Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Baltimore Mayor's children's book scandal draws negative attention to self-publishing even in print, not just online

Just when individualized Internet self-expression is coming under scrutiny from various threats (FOSTA, EU Article 11/13/17, fake news and even the left-wing idea of “stochastic terrorism”) now the book self-publishing industry gets a smear, from a scandal involving Baltimore’s mayor Catherine Pugh and her sale of her own self-published children’s books in her “Healthy Holly” series.

Remember, book publishers don't have a Section 230 problem;  they are responsible, but the volume of what they have to look at is manageable (unlike the case with YouTube videos) because of the "granularity" of the product. 
Mary Carole McCauley writes this up in the Baltimore Sun, "How the Rise of the Self-Publishing Industry Contributed to the Problems forBaltimore’s Mayor". 

The article points out that some famous literary figures, like Edgar Allen Poe and Walt Whitman have been self-published, and that the development of the Amazon Kindle (and the BN Nook) led to a book in it starting around 2007.

But actually print-on-demand had started before 2000, and I did my own print run (about 400) of my first “Do Ask Do Tell” book in the early summer of 1997, relatively inexpensively, although the binding wasn’t that good; I converted to POD in August 2000.

Not all self-publishers accept everything.  Page, for example, keeps saying “if we accept your book …” in its ads.  Some smaller outfits are more like cooperative publishers, and won’t accept material they don’t think can sell actual copies.

I could talk about how I’ve been “hounded” about why I don’t sell well now, and the fact is, personal accounts from non-celebrities don’t sell forever.  That was true with many autobiographical books by those caught up in “don’t ask don’t tell” (or maybe “do ask do tell”) for gays in the military as Clinton’s proposal struggled in the 1990s. Sales would be good for the first year or so and stop, even though most were from traditional publishers.
The Sun article notes that children’s literature is especially challenging for self-publishers.

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