Let me be clear right from the start, I am not a dichotomous thinker. So this is not a self-publishing versus traditional publishing, there can be only one! type of post. I have a lot of respect for many traditionally published authors, and I think it makes quite a bit of sense for those want to be the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. I once held that the only way to have a book published was through the traditional means of going through an agent and big publishing company. Over the years, however, I have come to really believe in self-publishing.
1. The Free Market
I honestly believe that there are a few things that should not be free market based, because the concern for profit countermands the very premise of those industries. I do not see publishing as one of those industries. When a few big hands control the flow of any media, there will be both advantages and disadvantages. One advantage will be a more precise control on quality. This makes great sense. If I find a few typos in a book I spent ninety-nine cents on, I will be able to quickly move on. If I find typos in a book I spent fifteen dollars on, I will probably not buy from that author at full-price ever again.
That is often the argument against self-publishing, that the quality suffers. I would contend that there are many ways of determining quality. One way is through the proper use of grammar and punctuation. Another is through sticking to proven elements of literary style. Yet another is through creativity and compelling characters and story. Creativity is one thing that suffers when novels are pressed through a mill whose very design is to ensure conformity to established standards.
I do very much strongly believe that grammar and punctuation are important. As a college instructor, I do really wish I could get many of students to see the value in using proper grammar and punctuation. I also believe that authors can look toward general elements of style that work well. For example, I was very thrown off when trying to read a book with an omniscient point-of-view, and I just could not get into the book. Third-person-limited just works. That is how it became an industry standard. However, I have also read excellent books that had serious flaws, but I still enjoyed them. House of Blades, by Will Wight is a great read. It was a very imaginative fantasy story, in an interesting and unique fantasy world. It has more errors in it than an Astros game. Mr. Wight has not followed some rules, including using professional editing, and having a professionally designed website. Yet he has really done well with his books. How? To me it is easy. The books are imaginative, have compelling characters, and are just fun to read.
Do I wish he had his books edited to remove the glaring typos? Heck yes. However his books have been successful because there is more to the success of a story than following paint-by-number rules that the publishing industry has built their empire on. Again, please do not misinterpret me, I am not saying that those rules are wrong. I am just saying that they do offer only a limited view. Not a wrong view by any means, just limited.
I think that general rules of thumb serve any industry well, especially one that tries to channel creative expression into something that a general group of people will relate to and want to consume. As stated at the beginning though, I am not a black-and-white thinker. There are many ways to achieve success, just like there are many different ways of measuring success. Please come back as I explore this topic further, and explore my other thoughts on why self-publishing here to stay, and why that is a good thing.