Home » Non-US, Self-Publishing » Self-publishing is not revolutionary – it’s reactionary

Self-publishing is not revolutionary – it’s reactionary

30 May 2014

From The Guardian:

Self-publishing has always been possible and, indeed, for centuries waspart and parcel of literary culture. Then it became expensive and, frankly, less prestigious, until digital books came along and made it affordable. Now price and success, too often the determinants of value, have made it respectable.

The idea of writers being able to bring their creations directly to readers is widely touted as a radical advance in authorial control and a revolution in the creative process.

. . . .

Unfortunately, self-publishing is neither radical nor liberating. And, as revolutions go, it is rather short on revolutionaries. It is actually reactionary, a contracted version of the traditional publishing model in which companies, who produce for a wide range of tastes and preferences, are replaced by individual producers each catering to very narrow range.

Self-publishing is supposed to democratise publishing. For Nicholas Lovell, writing in the Bookseller, “publishers no longer have an ability to determine which books get published and which books don’t.” In other words, democratisation is nothing more than the expansion of the publishing process from the few to the many. But this both overestimates the barriers to traditional publication – the vetting and selection process may be deeply flawed, but every writer can submit a manuscript – and underestimates the constraints of the marketplace. It also fails to consider whether the democratisation of publishing produces a similar democratisation for the reader by making literary culture more open.

By definition, self-publishing is an individualistic pursuit in which each writer is both publisher and market adventurer, with every other writer a potential competitor and the reader reduced to the status of consumer. Publishing then becomes timid, fearing to be adventurous and revolutionary lest it betray the expectations of its market. This is a natural tendency in traditional publishing but it is one restrained by the voices of its authors who are free to put their work first and entrepreneurship a distant second. With authorship and entrepreneurship now equal partners, the new authorpreneurs have thrown off the dictatorship of the editor to replace it with the tyranny of the market.

. . . .

The risks that are an inescapable part of an industry where every book is a gamble make traditional publishers very conservative. But they are far more liberal, far more radical than self-publishing in its current form. Cross-subsidies from commercial titles support poets, academics and writers of new and daring literary fiction who will never appear on bestseller lists. Such concerted action is impossible in a fragmented world where each writer pursues individual success.

Can a literary culture where writers are producers and readers are consumers be truly open? Only if your definition of an open society is one ruled by the market.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Nick for the tip.

PG wonders if the tyranny of the market is the same thing as the tyranny of democracy.

Non-US, Self-Publishing

88 Comments to “Self-publishing is not revolutionary – it’s reactionary”

  1. This is hilarious. The assertion that traditional publishers are braver and more likely to challenge market norms than independent publishers alone was worth the price of admission. 9/10 Poe’s Law Points.

  2. Zzzzzzzzz … wait, how long was I out?

  3. The claim that every writer could submit a manuscript was simply not true, under the traditional model. The truth is, any writer could submit to an agent, if he or she could locate one that was accepting new writers. Then that agent might look at the manuscript. And once in a while they might submit that work to an editor at a publishing house, who might eventually have deigned to look at it.

    • And submission isn’t even the issue. Publication is. How many authors have reported self-publishing work deemed “unmarketable” under the old model, only to find there’s a large market for it?

    • You could submit directly to many publishers. Chances of being noticed weren’t very good. Agents functioned as triage experts, weeding through the submissions for those books that were suitable to a publisher’s most current interests.

    • but every writer can submit a manuscript

      That shows the flaw in the argument. It assumes the power of choice should rest with a publisher. It now rests with the reader. Power has been taken from the old guard and handed to the individual customers, so, yes, it is a revolution.

      One can almost imagine mad King George, tottering around some Manhattan office, not even aware he’s losing the colonies…

  4. “Publishing then becomes timid, fearing to be adventurous and revolutionary lest it betray the expectations of its market.”

    Bullsense. I could write this generation’s “Finnegan’s Wake” and publish it for free. I could publish today’s version of “Dubliners” that the Irish typesetters refused to set because of its content and not worry that Amazon would pull it. I could publish today’s “Sister Carrie” that Doubleday abandoned because the publisher’s wife was offended.

