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When Critics Notice Self-Published Authors, the Revolution Has Been Won

A major book event occurred in today’s New York Times, when that paper’s leading book critic, Michiko Kakutani, reviewed a self-published book.

She praised the book, The Revolution Was Televised by Alan Sepinwall, and called attention to its being self-published. This might not open the floodgates to reviewers (what’s left of them) to consider other self-published books as worthy of their attention, but it shows that the tide is turning toward the author who decides to do it himself or herself.

Of course, it helps that this author has a popular blog about television shows, What’s Alan Watching, and it helps that Kakutani is a fan of the blog.

But it shows also the importance of having a platform – especially in our hyperactive age. Sepinwall has attracted people’s attention; he’s been building his audience for a while, and his popular blog is one of those must-reads for fans of interesting television (luckily a lot more interesting television is being created, which is the point of Sepinwall’s book).

But along the way, he developed a following, a tribe of people who wanted to know what he was thinking. His book develops an argument that his blog posts hinted at – the way that topnotch creative people were eschewing movies in favor of the freedom television provides as a means of expression for today’s audiences.

Just as Sepinwall used the Internet to air his views, build his following and find an audience for his books.

Although the Times review is likely to spur sales of Sepinwall’s book, what’s more important here is that a critic at a major newspaper considers a self-published book worthy of her attention and, by extension, that of her readers. What about all of those old canards that publishing houses are the gatekeepers of quality? I don’t know why Sepinwall decided to self-publish, but it might have something to do with his own quality control, better royalties and the ability to own the product himself, rather than be a cog in a machine.

Traditional publishing isn’t going away – but self-publishing is more and more going to be given respect, as more and more authors of quality decide to release their books this way.

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