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What's so bad about transcending?

The verb "transcend" suggests by implication that the thing being transcended is a bad thing, as when a critic says an author "transcends genre x," (x being any genre you care to name). It's clear the critic doesn't think well of genre x. The Style section in today's Washington Post had an article on the dichotomy between "self-publishing" books and "self-publishing" CDs and record albums. The article is titled "A New Chapter in Self-Publishing; More Authors Riff on Rockers' Approach Without Indie Stigma," but if you look for the story through Google, the Google results list entry says "More Authors Transcending Stigma of Self-Publishing."

Just the term "indie" says it all. In the music industry, and in film, indie means edgy, arty, not-for-or-from-the-masses. Some kinds of music (punk, alternative rock) take it a step further and view going with a major corporate producer as "selling out." Contrast that with print, where self publishing has often been referred to as "vanity" publishing. The meaning of vanity is obvious. The presumption is the self-published author can't face the reality that his or her work is not good enough to be published.

According to the article, that's changing, and I agree. What's changing is not just a matter of technology (POD, ebooks, the web) making self-publishing easier, but the recognition that commercial publishing houses are providing a 12-inch pipe for a six-foot stream of books. Sure, a lot of books they reject are not well written, but a lot of what they apply as a filter is their own perception of what's marketable. What self-publishing does is let the market decide what's marketable.






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