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Self-Published? The Numbers Don’t Lie

This morning’s books waiting to be opened and shelved at Book World. (Ron Charles/The Washington Post)

The book review department at The Washington Post receives about 150 books a day.

Read that again.

150 books. A day.

These are books that had to find an agent, then a publisher, then be professionally edited, and then find someone willing to throw marketing dollars at them, because The Washington Post? It doesn’t review self-published books.

They’re not alone, of course. Few major media outlets do. But if you’ve ever wondered why, or screamed about the injustice of a policy like theirs, here’s some insight.

Roger Sutton, editor in chief of Horn Book magazine, recently penned an open letter to self-published authors, explaining more or less why Horn Book magazine doesn’t review self-published books. There are several reasons, which Ron Charles does a nice job of summarizing in his follow-up blog at The Washington Post.

But this one stands out:

A related problem is that while many, many people want to self-publish their children’s books, far fewer actually want to read them.

Frankly, that’s not a problem limited to children’s books. Plenty of adult writers are more interested in publishing than in reading the work of their peers—and plenty of others are more interested in publishing than mastering the craft of writing.

The numbers don’t lie. More than a half-a-million books are published in this country every year. Whether you’re self-published or traditionally published, that’s an uphill climb if ever there was one. But the roadmap for success, for both, remains the same: study your craft. Practice your craft. Know your audience. Comport yourself professionally.

And for the love of all things sacred, use an editor. And a proofreader.