“A self-published book is to commercial publishing what karaoke is to a live concert performance. There are some very good karaoke singers, but not many, and they’re not known outside of that bar.”
This quote is from the consultant to consultants Alan Weiss and with an initial look, his statement appears to be a slam against everyone trying to independently publish their work, but if you can get past your emotional response, Wiess’ simile brings out two important points.
First, self-publishing has created a way for all of us to write in public and some of us are just better than others. We need no more proof than watching the opening weeks to the upcoming season of American Idol to see the variability in talent that exists in the world. Worse, too many of us avoid any objective feedback that would show us where we rank against those who get a yellow ticket to Hollywood week.
Second, being big dog at Tuesday karaoke is not the same as playing the show on Friday or building a following that puts you on the road for two weeks playing a different club every night. Labels, studios, and publishing houses can help with making you bigger, but commercial media is about selling to thousands of people. Remember, editors and A&R execs want something that can be sold to more than the people who came to sing-a-long with you at the bar.