I found a great question in our anonymous tips slush pile (sadly, we get tons of spam so it takes a while to weed through and find those gems you send in).
As an aspiring author, I read my GalleyCat emails religiously. Thank you so much for all of your great information! As I read about so many authors taking up their time and creative energy to promote their books (because publishers simply won’t do it) more and more I’m wondering, “What’s the point of a publisher?” What, exactly, do they do for those who don’t make it to the top of their lists? Add to this the apparent widespread problem with royalties, communication, etc etc, and I’m starting to wonder if I shouldn’t publish myself. But then there’s a black mark associated with that too. There’s NO hope for getting in the big stores when you’re self-published. And I see the point of that. Too many writers think their horrible crap is brilliant, so we need that filter of an agent/editor/publisher. But those people are making big mistakes, I think. When I read about that Flammable author worrying that publishers will smell an Iranian trend, flood the market with books that are too similar and then pull out when readers (shockingly!) get bored, I think to myself “How many times have we seen THAT in action?” More and more I’m thinking the wrong people are in charge of getting books to the reading public. And we writers are caught in the middle of it. What’s an aspiring writer to do?
This writer brings up some good points especially in the age of print on demand. Sure there are black marks associated with self-published works. All the major trades and reviewers refuse to look at the self-published work despite any merits it might have. However, POD can work to your advantage if you have a niche market. Take Daemon for example by Daniel Suarez. His book had a definite appeal to the tech sector who glommed onto his subject matter and chatted it up on Wired magazine and got kudos from Craig Newmark from Craigslist. He bypassed the normal review structure and focused on his core audience with a payoff… Dutton picked up the rights to republish it and the sequel. This process might now work for every book, but it can when there’s a ravenous core audience to tap into.