Keith Snyder
Door always open.

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Why get mad?

Both the woman I originally addressed in my last post and my friend SJ (the second SJ who commented) questioned the anger I expressed in my rant about vanity presses. It took me a day to sort this out, but here's what I posted to Anna at Lee Goldberg's blog:

Self-publishing is something that aspiring novelists only do when they're desperate. As others have pointed out, nonfiction is a somewhat different species.

As for the word "should," it's my opinion that in the overwhelming majority of cases, aspiring novelists should not self-publish.

I'd like to address your bewilderment regarding the frustration and anger that you've encountered. I've been thinking about it on and off since yesterday, and I think I can finally express it.

To you, self-publication is a logical-seeming solution to a problem. To many of us, it's an ongoing source of frustration, because we've seen hundreds or thousands of people follow that logical path--and lose not just their money, but the rights to their own writing.

People who don't know how publishing (real publishing) works are easy targets because everything PublishAmerica says sounds reasonable. But it only sounds reasonable if you're ignorant of reality.

I've spent my entire life with artists of all kinds. I've been a gigging and/or working musician for decades, a published novelist since 1996, and I'm currently building a track record as a film director. I'm also married to a classical singer. In every one of these disciplines, there's a shadow industry designed to do nothing but prey on the aspirations of idealists, using logical-sounding come-ons and appeals to the admittedly very attractive fantasy of doing an end-run around the evil/closed-minded/corporate establishment.

I've seen too many people suckered. That's half of why I'm angry. The other half... well, that's my personality. I have a sixth-grader's sense of fairness and moral outrage. Unfortunately, I can't take a stand as a perfect, infinitely patient person. I can only take a stand as the imperfect person I am--and that overdeveloped moral outrage blows up when I see yet more idealists being led to the slaughter.

You may have found a solution that will work for you. But I think you can probably understand that you're also lending your voice to the support of an industry that hurts your fellow artists. (And whether you call yourself that or not, I don't know--but by my definition, anybody who creates something from nothing is an artist; or at least as close enough as makes no difference.)

This is what you're stumbling up against: Industries of con artists continually fleecing dreamers, and a few of us who are still more dreamerly than we might prefer getting good and righteously pissed off about it. I've posted reasonably and levelheadedly about this issue on any number of occasions; you happen to be the one that caught me when I was primed for a flash of frustration.

The industry is bad for novelists. It intends to be bad for novelists. Being bad for novelists is its business plan. It kills their bank accounts and the fruits of their not-insignificant labor. You may have been unfairly caught in the crossfire in this, and I apologize for my questionable aim; but you may want to step back and look at who's firing, and at whom, and why.

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