I have been writing the occasional blog about self-published books, mostly as a way of encourage people to write them, and while encouraging them to write, to suggest–urge–that they get a good editor (or 2) to work on their prose and poetry.

Writing good prose is not easy and it takes a lot of work just to write one good sentence, let alone two good sentences. Lauri Anderson (Nigeria 1965-67) a creative writing professor as well as a novelist dropped me a note recently that I think adds to my discussion about self-published books. Here is what Lauri has to say:

“I have read a few fine books that were self-published.  An RPCV friend at the University of Michigan Flint self-published a novel that I read from cover to cover and enjoyed.  One of my favorite travel books was self-published.  For every one such well-written self-published book there are hundreds of mediocre or awful ones.  I teach English at a university and write.  I’m often besieged by people who call themselves writers because they self-published.  Sometimes it seems as if practically everyone that I meet is the so-called author of a book of poetry or of a children’s book or a travel book or… I’ve done lectures/readings/signings where everyone in the audience later approached to tell me that he/she is a writer too–invariably self-published.  Almost all of this stuff is awful.  A lot of legitimately published stuff is also not wonderful but at least it was edited and awkward sentences and bad grammar and poor punctuation have been cleaned up.  It also was chosen because it will have an audience.  I can’t imagine anyone beyond immediate family and friends buying most of the self-published stuff that’s now all around us.”

That said, I think that there is value in collecting letters and narratives of the Peace Corps experience into book form. But lets all remember that: just because you wrote it, that doesn’t mean it is any good as literature or even as a story. But on another level it is very good, for your recounting of your Peace Corps tale might someday have value as a historical document about the agency. That’s not a small honor to have, or to take with you into retirement.