    In short, I could write the stories I want to write, the way I want to write them, and not worry that a publisher would refuse it, edit out the uncomfortable bits and slam an inappropriate cover and only print a couple hundred copies and then bury it.

    In the collectivist mindset of The Guardian, freedom is slavery, independence is threatening, and enforced unity is paradise.

    All hail the collective (as long as you plebes aren’t in charge)!

    • I was thinking about how this was a classic case of turning reality on its head. But I think it is a classic case of a capitalist oligopoly trying to protect its interests (that is the status quo publishing industry) against a new capitalist mode of production (that would be Amazon and us) rather than an ideological dispute between collectivism and private property.

      • I would agree, except that the Guardian newspaper is very left-wing. Maybe there’s a Venn diagram going on here?

        My wife, who reads a lot of websites about resource depletion, sustainable living and the like, noticed that the far left and the far right meet on certain areas. They both are suspicious of government, both advocate banding together and sharing resources, etc. The only difference is that the far right seems to have more survivalists (and more guns).

        • It is true that the Guardian is left wing. I believe it is supported by a foundation, so profit isn’t an issue per se. My real point was that big publishers will use any argument to support their case for protecting their continuing oligopy, regardless of whether the arguments are vaguely “progressive” (protecting culture and protecting people from big bad Amazon) or vaguely libertarian (Amazon is a collectivist leviathan that will absorb all and destroy competition).

          Basically, they will glom onto any argument of convenience that supports their case, and take advantage of what are sometimes called “useful idiots”, whether from the left, right or center. It won’t matter if these arguments are at cross-purposes, either. That’s how it is when peoples real goal is to protect their turf. If I was a big publising exec, I would characterize this column as coming from a useful idiot of the left.

          • “big publishers will use any argument to support their case for protecting their continuing oligopy”

            Agreed.

            That happens to every company that gets big enough. Even the Silicon Valley companies, which were supposed to be run by libertarians who love the innovation a free market delivers. At least until they learned how to use patent law to shut their rivals down.

      • I’m inclined to tag this as collectivist or statist thinking. Only the smart people (the publishers) should decide to get what the not-as-smart people (the readers) should see. God forbid the producers and the end user should meet without that all-knowing, all-benevolent middle man to make sure the transaction goes properly and take his tax.

        As for the tyranny of the market? Huh? People who write for niche markets can now find them, and not be stopped from even getting out the door. In my first year on Amazon with one book up, I made $200. Not a lot. With my second book up, I’m about to realize another $200 for this month alone. What would I have made in traditional publishing? Nothing. I don’t think it’s the market that’s the tyranny.

        Also, I wonder how many poets make a living on that cross-subsidy?

    • “All hail the collective (as long as you plebes aren’t in charge)!”

      That’s how it struck me. He writes, “Self-publishing is supposed to be democratise publishing,” but…further down, “self-publishing is an individualistic pursuit…”

      So, one author, one vote doesn’t work for him. It’s only democracy if it meets some other criteria, never clearly stated, but it requires vetting and no “fragmenting,” e.g., me just pushing “publish” and finding readers.

      • Self-publishing is only bourgeois democracy. True democracy is Marxist-Leninist democracy, in which the Leader votes, the Leader counts his own vote, yea or nay, and if any opposition is required, the Leader finds it within himself. Everybody else does what the Leader says and shuts up about it.

        That is the only true democracy. It says so in Comrade Stalin’s articles in Pravda.

  5. I think PG puts these out there to remind us that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

    The opposition to self-publishing – to letting people have their say, and seeing what readers think of their ideas – is not passive. It is actively out there trying to win everything from space in newspapers that still do reviews to time on NPR to positions on Amazon. To block these ideas from readers AND writers before they’ve even had a chance to breathe.

    They are entitled to their opinions. They are not entitled to block the opinions of other like us who differ.

    BTW, the price of Freedom (to block the net – which I’m about to do) is around $10.

  6. This is so poorly thought out it doesn’t even rise to the level of being wrong. It is just nonsense.

    • You should read the comments on the article. There were over 150 last I checked, and the author is arguing in many of them. He’s not doing so well.

  7. Cross-subsidies from commercial titles support poets, academics and writers of new and daring literary fiction who will never appear on bestseller lists. Such concerted action is impossible in a fragmented world where each writer pursues individual success.

