Over on Bryan Thomas Schmidt’s blog today, Bryan discusses “Why Quality Still Matters” regardless of how you are publishing. I posted a comment on a Google+ thread to this post that I think is worth reproducing here. It touches on both quality but also on where I think the evolution of both traditional and self-publishing is going. Here is what I wrote:
Quality is one aspect and I completely agree that if you are going to self-publish, you need to have a good editor. An editor is, in my opinion, someone looking for more than just spelling and grammar problems. That is what a copy editor is for. An editor is someone who knows the field, can (more objectively than the author) identify places where the story slows down, where the pacing is off, where there are inconsistencies of character, etc. They also know what tends to sell well and what doesn’t. An editor for someone self-publishing should not be afraid to say, “Hey look, given the market that’s out there, this just isn’t going to sell. Trunk it and try again.” In the long run, that editor may be helping your reputation. But many who self-publish don’t want to hear that or wouldn’t believe it if they did.
The problem is that self-publishing’s image got off on the wrong foot. Many amateur writers that I know see self-publishing as just another Get Rich Quick scheme and there is good reason for them to see it that way. Almost everyone believes they are a good writer. How hard could it be to write a novel, put it up on Amazon and watch the money roll in, right? Self-publishing–what I’ve seen of it so far–does not attempt to establish a career path. It’s more like an open tryout for [pick your major league team]. Maybe one person in a thousand will make the first cut. Most others won’t. Some will even be hurt in the process.
This will be cured over time. Self-publishing and traditional publishing will evolve into something fairly similar. The economics of publishing virtually guarantees this. It is a kind of Duverger’s Law of publishing. Both sides will need to moderate their positions in order to accommodate the changing demand (just as Duverger’s law’s makes a third party difficult to emerge in a 2-party political system because each of the parties moderate enough to make the third party unnecessary.). What each side will concede is something I couldn’t predict. But it will be interesting to see what things look like five years from now when some of this moderation has occurred.