Warning: This is a wandering, pointless post.

I received a book sample from a printing company (aka book manufacturer) that I’d queried. This is standard practice. Printing companies will often send out an example of their work that closely resembles the specs of book you’re planning on printing. I have a few copies of sample books. They’re actual books, printed by actual people/companies who have used the printers’ services and who have apparently agreed to have their books sent out as sample products. The subject matter is rarely compelling, but that is not the purpose behind the sample.

My sample was big (over 400 pages). The specifications of the book were what I was looking for, except that the trim size was a half-inch smaller than what I had specified in my quote request. I flipped through the book, noticing that it was not well laid out, which is a fault of the publisher, not the printing company. Obviously a self-published book, I looked up the website of the publishing company, curious to see if they’d done anything else.

I also wanted a little more info about the story. At first glance, it’s impossible to tell if the story is fiction or not. It’s written in the style of a tell-all from a woman who was the long-time booty-call of a famous comedian. She eventually figures out that he isn’t serious about her when he tosses her on her ear (long after he was married and raising a family). The comedian’s name and description was thinly disguised, so I was very curious if this was a real story.

The publishing house’s website turned out to simply be the author’s site. Not a promising sign. The site itself was pretty, but lacking in substance. The author had a book about communication in relationships and makes a living giving seminars on this topic. She also has a work of fiction coming out this year. My sample book was a brief mention in her bio as a work of fiction with a release date very different from the book’s copyright date but it was not available for sale.

I went to Amazon and looked up the book’s ISBN number. Nothing. I Googled the ISBN number and other details about the book. Nothing.

I’m still mystified. This book was printed, that much is obvious. It has an ISBN number and Library of Congress number. This is a real book. So where is it? What happened to it?

I flipped through the book, reading the first two chapters and the last section. The author was definitely trying to teach a lesson to women. But why skewer this particular comedian? The writing quality was poor and the editing non-existent, although an editor is credited in the front of the book. So either the editor is terrible or the author didn’t take any of her suggestions.

This still doesn’t answer why the book isn’t in circulation. Or does it? Did the author realize what a poor piece of work she’d poured her time and money into? Has she removed the book from all resellers and burned them? Was there a lawsuit by said comedian?

Although I have not read her other two books, the one sample on Amazon shows that her writing is slightly better, although the editing is still lacking. (She also includes her own poetry in one of her books. No one wants to read your poetry unless you’re dead.) I also searched for news of any lawsuits and there doesn’t seem to have been any.

My best guess is that she realized how bad her book was and pulled it. While that’s not a crime by any means, it’s a huge waste. Is this a lesson to always do work you’re proud of? Always do your best? Seek the expert advice of others instead of listening to sycophants?

Which brings me to the main issue others have with self-publishing. Nearly everyone, layman and working-writer alike, generally see self-publishing either as an expression of extreme vanity or as a desperate attempt to kill more trees for worthless drivel. This mystery book (and a few other books I’ve seen), could be held up as poster children for this argument. While I had a genuine problem finding an agent or publisher because of my “fringe” subject matter, I still have lots of doubt. Am I adding to the needless killing of trees? Or am I performing a service by making a resource book? Will I be so embarrassed by my writing that I pull my books in a couple years? (I hope not!) Will I want to rewrite the entire series and make it better? Yes.

This mysterious, crappy book spawned an hour-long discussion with my lover about a variety of topics, some of which I’m repeating here. One of the issues is the question of taste, which also skirts the issue of “publishers know best”. I’m betting that this woman had tried to get her book published in the mainstream arena and had gotten rejected so much that she decided to go it solo. (Her confidence in her own book seems to have been short-lived.) I wonder if her rejections were standard, or if they pointed out that she needed more writing practice and polish? Did she ignore this advice?

On my Links page, I link to the site Rejection Collection. It is an amusing and very educational site. The biggest shock to me was not the nasty rejections from some of the “professionals” who were queried, but the complete lack of any writing skill on the part of the writer doing the querying. This was shocking to me because I wondered why these writers were upset. Who told them they were great? When did they decide that they didn’t need to learn any more about the mechanics of English? What made them honestly think their work was good? Or at least literate? I’m not being catty; many of these rejected writers can’t put together an error-free sentence, much less express complex thoughts. Why do they feel their rejections are undeserved?

I said as much an e-mail to the owner of the site. Her response was mild but the point was that these writers are valid in their desire to write and valid in the pain of their rejections. I don’t know if this woman is really super-compassionate or just politically-correct. At any rate, one can view the Rejection Collection as a Special Olympics of writing, if one wants.

Carrying my musings further brings self-doubt. How different am I from them? I have my own string of rejections (when I actually received a response), which heavily influenced my decision to self-publish. How many more rejections will these writers take before they decide to self-publish? And now we’re back to the ego-serving, tree-killing-drivel argument.

Update

I wrote this post almost a year ago and still haven’t figured out where I’m going with my musings. But, in the interest of trying to post more often, I thought I’d throw this out. I still have the same questions but I haven’t figured out any better answers. This is just a mental wandering, I guess.

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