Monday, April 06, 2009

Unsigned Musicians Can Create and Distribute a Demo Without Stigma, so Why Can't Writers Self-Publish and Distribute their Writing?

A few weeks ago, JL Powers wrote in the blog for Catalyst Books about the stigma around self-published authors, comparing their self promoted works to demo recordings from unsigned bands. Any fledgling musician with Garageband can make a demo and post it on MySpace. No one looks down on them for doing it, in fact, many great bands have started out underground, collecting a following before being signed to a record deal.

And it isn't just bands who are allowed to self-produce; saying you're writing and producing your own short film is considered cool. Saying you're self-publishing the novel you've given five years of your life to is considered pathetic.

Why does writing have to be legitimized by a publisher while music is allowed to be independent? Is writing so hallowed that it takes finding a golden ticket to be admitted into its league of glorious prose?

What makes writing so special?

I once thought that self-published work must be inferior, just as many people still believe. If it was any good, it would be bought by a "real" publisher. But as I've spent more time in the independent publishing world, I realized the reasons people self-publish are far more complicated than just not being picked up by a publisher. Many love the control self-publishing gives them. The author makes all of the decisions and keeps all the earnings. She decides how the book will look and how it will be marketed. For control nuts, it's the only way to go. Others might dream of being discovered by a big publishing company, but rather than sit around and wait for that day to come, they self-publish their book and start finding readers. Many self-published books are just too niche oriented or controversial for a publisher to be willing to take a risk on. And sometimes the book really is just plain awful, but the author believes in their book so much they are willing to stake their life savings on it. Gotta admire that kind of dedication.

I self published my how-to book, What You Need to Know to Be a Pro: The Start-Up Business Guide for Publishers, because it's about starting your own small press. It seemed ridiculous to ask someone else to publish it for me, like I was ashamed of the work my own press produced. So, does that make me a loser, or an entrepreneur?

What do you think. Why is it okay for a band to make a demo on their own and self promote, but it's not okay for a writer to self publish and self promote?


Anonymous said...

How many bands put there life savings into there band and pursue it seriously like a business and not a "fun thing" that gets them "chicks"? not many that I know of. There moms bought them there equipment and There girl friends pay there rent. Maybe band get more props because anyone who knows them are amazed they got off there ass and did something?

Jane Mackay said...

Very good point Terena. Definitely something to think about. I passed the link to this post on to a couple of authors considering self-publishing.