I've been having a lot of conversations in person and online lately about independent writers—also known as "self-publishers." The field is growing quickly. Last year, Amazon sold more e-books than paper books. And Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler, two established writers, reportedly both turned down six-figure advances from conventional publishers in favour of self-publishing.
But I keep reading the ideas that the editors at the major "New York publishers"—the Big Six publishing conglomerates—provide a level of professional editing and quality control that is missing in self-published books.
I admit, there are a lot of poor self-published books out there. But there are a lot of poor books from the major publishers, too. And as for books that really need editing, just look at Stieg Larsson's Millenium Trilogy.
The Big Six have no monopoly on the English language, or on the ability to edit.
Commercial publishing is getting increasingly risk-averse. And it's a business. Writing, however, is a craft and an art, as well as a commercial venture, and most writers do not write just to make money.
We need to start talking about independent writers, those who control the publishing function themselves, in the same we we do about independent filmmakers and independent musicians. "Indie" group Arcade Fire, after all, won a Grammy.
Which means that book reviewers need to stop excluding independent publishers from their in boxes and review those works.
No matter how much the conventional, established publishing industry resists, independent publishing is growing fast and strong. It has already changed the publishing industry and will continue to do so.