The most common argument against the self-publishing market is that Free For All = Bad Quality. I've heard many voice their concerns over how difficult it will become to find good quality amid the debris that the wannabes leave behind and I must say that, for a while, this was a concern of mine too. For a time I had taken a snobbish position with respect to self publishing and had came to the conclusion that self publishing is for those who give up and take the easy road.. But- as often happens when your thinking is driven by prejudice or poor advice- I was wrong.
I must be clear about this: it is not that I didn't find the occasional junk as I shuffled through the digital Ebook shelves; it is that the ratio between crap and good is approximately in the same neighborhood as for that of traditionally published novels. When it comes to self-published Ebooks I've read unbearable rubbish which made me stop a quarter of a way through and I've read masterpieces written by indie authors whose names I instantly googled upon finishing. The experience with self published work was thus not at all different from that of reading traditionally published books
The reason, I've come to believe, is simple : The Laws of Demand and Supply. Quite simply, writing a book, even if it's a 1000 word short story, is damn hard. The work of those who do not invest the time and effort will be completely swept away by the tides of the hardworking and will perish unknown. These pseudo-writers would then, probably, resort to some other less time-consuming hobby and leave the writing to those who truly have a vision. So even though some day it might happen that you waste 2 or 3 dollars on incoherent scribble that some talent-less wannabe has shat, in the long run, you won't make the same mistake twice and there will be no reason in the world why that 'writer' would ever try to invade the market with his unprofessional writing again. There are millions of other ways to pass the time other than writing, so ultimately, it's those who can't live without it that survive.
Therefore for all those who like me want to go the whole distance, we need to keep in mind that it is only one law which determines quality and talent: The Law of Demand and Supply . No big publishing house can dictate what should or should not be out there. We should all feel glad that we live in an age in which technology has granted us the power to give it a shot alongside the big players and use social networking to bypass the enormous marketing requirements which only the muscled publishers can afford. But, and I feel obliged to repeat, it is only work of quality which will survive and the effort has to be equal to that you invest on manuscripts intended for publishers' eyes.
I hope that all of those who, like me, have embraced self-publishing can understand the weight of their responsibility but also keep in mind the enormous possibilities at hand. Just remember that in whichever form you try to publish there is always your reputation at stake and that should be enough of a tasty carrot to keep your focus where it belongs: on the craft.