There’s a long tradition of authors forming their own publishing houses to publish their own works. Look at Dave Eggers’ McSweeney’s, or Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth Press–both cases of authors publishing their own works. Or check out Louis L’Amour who self-pubbed as Lusk Press, which was his own concern. If you look further back, to the old times, self-publishing was the rule, not the exception. For a while there publishing was in a stage where the entry capital was just too large for any old person to publish their own works in anything resembling a professional format. It’s clear now that we’re in a different world.
Readers–some readers–report feeling cheated or deceived when they find out an author they are reading isn’t really published by a small press out of, say, St. Paul but is really just the author slaving away behind a business name. These readers feel that the imprimatur of a proper publishing house is a mark of pride, of legitimacy, that self-pubbed books lack.
I spent seven years working for a giant multi-national publisher. Big publishers care about one thing only: money. If that means throwing a ton of resources (read: people) at a project to make sure it’s done right, that’s what will happen. If it means taking a manuscript directly from an author and publishing it without even a proofread (which I was literally ordered to do, more than once) then that is what will happen. Where I worked Management had little profit matrices drawn up for every book listing how much they expected to recoup from them. Many books were published as loss leaders, which is to say they were published because the company *had* to publish them for whatever reason (contractual, market presence, copyright maintenance), but which brought in almost no money.
Can you guess how much attention the loss leaders got?
The idea that just because a publisher prints a book it somehow has the stamp of quality (or even has been proofread) is false. There are publishers who push terrible books out, who charge authors to publish books, who don’t give a damn about quality. There are also publishers who care deeply about their work (Hi, Small Beers Press!) and put out magnificent books.
There is no easy filter to tell if a book is quality except by reading it.
Pretending that an author running their own publishing identity is a lie is giving way too much credit to publishers.