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Paying for It

This week, there was a bit of a scandal when the New York times wrote about self published authors paying for reviews. It's interesting, and on a certain levels, shows the kind of money invested by authors who want a successful book if they're doing it themselves. But mostly, I was a bit confused by all the outrage. Of course self published authors are doing it: part of the struggle for authors who self publish is getting that sealed stamp of legitimacy, which has for so long been connected with publishing houses. For decades now, vanity publishing has been the last port of call for the desperate, for those who wrote, but lacked the talent and perseverance to sell their book for a pittance to a major publisher. Vanity publishing, now independent publishing, or self publishing, still is that, and it will always have an element of that, but there's more diversity to it now--but there's barely any recognition of that and so ventures like this exist. And it's not just this fly by night joint, either. The respectable Kirkus does it as well, though not as cheaply, and will not promise a 'good' review; but they'll still take the money off these authors and then run away laughing.

In many ways, the situation is one that the publishing industry created. We can all get worked up about the fact that someone sold cheap, highly rated reviews, and that's fine, but we should probably also be worked up that someone felt it necessary to toss a couple of thousand dollars to the dude just to be consider legit. Self publishing is not the dead end of publishing, just as major houses are not--and this, as with the other, was always true--the gate keepers to art and credibility.