A few months ago I blogged about how frustrating self-publishing can be for readers. Without the filtering provided by agents, editors, publishing houses, and stores, we readers are faced with practically unlimited choices and extremely limited information about the quality of what's available. That's pretty daunting, and I'm still wary about how readers are supposed to negotiate that difficult and time-consuming terrain.
But recently I was reminded of the upside to self-publishing from a reader's perspective. Davin Malasarn, of the Literary Lab blog, published a collection of stories titled, The Wild Grass. A good number of the stories had already been published in literary journals, but by pulling them together, Davin created a lovely immersion into his writing and imagination. In "Rivers," we meet a Thai woman who's proud of her newly-electrified house yet so uncertain about its function that she takes care to dry her hand before using the switch. In "Bohemian," Malasarn writes with pitch-perfect precision about the pettiness and joy of a fledgling writer. Who knows if this book could have gotten this published the traditional way - it's certainly possible - but by short-circuiting that route, Davin forged a direct connection with readers and is able to offer his writing at a very affordable price.
Since the fragmentation of publishing seems to be with us to stay, I was glad to be reminded of one of the benefits. Now we just have to figure out how to identify all the gems out there.