Letter to the Phoenix

Update: Published on July 19, minus the final sentence.

Dear Editor,

As a literary novelist who is self-publishing a book this year, I couldn’t agree more with Eugenia Williamson’s defense of the publishing industry [“The Dead End of DIY Publishing”, which appeared on July 3]. It’s certainly better for authors to get paid than to shell out, and the traditional model is preferable in almost every way. But Ms. Williamson overlooks one compelling reason to self-publish.Yes, ideally the industry functions, at least in part, as a farm system that allows “the nurturing of young writers . . . as well as critically worthy mid-list authors.” But the number of farm slots is so small, and the pressure on agents and publishers so great, that it’s very hard even for an excellent writer to break through without cronyism and connections. It does happen, but—despite years of work and plenty of praise—it hasn’t happened for me. Therefore, if I want to see my work in physical form before I’m 50, I have to do it myself. As for “fame, adulation, awards, and buckets of cash,” I’m under no illusion that they will come with self-publishing. Then again celebrity scares me, and profit has never been one of my motivations.

Best regards,
Cathy Jacobowitz