Edgar Allan Poe has a lot to answer for. It was Poe, after all, who self-published his first book of poems, thus giving hope to rhymesters everywhere who have found themselves dissed, ignored and inadvertently humiliated by mainstream publishers.
Poe is the name often dropped by disgruntled poets whose dens are wallpapered with rejection slips ("Dear Sir or Madam: While your epic poem cycle on the history of the world's oceans is fascinating, we regret to say that it does not meet our needs at the present time.") Because the act of writing often is posited as little more than opening one's soul the way one would a can of ravioli, many people are under the mistaken impression that they can do it. We all have souls, after all.
Virginia Woolf didn't help matters, either. She and her husband, Leonard Woolf, started their own publishing company, the Hogarth Press. She didn't have to wait around for dithering publishers to decide if "To the Lighthouse" tickled their fancy. She just turned the crank on the machine.
Personal computers and the Internet's ability to fling information far and wide have furthered the idea of Everyday Shakespeares. As the joke goes: Everybody has at least one book inside him -- and most of the time, that's where it ought to stay. Technology has drained the humor from that jest, because now people can bypass the traditional gatekeepers: agents, editors, publishers. They don't even have to scrape up money for a so-called vanity publisher, as Poe did, or establish their own printing company, as Woolf did. One click and they're published.