    In reality, all of that (including “daring” lit-fic) is increasingly rare in the trad world, which has holes in its hull and is ever-more risk averse. The idea that “cross-subsidies” can “support” poets and academics is a chimera with rare exceptions.

    But in the “fragmented world” at least each writer is free to pursue their own passion, and keep their rights to boot. I don’t see how this makes a robust literature “impossible.”

    • The risks that are an inescapable part of an industry where every book is a gamble make traditional publishers very conservative. But they are far more liberal, far more radical than self-publishing in its current form. Cross-subsidies from commercial titles support poets, academics and writers of new and daring literary fiction who will never appear on bestseller lists. Such concerted action is impossible in a fragmented world where each writer pursues individual success.

      Mr. Skinner must be using a different dictionary, because I’m failing to see how anyone can take the notion that publishers are more “liberal” or “radical” than individual authors seriously.

      Maybe it’s my selfish nature but the section I’ve bolded has always been a sentiment that annoyed me. The same industry that gave us an absolute glut of zombie, werewolf, and vampire teen romance novels, at the expense of just about everything else, wants us to take them serious when they say they “support the serious arts”? You know what, I’ll not even argue against that assertion. Let’s presume they actually do support poets, literary fiction, and otherwise unmarketable “art”. Why should we care?

      If the cost for supporting a few high art poets and literary fiction authors is the complete stagnation of modern literature than, I’m sorry, I’d rather see them support themselves.

      • I’m perfectly fine with their going back to the old model and being supported by the aristocracy. I’m sure there are many wealthy people out there who would love to have a court poet or a court writer at their beck and call.

        • It could even become a status symbol for the seriously wealthy. That would be cool.

        • Extremely few wealthy people nowadays got that way by spending their time sitting around and reading books or poems that some court fool wrote to flatter them.

          Before you can have aristocratic patronage of the arts, you have to have aristocracy; and that means inherited wealth and power. That way Daddykins can do all the nasty grubby work of making money, so you can be a precious aristocratic flower and sit around munching bonbons and supporting the arts (or whatever else you want to blow his money on).

          There’s not much around of that anymore. People can inherit wealth, but they can’t inherit power unless they also inherit a large share of the brains and talent that created the wealth. And people who have those things don’t like to sit around and play aristocrat.

    • Plenty of “serious” literary fiction writers have paid the bills over time by writing commercial genre fiction under different names for publishers. Self-publishing makes it that much easier to write zombie/billionaire romance/post-apocalyptic/[insert popular theme in genre fiction] books while carving out The Great American Novel to earn $ while writing “art.”

  8. Oh God, I don’t know if I can read these kind of stories anymore. The tsunami of crap about bad Zon and the unwashed indie-writers is just getting so tiresome. At first it’s entertaining, then you feel kind of sad for them, and now you just want them to stop. They’re like a CD stuck on a really obnoxious song and you can’t eject the damn thing from the player.

    • You think this article is bad? Try reading the comments over there. You can’t scroll down the page without coming across a new “self publishing is crap” diatribe.

    • Sadly, this little drama is nowhere near complete. On the Kubler-Ross model the traditional publishing industry is just now deeply entrenched in the anger stage (hence all the steaming piles of vitriol being spewed via every single media channel they can force or coerce to do their dirty work, along with an able anger assist by wannabe-famous-author-journalists who think they’re going to hit the publishing jackpot someday and WHY ARE YOU STUPID SELF PUBLISHERS JACKING WITH THE SYSTEM HOW DARE YOU).

      Next comes bargaining for survival, which we have only seen the beginning of. Within the confines of this industry, I expect that stage to include some being bought out by corporate sharks and bled dry (already underway in the form of republishing backlists in ebook form and trying to force those very old contract terms to apply to ebook royalties, for example) some large trad pubs going under, some additional merging of companies, etc. How long this stage takes depends on some things that are really out of everyone’s direct control: How fast electronic devices continue to proliferate, how fast those device owners make the full transition to electronic books (hence paper book sales shrinking), and how often these publishers attempt to skirt the law (a la Apple) and land in hot water with the Justice Department and others. More of that will happen before it’s over, I feel sure, particularly because so many in the trad publishing industry are still so damn ANGRY about change that they’re more than willing to break the law to keep their “way of life” going. I feel like giving them all a hug and a copy of “Who Moved My Cheese”. Except I don’t want to hug them, ew gross.

