. Making money after being published is the reward if the public, that you dislike apparently, decides they want to buy the work. The *standard* I’m stating, well, not just me but The Mystery Writers Association, among others, is submitting a manuscript either to an agent, or publisher, large or small, and it being accepted. And paid for. Are there manuscripts that are chosen for what are considered money makers, of course. Are manuscripts paid for quality, real quality, of course. Your contention is that practically every thing everywhere is crap. I find that sad. And somewhat elitist.
      Not giving a damn about the book industry is counterproductive for a bookseller.
      Unless your store carries only dead classics that your critical eye has decided will provoke thought in a mush eating society, and you can financially survive trying to educate the public this way, you may want to add a few books that although mush and repugnant, pay for the ones that enlighten. Otherwise, you’ll be provoking people about literacy in some other profession.
      And thanks for the last word, I love it!

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  • Bookstores are intermediate consumers and, like any other buyers, should decide what to purchase on the assessment of quality and customer demand. Just because a book comes from an established publisher does not mean it is good – no more so than a pop record produced by one of the big recording companies. Both may be ‘technically perfect’ but if the basic content is rubbish, then no amount of polishing and presentation will make it good. The same is true of films. Indeed in popular music and films, the best work is usually produced by ‘independents’.

    The problem for independent publishers is ‘polishing’ their work to a professional standard, which means that the must employ a good editor and book designer. A good editor should be able to tell them if the content is rubbish and, if not, it is his job to ensure that the book is written to a professional standard. It is then the designers job to ensure that the book is presented in the best possible way.

    For sure there are some very bad self published books, just as there are some very bad musicians – but that does not make them all poor, and it is much more likely that the gems will be found here than in the mainstream. Let us not forget that the Beatles were turned down by Decca, and Harry Potter was rejected twelve times before being accepted by a very small publisher – and then only at the behest of the CEO’s eight-year old daughter. William Golding’s Lord of the flies was rejected twenty times and there are countless other examples.

    Self publishing is not easy, but if it done well, it can be far better than much of the pap produced by the publishing mainstream, and my little book is a million times better most pulp fiction and the autobiographies of talentless tabloid celibrities.

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    • I believe you made my point for me–all of the examples you give, of pieces being turned down by publishers, but then finally published, is the perfect example of a writer honing their craft. Because, they were eventually accepted, after refining and editing, making what was rejected into excellence. Where does the self published author find the criticism and structure when all they have to do is PAY someone to print out their words. The entire point of being professional is to be paid for your work, up front, and with royalties.

      Just because someone writes something, doesn’t mean it should be published, or must be published. Vanity press, is still vanity press, even if called by a different name. In years past, no self respecting bookstore would sell a vanity press book, unless like another bookseller pointed out, it was a historical booklet or pamphlet, which is not technically a book anyway. The fact that vanity presses now called PODs, can print out and bind words quicker, doesn’t make them any less amateur in quality.

      Are their crappy published books, of course. Are there some good self published pieces? There will always be exceptions to the rule, and sometimes a self published book turns out to be quite good, and if lucky, that book is picked up by a real publisher, the author PAID for their work, and a real editor, proofers, will vet the book into an even superior work.

      Gems may be out there and small presses or even the main publishers will find them, through agents who are able to represent the artist better than the artist can.

      Self publishing is the antithesis of ‘not easy.’ My heavens, what’s easier than paying someone to print out whatever one has typed on a computer? A printer can do it for free.

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