This year's 39-strong longlist for the €35,000 Frank O'Connor international short story prize sees a runaway American bestseller vying with an almost unknown, self-published author.Jhumpa Lahiri's latest collection, Unaccustomed Earth, recently topped the US book charts and has been immediately pegged as the frontrunner. But the prize for the year's best short story collection in English has a record of rewarding new talent over established names - so Mary Rochford's self-published volume, Gilded Shadows should not be written off too quickly.
This is a very interesting piece of news from the point of view of The Short Review. Self-publishing is a tricky topic for reviewers. We currently do not accept any collection for review that was self-published or whose author is involved in running the press that published it. Why? Good question. There are terms I could bandy around, like "quality control" etc... But frankly, I've read some dreadful collections published by "mainstream" press. I guess what most concerns me is that some unnamed "floodgate" will be opened if we accepted self-published books that would overwhelm us. But surely the point of The Short Review is to celebrate all published short story collections?
There was a very interesting blog post on this topic recently on the Vulpes Libris blog, by novelist Anne Brooks. She starts by saying:
She and three fellow writers set up their own press, Goldenford Publishers. They have encountered difficulties getting their books into bookshops, but this is not something unique to self-published books - local authors, for example, are finding it harder and harder to get shelf space in their local bookshops. Interestingly, Anne found that "other shops, such as delicatessens, vineyards, and even museums, are more open to stocking self-published books and also arranging events".
Hello, my name is Anne and I’m a self-publisher. Yes, I thought I ought to get that out of the way at the beginning, partly because it’s true and partly because it’s sometimes akin to admitting you’re an alcoholic. Not done in polite circles. And once you’ve admitted it, people laugh nervously, fall silent or drift away. Often all three. Or perhaps that’s because I’m no good at small talk. It’s hard to say.
Half of my books are published by the small press and half are self-published. The latter is something I’m proud of, and am becoming more so as the years progress.
She sums it up by saying that
This is all food for thought for me as the editor of The Short Review. I would be very interested in hearing other opinions: for reviews of self-published collections or against?
One encouraging aspect of self-publishing is the openness of online books reviews to small- and self-published books.... In the online world, there’s an encouraging openness in giving critique to non-traditional books which is regrettably absent from the traditional hard-copy reviewing press. ... perhaps it’s time for the Times Literary Review and other such publications to wake up and smell the roses: self-published books are eminently readable and people need to know about them too.