      Depression and acceptance will come for the individuals within the trad pub industry when all is over for these companies (in their current incarnations) but the crying.

      It remains to be seen whether any of these companies will successfully transform themselves into lean, service oriented businesses providing services (covers, editing, marketing, etc.) for a fee instead of trying to take the bulk of the profit. I doubt it just because I think they’ll ride their current business model into the dust, and new companies will continue to form to provide author services under the new publishing model. (Any number of publishing employees may successfully make the transition though – if you’re a cover or layout artist, you don’t care what publishing or author services model your company’s business uses as long as your check is deposited every other Friday.)

    • Perfectly said, Stephen. I couldn’t agree more.

  9. What a yawn the Guardian has become. Most of our problems as writers are a result of our tendency to ‘put entrepreneurship a distant second’ – thus leaving ourselves open to exploitation by an industry that would much prefer us to be humble supplicants rather than business partners. I’d rather take my chances with the market in the shape of readers than the dictatorship of the unduly prescriptive acquisitions editor or agent any day.

  10. I would argue that self-publishing is neither revolutionary nor reactionary. Information reaching directly from author to reader is the norm, or should be. It harkens back to the days of oral storytelling. In certain times and circumstances it becomes necessary for middle men to enter the flow of information to ensure that it progresses from author to reader. But it is natural that when such is no longer necessary the middle men should be removed from the flow. There should be as few steps between author and reader as possible. This is common sense… to anyone who doesn’t make their living as one of the middle men.

  11. Wow, I couldn’t even get through the first third. I’m going over to the Indie Authors Quitting Their Day Jobs thread and see if there are any new additions.

    Way better use of my morning.

  12. And he’s “self-published,” apparently.

    #wut

  13. This was me at virtually every sentence of this article.

  14. Wow. So many different kinds of wrong in this diatribe. I though the Guardian was a little more discerning than that.

    Self-publishing _is_ revolutionary, which is precisely why the Bigs are so desperate to label it as something else. Indies are short circuiting the old model, leaving a lot of folks scrambling for the money that used to flow their way.

    Seems to me there was another dude who talked about workers taking control of the means of production… What was his name, again? Oh, well. Never mind. I’m sure he never inspired any revolutions.

  15. Skinner is perfectly capable of freeing himself from the “tyranny of the market”. He can get free web space on Google Drive (or many other places) and put his works up for all and sundry to download without charge.

    What’s that? He wants to get paid?

    Okay.

  16. Now I’m going to have nightmares about the “tyranny of the market!”

  17. So we are supposed to believe that the Big 5, including HarperCollins owned by Rupert Murdoch, are charitable institutions set up to support the writing of poets and academics. Riiiight. Sure they are and if you believe that follow me. I’m sure you’ll want to buy this very nice bridge.

  18. Tyranny of the market? You mean giving people what they want? A choice not constrained by elitist publishers?

    Nonsense from start to finish.

  19. “Cross-subsidies from commercial titles support poets, academics and writers of new and daring literary fiction who will never appear on bestseller lists.”

    Translation into Guardian terminology: take money away from the proletariat authors and give it to the elite authors.

    That doesn’t make sense even from a Marxist perspective.

  20. ROTFLMAO! This article? Talk about reactionary!

  21. How in the hell did the world end up in a place where the dumb kids in class you never wanted to get stuck in a group with ended up feeling like they could call the shots on what was allowed working conditions?

    Big 5 – Go get this guy, give him an outrageous advance and let him write one of those books that will maintain your “cultural standards”.

    The rest of us can’t work with this kid.

  22. I kinda want to quote Douglas Adams and say something about mindless jerks who will be first against the wall when the revolution comes.

    Instead the only comment I will make (other than the fact that the writer doesn’t seem to understand concepts like “democracy” or “revolution” or “reaction”) is to wonder where the readers are in his maunderings?

