Self-Publishing vs Sushi

This post, by Emily Casey, originally appeared on her blog on 12/27/11 and is reprinted here in its entirety with her permission.

Picture a small town in Pennsylvania where the Amish ride horses through the streets and sell quilts at the market. A place where the locals have names for things most people in the country have never heard of. I went to a writer’s conference in this town and met aspiring writers, top agents, and best-selling authors.

On the first day of the conference, a New York agent asked the locals of this small Pennsylvania town where to get some good sushi.

The response from everyone was pretty much the same: Sushi?!
We all had a good laugh about it and the agent handled the faux pas with grace, but it got me thinking. This agent is wonderful at her job. I’d have loved to have her represent me (only she didn’t work in my genre). I don’t think she’s out of touch with readers. But I don’t think she’s in touch with every reader.
Agents represent books that they like and think they can sell to publishers. Publishers buy books they like and think they can sell to booksellers. Booksellers buy books they like and think they can sell to consumers.

But shouldn’t that mean that there are books out there that would appeal to readers, but didn’t make the cut because they didn’t appeal to everyone else in the chain?


Readers like books from every part of this Venn Diagram.
Except that little grey circle. Nobody likes those.


You may or may not like sushi. But if you were stranded and hungry in New York City, I’ll bet you could find plenty of delicious food. Still, you probably won’t find a gumbo that compares to the real thing from Louisiana, or real, honest-to-goodness Georgia peaches. 

If you’re reading this, odds are you love to read. Odds are, you’ve read hundreds of great books and are searching for your next. Imagine all those books, the great ones that didn’t make the cut because a publisher didn’t think it had "mass appeal". 

That’s why I want to self-publish. Because just like Georgia’s peaches, I have a story to tell that you can only get from me. 

I’m not doing this because I think agents are bad people, or that publishers don’t know what they’re doing, or that chain bookstores are soulless. On the contrary. I think as readers, we’re indebted to them. They’ve made so many good books available to us. They don’t just shape the world of literature; they BUILT it. 

But the publishing world is changing. 

I’m not trying to find readers that hate all the books ever published so far. That’s crazy. It’s like saying you couldn’t find a single decent thing to eat in New York. I’m looking for hungry readers, the readers that might also like a book from a different source.  

Think of my book as a new food or recipe. Are you willing to try it?