Thursday, September 29, 2011

Horseshoes and self publishing

Bear with me, because I'm off on the extended analog train again.

People who ride horses tend to have some...ideas...about how best to treat them. Five minutes on any equestrian board will show you arguments about when it's best to turn a horse out, the best bit for any situation, or...shoes.

Horse shoes are, in fact, the subject of a war of ideas between people who believe All Horses Need Shoes and those who strongly feel that Shoes Are Evil And No Horse Should Ever Wear Them.

And never, it seems, the twain shall meet. They strongly drown out the sensible horse people who actually think that, hey, it might depend on the horse and what you're asking the horse to do. I've known horses that could trot for six hours on tarmac without shoes and horses that needed them to do work in an arena on good footing. And in some parts of the world it's not uncommon to put shoes only on the horse's front feet.

The right kind of shoe is important, too. In England, for example, road shoes are common, much to the surprise of many Americans who have never heard of them. Road shoes have special studs, made of a slightly harder material than the shoe itself, set in the back of them, specifically designed to prevent a horse from slipping on tarmac. Carriage drivers know all about road shoes, but most casual riders in America don't and react to a horse being ridden and driven on tarmac with negativity. But nothing is quite as heated as the argument between the shoe people and the barefoot fanatics.

Well, except for the argument between the people who believe all self-published books are of lousy quality and not worth publishing and those who opine that mainstream publishing is evil, wants to control writers, is taking more than their fair share.

I have to admit I have long leaned towards the first side. It's my opinion that the majority of self-published books should probably not be published, because people are lazy and don't bother with editing or decent cover art. (And really, the right photo and a free graphic editor can give you decent cover art). Editing is a particular problem as professional editing runs to about $100 for a short story and between $1000 and $1200 for a novel. Most self published books don't make that much.

But, I also don't feel that mainstream publishers are evil and setting out to control writers. I also don't feel that there should be so many absolutes.

Maybe, just maybe it depends on the author, the book, and the circumstances? Is there any real reason why a writer can't do both, using self publishing for niche books and to put out back catalog whilst working with a 'real' publisher for novels they hope to sell thousands of copies of? Other than people's attitudes, I don't see one.

I give every kudos to people who self publish right. For me, I hesitate to spend that much cold, hard cash on editing on a book that might not make it. I'd much rather have a publisher to share the risk and the profit, but I also know that some times going it alone is the way to go. And maybe we need to stop arguing about whether to shoe our horses and look at ways everyone can work together for a healthier publishing industry.