The mass media pays little attention to self-publishing, on the whole. The books reviewed in newspapers and discussed on TV shows are hardly ever of the self-published variety. However, both publishing and self-publishing are evolving so quickly these days that nothing pertaining to them can be said to be static and, as if to prove this, The Guardian has started a series profiling self-published authors.
Yes: a major national newspaper is going to devote a regular space on its Books page to self-published authors. This is unusual, and very encouraging. You can read the first profile, of author Polly Courtney, here.
I’m of course immensely enthusiastic about this, and grateful to the Guardian for having the foresight to begin such a feature, when the rest of the major newspapers seem determined to avoid all mention of self-publishing. It shows, to my mind, a willingness to break with old (and outdated) practices, and to engage with rather than ignore change. More to the point, it may also help to draw attention to some of the great self-published authors out there. (Polly Courtney, in her interview, mentions the “white noise” produced by the vast number of self-published books, which makes it difficult for readers to find authors they might enjoy.)
The method for selecting featured authors will act a little like a “daisy chain”: each author profiled will nominate the next author. However, this chain may well be broken at various points, and so the Guardian has also asked its readers to nominate self-published authors. I’ve already made a recommendation, for what it’s worth. And no, before anyone asks, I absolutely did not recommend myself – which leads me neatly to the crux of this post.
The existence of this feature will hopefully prove to be a huge opportunity; but big opportunities also, perhaps, entail big responsibilities. Clamouring for attention has become second nature to many a self-publisher, which is understandable; but jumping up and down and shouting “Look at me!” is as likely to induce indifference, or disdain, as interest. So I’ve a modest proposal.
Please – let’s not just rush off to nominate ourselves. We’re allowed to, and nobody’s going to stop us, but given that the Guardian staff are probably being swamped by such suggestions, they may not carry much weight anyway. By the same token, don’t let’s just nominate our friends, or those authors to whom we feel somehow indebted – this, apart from anything, raises the ghastly spectre of the quid pro quo. And don’t let’s nominate a whole batch of “quite good” books or authors we’ve read. Let’s nominate one or two that we really think are outstanding.
You can do this anonymously, by using a made-up username, so nobody has to know who you’ve nominated (unless you want them to know, of course). Given the huge number of nominations that are no doubt currently stacking up in the Guardian’s office, your nominee will possibly (probably?) never be featured anyway. But this is an excellent opportunity to shine a light on good self-published authors.
Any system relying on public nominations requires a degree of integrity and good faith, and so this is also a good opportunity to defy the common (and unflattering) image of the indie author as a ceaseless self-promoter, review-swapper and sock puppeteer. Let’s forget self-interest, however enlightened, for a little while. Let’s look at the bigger picture. Don’t let’s see this system just as another opportunity to publicise ourselves.
It’s an opportunity to publicise good indie writing – regardless of whose name is on the cover.