Saturday, 5 May 2012

The Reader's Fear of the Self-Published

There has been a little flurry of articles recently about self-publishing on-line.  These have varied from the generally approving to the sternly disapproving which is much as one would expect.  An interesting reaction, however, could be found among the below the line comments.  After just about every article there is a comment stating, in a tone ringing with the authenticity of experience, that the majority of self-published fiction is very bad.

Now I have to declare an interest here.  As you might be aware, and if you’re not it’s no fault of mine, I am involved with the weird fiction website Spring Heeled Jack and it is currently publishing a serial wot I wrote.

Anyway, back to the comments.  The curious thing about these comments revealing that the majority of self-published fiction is crap is that they are stated in a firm tone as if the commenter is revealing a hitherto unknown fact.  ‘Have you read self-published fiction?’ they cry like Jeremiah, ‘it is awful.’  You can almost hear their self-satisfied grunt as they sit back from the keyboard with the knowledge of a warning duly given.  Their job here is done.  The majority of self-published fiction is crap.

I know. 

I know a lot of it is awful because I’ve read some of it.  God help me, I’ve written some.

Now I’m doubtless missing something, but surely that fact that a lot of something is crap does negate the value of that small amount is good.  I am reminded of Sturgeon’s Law.  If you don’t know it, Theodore Sturgeon was a science fiction writer in the 1950s who, in response to the statement that 90% of science fiction is crud, stated that 90% of everything is crud.

Another curious thing about these aforementioned commenters is that they often continue their condemnation of self-publishing with a smug aside to the effect that they themselves never read anything until it has been cleared by agents, editors, publishers and critics.  This seems to me a strange thing to boast about.  They’re basically boasting of the fact that they won’t do something until someone else tells them they can and confirms that what they plan to do is good.  In most fields of human endeavour such craven behaviour is not widely encouraged, in this specific area, it is a sign of superior judgement.

I have a horrible suspicion that these people are amoungst those who view reading as a way of showing their superiority over the rest of us rather than the life-enhancing joy it can be if you want it to.

But then what do I know?  My name’s A J Chadwin and I self-publish.