A big question for all readers

02:56, Jun 20 2014

Good writing is good writing, one can argue, but it still stands to reason that one must have a way of finding that good writing initially. So if you stumble upon a book by an unknown author on Amazon, will you buy it if you like the look of the cover and blurb? Would you buy it over a book that you like the look of equally well, but from a traditional "Big 5" publisher?

I am not a literary snob, in the sense that I read across all genres, and have previously bought self-published books before. I started reading Hugh Howey about three to four years ago, when no-one knew his name and you could pick up Kindle versions of his book for .99 cents.

Nowadays, everyone wants a piece of him and he's revered as the god of self-publishing. That's not a criticism levelled at the man though - even back at the beginning of last year, when I interviewed him for this blog, though he was presumably already making seven figures a year then, he still cut an unassuming figure. Pleasant, polite, articulate, in many ways a dream author interview.

However, it feels as if the self-publishing vs traditional publishing debate has skipped over the people that should really matter to both sides of this argument - the readers. I can't think of a more appropriate audience I can pose these questions to, or whose opinions should matter more.


Going back to my own example, while I do buy self-published books, I buy more traditionally published titles. These are often back titles of things I've always meant to read, or that I've always wanted to own a copy of - like Ursula Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness, or Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House. I'm also planning to purchase Flowers for Algernon, due to the sad passing of Daniel Keyes this week.

These traditional titles are ones that I know of because they're already in the literary canon. I've heard about them from various sources. They are legendary. But how does an author these days make their work stand up to the test of time? In the age of fads and micro-blogs, when attention spans are shorter than ever and reading becomes arguably even more of a specialist activity than it used to be - where do people hear about and buy books by new authors and rising stars?

I'll open the floor up to you, dear readers, so pick your poison. Do you buy more books by self-published authors, or traditionally vetted ones that come with a big golden stamp of approval? Why?

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