I saw an interesting article in the Telegraph today, in which well known crime author Mark Billingham bemoaned the growth in self-published ebooks, claiming that the practice devalued literature.
This seems to be a constant source of controversy now in the publishing world, where some established authors and publishing houses discredit the material that is coming out of self-published authors while on the other side of the fence, new and unknown authors accuse the literary establishment of snobbery.
The whole e-book/self-publishing phenomenon is an interesting one. Years ago, when I was training in editing, self-publishing was severely frowned-upon – the term it was known by was derogatory enough: vanity publishing. The view was that it was for people with more ego (and money) than talent. However, with the growth in technology, these layers of cultural snobbery are gradually being removed.
Will this happen with children’s books? The situation looks less clear. Certainly with young adult titles the self-publishing route offered by companies such as amazon looks like an easier and attractive route if the more traditional path is hard to navigate or get a foot on. For picture books, however, where design and illustration are as paramount as text, there aren’t a lot of options available when you do a quick web search.
I can testify to this. Last year, at the end of the summer holidays, Holly and I wrote our own story: Useful Uses for Pets. Originally we were just going to laminate the pages and do a very simple form of binding. However, a friend told us about a company – Blurb – that offered flexible publishing options for people who wanted to create their own books, primarily photo albums with a difference. When we looked into it all it seemed like a great idea so we decided to try it for fun and ordered several copies for relatives as Christmas presents. We were quite proud of the results, which you can read online here. If we were to do it again, though, I’d scrap my rather unattractive writing for a suitable computer font but this was just meant as a fun project. We hope to perhaps do another this summer and will learn from the experience. It was much, much more expensive than a cup of tea though!
So what are your thoughts? Will we see self-publishing coming to children’s books? Would this devalue their worth?