Elitist Attitudes Against Self-Publishers

Recently, I came across a post from a blog simply called Penn Group that, as an independent publisher, really got my blood boiling. (For another take on this same post, check this post on the Populist Publisher.)

The April 2 post, entitled “Self-Publishing Disasters, Part 2” begins with this statement: “Self-publishing companies are the dumpster-divers of the book world.” From there, it asks why authors feel the need to publish their work if no traditional publisher would have anything to do with it. The author of this post “investigated” her curiosity and found three noteworthy cases: books with bad titles, bad cover art, and bad subject matter that justified her position. It’s obvious she doesn’t care for such works, and based on the examples she presents, I would agree with her.

There are a lot of terrible books thrown together using print on demand (POD) technology and subsidy publishing companies that accept anything someone wants to pay them to print. These “works” give self-publishing a bad name and lend credence to views like those expressed in the Penn Group blog. As a result, self-published authors who care about their craft and the books they produce have begun calling themselves “independent publishers” rather than “self-publishers.”

But there are bad books produced by traditional, big-name publishers as well. In recent years, I’ve purchased books from reputable publishers that contain lots of misspelled words and poor grammar. Should they be considered worthy of the dumpster (or at least the bargain bin)?

There are elitist attitudes against self-publishers that permeate the writing world. The Penn Group blog seems to be another proponent of it. If a writer’s work doesn’t pass the scrutiny of the big publishers–regardless of the reasons–it’s not worth being publishing at all. That’s the mindset of many aspiring and traditionally published authors as well.

Fortunately, there have been many others who broke the traditional mold, produced their own books, and profited from them. They learned the craft of book production to create books that match or come close to the quality of those by the big-name companies. Self-publishers fill niches the traditional publishers won’t touch because of their limited appeal. Local, regional, and family histories immediately come to mind. Without them, a lot of history would be lost and not shared.

Just because a book happens to be self-published doesn’t mean it’s “dumpster-diver” quality. Each should be judged on its own merits and not by an elitist attitude.

UPDATE: The Penn Group blog will now have a “Self-Published Book of the Week” feature every Tuesday “by popular request.” But don’t think it will be positive. Here’s their first selection.


Kitty League Site Update Coming Soon

While I’ve been focusing on promoting my book Hurst’s Wurst and other projects, I’ve neglected my five websites: the Kitty League, Indy Graveyard, Ken Boyer, Fielding Hurst, and Adam Huntsman.

Last weekend, I gave a presentation about the Kitty League’s ties to the Southern Association at the 2008 Southern Association Conference in Nashville, TN. All the work I did to prepare for it sparked my interest again in the Kitty League–which had stagnated–and the book(s) I’m supposed to be writing about it. So I decided to take the first step back on that path by redesigning and revamping the Kitty League site. There will be a new look and hopefully some fresh content posted next week.

Adam Huntsman and His Entertaining Wooden Leg

While searching the online newspapers for articles related to Adam Huntsman, I came across this gem published in the Baltimore Patriot and reprinted in the Adams Sentinel (Gettysburg, PA) on Jan. 25, 1836. At the time, Huntsman had served only one month in the U.S. House of Representatives representing Tennessee’s 12th Congressional District. Initially, he attracted attention as the man who beat the celebrated frontiersman David Crockett for the seat; his humor and unique speaking style, however, quickly made their own reputations in the halls of Congress.

“…You know DAVY CROCKETT is said to have declared that he would not have so much minded his defeat in running for Congress last year if he had not been beaten by ADAM HUNTSMAN.

“But ADAM is not to be sneezed at after all. He made his maiden speech to-day [Jan. 15], upon the subject of extending the charters of the banks in the District [of Columbia], and I assure you the members more generally crowded round him than they have ever been known to crowd round MR. JOHN Q. ADAMS even. ADAM spoke low, it is true; but then, when he brought his grinning powers into full play, and brought his heavy hickory iron-shod leg–for you must know that the hero who beat CROCKETT, besides being short and thick, has a powerful wooden leg–down upon the floor in confirmation of a position, he produced an astonishing effect. From the distance where I stood I was unable to hear what he said; but from the crowd he drew about him, and from the peals of laughter which arduous suppression only prevented from reverberating through the Hall, I am anxious he is destined to become no less a Lion certainly than was his predecessor.

“Why, I am told that at some of the great dinner parties he has attended, the originality of his genius and notions far surpasses any thing ever manifested on such occasions by the renowned COL. CROCKETT. At a wine party, at the President’s, the other night, he declared the Champagne the best he ever drank. He said he could feel it go all over him even into his very toes, throwing up his wooden understanding at the same time, and taking hold of his iron shoe at the bottom. He was doubtless right; for if the President [Andrew Jackson] keeps Champagne that won’t penetrate hickory, he ought to abdicate in favor of the heir apparent [Martin Van Buren] forthwith.

‘I have heard many curious things about General HUNTSMAN–he certainly ought to be General, and I presume he is–which will not probably see the light before his life is got out in two volumes, duodecimo.”