Sunday, April 28, 2013


Of course we should welcome David Mamet into the ranks of self-published authors.  Isn't the great of Broadway and Hollywood attesting that it is OK to self-publish? Our website,, already said so.

But let us not claim any victories. On the contrary, his joining us only makes things more complicated.

Mamet’s decision to do his next book without a traditional publisher does not mean that self-publishing will stop being discriminated: he will enter center stage, already  successful and we will now start hearing literary bigots say: “Some of my best friends are self-published.” They will continue with the canard that the majority of indie writers aren’t treated as equals because of their own fault.  They won’t say that “all self-publishing is garbage” anymore, but that enough of us are.  Most of the second class citizens of scribedom will still be tarred and feathered.

Well, people, we did not start self-publishing because we had David Mamet’s choice of a celebrity. We came to it because the publishing society didn’t give new talent a chance,well before we could turn our backs to it once POD and e-books became possible.

For the great majority of self-published writers, nothing will change: We are forced to take time from book-writing to devising marketing schemes on the internet, and to set siege to libraries’ castles, begging for access to the reading public. Don’t let me started on bookstores, as they are sore with us for being sold by their arch-enemy Amazon and for listing our titles with the merchandizing giant..

It doesn’t occur to booksellers that self-published authors would gladly list their books with them, if they would only agree to sell our titles. It is like shoe-stores refusing to sell boots that aren’t mass-produced. Or supermarkets rejecting local produce, no matter what quality.

When print and network media mention self-publishing, it isn’t to review the literary value of the works, but only as subject in business sections, treating it as a contraband and a thorn in the side of publishing houses. The reviewers don't review us simply because we don't have the imprimatur of one of the international conglomerates.

The “auditions” self-published books. A panel of three judges grants them (or not) our Seal of Good Writing and enters them into a catalog of Well Written, Well Edited, Unknown Books. They are indeed fit to be read; tell it to your librarian and book-seller: they seem to be deaf.

Self-published authors have a long way to go. By definition autonomous individuals, writers can’t organize strikes. But we can join as members of The and walk together on the long, uphill climb to recognition and acceptance of the many worthy books we produce.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


My collection of rejection from The New York Times is enriched by one more letter about self-publishing. This time, it was my response to a polemic between Maureen Sullivan’s (ALA) and Scott Turow (Author’s Guild) over the question of diminishing royalties to authors:

I agree with Maureen Sullivan (Letters, April 11) that librarians should love authors. As President of ALA, she knows that they are our natural allies.

But I also agree with Scott Turow oposition (Op-Ed April 10) to the trend to make everyone but the writers themselves profit from their labor. As President of the Authors Guild, he stands against further erosion of authors’ right to some fruit of their labor.

Missing from this debate is the question of the livelihood of independent authors, whose writings aren’t offered by mainstream publishers. Many don’t even earn the Authors Guild’s minimum requirement of a $500 annual income from their books. A great number of worthy titles are hidden from library patrons simply because they are self-published. Their authors don’t have the same access to the reading public, which should be the ultimate arbiter of their success of failure.

By the standards of today’s acquisition policies, Huckleberry Finn, Ulysses, and Zane Grey, alongside with works of Virginia Woolf, Marcel Proust and a long list of today’s classics would still bef ound only in the modern version of Samizdat  -- self-published but not on library shelves.

Our non-profit association of indie writers Is trying to level the playing field and gain acceptance by libraries of worthy titles by self-published authors. We offer indie books objective scrutiny by volunteer professionals, without any bias of personal taste or monetary gain.

We advocate both protection of intellectual propertiy rights and equitable royalties for all authors, self- or otherwise published.  All would benefit if the readers had access to all books to decide on their value and the resulting income of authors..

Monday, April 8, 2013


There is an interesting op-ed opinion, in The New York Times of April 8, 2013, by best-selling author Scott Turow, who is also president of The Authors Guild.

It is entitled "The Slow Death of the American Author."

Turow outlines the inventive ways publishers, and even libraries, are circumventing intellectual property rights, stealing in effect from authors a larger and larger portions of the proceeds on their works. Authors' royalties are being reduced and sometimes disappear completely under various schemes.

"Authors," says Turow, "practice one of the few professions directly protected in the Constitution, which instructs Congress 'to promote the progress of Science and the useful Arts by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries'. The idea is that a diverse literary culture, created by authors whose livelihoods, and thus independence, can't be threatened, is essential to democracy."

Even  the Supreme Court (or should i, considering its recent history of giving voting rights to money, not be surprised?) is getting into the act. Turow specifically refers to the Court's "decision last month to allow importation and resale of foreign editions of American works..." by which ruling "authors won't get royalties."

Warns Turow:

"The culture is now at risk. The value of copyrights is being quickly depreciated, a crisis that hits hardest not best-selling authors like me, who have benefited from most of recent changes in bookselling, but new and so-called midlist writers." I say this means self-published authors who aren't given a level playing field in the market of ideas.

My take is that we are witnessing and living in the period of intellectual usury. Usury, remind you, is a sin in the Bible. But we live in times where people leave the Good Book on the threshold of their houses of worship, and people of Law dispense mercantile justice.

As I wrote in a recent letter on behalf of The indiePENdents: “In our democracy, unfortunately just as in the defunct Soviet Union, the public does not have unimpeded access to a majority of printed books. The reasons are different: theirs were political, ours are economic, both detrimental to the quality of the society and the freedom of its culture.”

Jasha M. Levi, author
Founder and President