The Rise of Self-Publishing


I love out-there theories and the people who are seized by them. I’m a sitting duck for crackpots. Maybe that’s why I like the Web.

But even those of us who pride ourselves on never showing skepticism arrive at a crossroads sometimes. Should I really sacrifice 20 minutes of my life to hear out this particular rant (about Google, Obama, the Fed) or politely back away from the ranter?Well, you really sound as if you’re on to something, sir!

In analog times, one sign that it was time to retreat was if a big talker, having declared himself an author, produced his “book” and something about the book just wasn’t . . . booky. Maybe the pages carried a whiff of the Xerox or mimeograph machine. Or maybe the volume — about Atlantis or Easter Island — looked too good, with engraved letters, staid cover, no dust jacket. After a casual examination of the spine or the title page, realization would dawn: self-published.

In this time of Twitter feeds and self-designed Snapfish albums and personal YouTube channels, it’s hard to remember the stigma that once attached to self-publishing. But it was very real. By contrast, to have a book legitimately produced by a publishing house in the 20th century was not just to have copies of your work bound between smart-looking covers. It was also metaphysical: you had been chosen, made intelligible and harmonious by editors and finally rendered eligible, thanks to the magic that turns a manuscript into a book, for canonization and immortality. You were no longer a kid with a spiral notebook and a sonnet cycle about Sixth Avenue; you were an author, and even if you never saw a dime in royalties, no one could ever dismiss you again as an oddball. (read more)

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