This last week there has been quite a lot of controversy about the growing number of publishers who are starting self-publishing arms to their businesses and the effect that may have on the book industry as a whole.
As I read the different opinions on both sides, such as an agent’s opinion from Rachelle Gardner and the counterpoint to that from Thomas Nelson CEO Michael Hyatt, I couldn’t help but think about Abraham and Sarah.
The Bible tells us the story of when God promised Abraham a son.
Now, Abraham was getting rather old and so was Sarah, his wife. Sarah was barren and now well past child-bearing age. When God told them he would give them a child, they set about devising a plan for how to bring this about. The best solution they could think of was for Abraham to get one of Sarah’s servants pregnant – which he proceeded to do.
This story just blows my mind. Seriously, where did they ever get the impression that God wanted them to do this? God said nothing to suggest that anyone but Sarah should bear Abraham’s son.
From what I understand though, it was quite normal in that culture for a man to take another wife or even just a servant woman to bear him a son in the event that his wife was failing to do so – and that’s where the problem lies. All too often, we look to our culture for answers instead of looking to God.
Did Abraham ask God “Is Sarah going to bear me a son or should I find another woman to be his mother?”
The bible doesn’t suggest he did and the evidence doesn’t suggest it either. He just blindly took matters into his own hands.
So what do Abraham and Sarah have to do with self-publishing?
I realize that every situation is different and there are some people for whom self publishing is the best solution but there are many who, I fear, will use it the way Abraham used Hagar, the servant girl – as an easy solution that doesn’t require faith or perseverance.
Many people feel that God has told them to write a book. I know agents and publishers don’t like them to lead with this information, but it’s always sitting there at the backs of their minds.
As the rejection letters start coming in, it can get very frustrating and disillusionment can set in. At that point, these writers have manuscripts that they are certain God has told them to write, but they can’t find a publisher… so what do they do?
They act like Abraham and Sarah and start looking for their own solutions.
That’s where self-publishing comes in.
Some people do the right thing and go back to God and he sometimes directs them to self-publish, which is great. If God tells someone to self-publish then self-publishing is exactly what they should do.
Others don’t go back to God though. They just jump straight into self publishing assuming it must be what God wants because they can’t get published by traditional means.
Going this route means that they miss out on vital input and very often skip or miss editorial steps like:
- Having an editorial service edit their work
- Getting constructive editorial advice from an agent
- Going through the editing process with the publisher
These steps refine, develop and improve books immensely and lift a book from merely being ‘good but rough’ to excellent quality.
If these steps are skipped, the quality of the work will be way below what it ultimately could be – meaning that it’s far below the ‘best’ that the writer can do for God.
For quite some time now it has been possible to self-publish but these new moves by major companies to make it even easier and more enticing to produce attractive looking books is, in my opinion, just throwing temptation into the paths of writers.
If Abraham had been a writer, I’m willing to bet he would have taken matters into his own hands, skipped some vital steps and produced a book which was well below the quality that God desired of him – and I fear that many of us will do the same.
What do you think? Are self-publishing facilities a distraction and temptation? Will they draw people into lowering the standard of the books they are writing?