For me, this is a huge problem, because I want to be able to trust that self-publishers can all be honest people. My experiences, however, have shown that the opposite is true. I've been approached too many times to count by people claiming to be traditionally published,
who, upon further inspection, are anything but; I've met people who try to tell me and others things about traditional publishing that are patently false (or not representative of anything but a severe minority), who then shrug off reality as if everyone else is ignorant and needs to learn the valuable lessons of Mr. Hoity Toity; and I've read dozens and dozens of blog posts and (about) books on self-publishing that make glorious claims about self-publishing, deface traditional publishing by showing only the darkest sides of the worst of them, and generally offer lists of lies, half-truths, or misdirections, which creates a vacuum that makes it very difficult to know where to look to find honesty about your options as a writer.
For every one good self-publisher I have met (honest people who don't lie about their publishing status, who are dead honest about what it takes to self-publish, who say that self-publishing is not for everyone, etc.), there are hundreds of bad ones. The fact that the second group is actively fighting to make changes go in their favor is disconcerting, because what they are ushering in isn't a world of quality-variety, but just any-old-variety. They want a world where readers become the filter; considering that these are the same people who claim that traditional publishers publish crap, it's somewhat self-defeating--turning literature into a game of "who has the most resources" or "who can play popularity bingo the best" is not necessarily going to produce quality literature.
And all of this creates a lot of problems for me, because there is nothing within self-publishing, with the exception of the chosen few, that I feel I can trust. It's mired in a sea of lies and misinformation that nobody seems interested in dealing with or is actually equipped to do anything about. Everywhere I look, the same things appear. It makes sense to me why so many people have come out of the woodworks with an anti-traditional view of things: when all you have to look at are half-truths or flat-out lies, you start to adopt those views too.
People like me take all of this and become even less friendly to the entire industry. Maybe we shouldn't, but it can't be helped. I personally don't appreciate being lied to or deceived; I want to know what I'm getting into before I actually get into it, to a certain extent (obviously I don't want to know the whole plot of a novel before I read it). For self-publishers, this might pose a problem, particularly ones that mean well and probably are quite good at what they do (in terms of the writing). I have no doubt that I'm missing out on a great number of good books by self-published authors, but the problem for me as a consumer is that finding these gems is not an easy task; I either have to do a lot of work to find the stuff worth buying, or I have to take an unnecessary risk. Most importantly, though, is that even with this one huge flaw in the self-publishing model, there is the greater flaw of the body of unofficial representatives who have done a fine job tarnishing the self-publishing name in the eyes of people like me (and there are a lot of us).
The question is: what can be done to bring people like me back into the fold? I used to read self-published novels, but after too many bad experiences, I stopped. What ways can self-publishers change the way their game is played so that people like me can feel some sense of trust in the whole "indie" thing?
I have ideas, but I don't think those ideas are favored among self-publishing types. Some folks have rejected the idea of creating a filtering system of some sort for self-published books, and others have thought me crazy for suggesting that creating your own press and not making it clear that you're self-published is deceptive. Plus, defacing traditionally publishing is not a good strategy; it might be an effective one, but it's also an intellectually dishonest one, since it does more to suggest that there is less "right" with the side that wants to be "right" than it does to suggest that the other side is "wrong." Are there campaigns for self-published authors that aren't in some way centered on or a part of the anti-traditional camp?
Lastly, what can self-publishers do to make me think there's value in what they do? I realize that writing is important to most self-publishers, but that is a reason for most writes in general, regardless of publishing status. What really makes what self-publishers do valuable to consumers?
I'd also really like to know what strategies are being done to make self-publishing look different, to give it a new face that reflects what it is actually supposed to be. Right now, I'm just not seeing it. But maybe I'm crazy and someone can point me to the magic places where things are right as rain.