    The thing about indie publishing is that readers are no longer restricted to “approved” choices. And this goes beyond indie publishing. It’s Amazon (and yes, Google) that allows us not only to access books that writers write but booksellers won’t stock, and therefore publishers won’t publish; but also to access “lost” books.

    I am a huge fan of a mystery writing couple — Frances and Richard Lockridge — from the 1940s whose books are out of print, and may never go back into print. They didn’t have children, so I don’t know if the problem is that they don’t have an active estate. But I can still find their books at Amazon, and also read library archive copies via the Open Library.

    • Suburbanbanshee

      They’ve got a Kindle edition up of The Dishonest Murderer.

      (FYI: the Lockridges wrote the Mr. and Mrs. North mystery series, among other stuff.)

      • Never heard of them, just Wishlisted, though. 🙂

      • Yeah, I have The Dishonest Murderer. It has been there for quite a while, and no other titles have appeared … so I wonder if it was one where the rights were in the hands of someone who could exploit it… or if whoever has the rights is just trying it out. If so, it’s apparently not selling well enough to merit another title.

        (A warning about the Lockridges: Richard Lockridge wrote in a style that can be an acquired taste for modern audiences. He was a literary writer before he turned to light mystery and romantic suspense. So he uses a LOT of stream of consciousness. Here’s a book review I did for The Dishonest Murderer, which I think is a good starting place for reading them anyway:
        http://camillelaguire.tumblr.com/post/42399935161/book-review-the-dishonest-murderer-by-frances-and )

        My favorite books of theirs, though, are the four Nathan Sharpiro books they wrote before Frances died. These were written like standalones — protagonist-in-jeopardy suspense books — but were tied together by Detective Shapiro, schlepping along sadly in the background, sort of like a cross between Columbo and Eeyor. There are the hardest to find. (Though the later Shapiro books, more like police procedurals, are not so hard.)

        • I remember that series. I used to love it. A long time ago. In one book, you are given advice on how to put on a bra correctly.
          I think I really like the San Francisco setting best.

          • It’s actually Manhattan, and sometimes vacation areas upstate or in Connecticut. Could be you are thinking of another series? (Also, while there were some sophisticated aspects, that would have seemed a little rique for the series, though I wouldn’t say it was out of the question. These were written by the husband — the wife was idea person — and tended to be oblique on things like that.)

    • You must have missed it, Camille! Readers have been “reduced” to consumers.

      Don’t ask me what they were before, because I sure don’t know.

  23. Ugh…I’d love to peacefully stroll through my twitter feed without someone saying something monumentally stupid about publishing. I can’t even process how ridiculous this is. This may be the most clueless thing I’ve read this week, and given that this has been an exceptionally fruitful week for clueless publishing punditry, that’s a pretty impressive feat.

    • “I’d love to peacefully stroll through my twitter feed without someone saying something monumentally stupid about publishing. ”

      Yeah, and I’d like to wake up to find my bedroom stuffed with gold ingots. Get real, Dan.

  24. Self-publishing is reactionary? Yes, reacting to the s***** contracts from trad. publishers.

  25. Ok, Guardian, we get it, you hate self-publishing.

    • Except, didn’t the Guardian recently run a workshop for how to self-publish?

      I think the problem is a couple of powerful reviewer/gatekeeper types who have been curating Zadie Smith/Will Self/Jeannette Winterson/Hilary Mantel and other approved lit stars and are discombolulated if they have to judge writers without the Orange/Baileys Prize or the Man Booker Prize for the Guardian prizes to help them along.

      It’s all very ‘authentic voice’ and politically correct over there at the Guardian, and as I’ve said before, go to John Mullan or Robert McCrum for thinking inside the box. Of course, they tout good writers, just the same damn writers over and over and over.

      It’s a club, period. And now their clubhouse isn’t looking as cool and exclusive as it used to look.

  26. Sorry, I only took from this the point that authors who self-publish find themselves constrained to seek success at any cost; in other words, instead of writing “niche” books, they will analyze the market and write the books that are proven sellers.

    Seems to me that is exactly what is happening.

    • Suburbanbanshee

      Looking at Amazon’s self-published books, it doesn’t seem like there’s any lack of niche books. Heck, there’s no lack of literary fiction books or poetry books. Whether or not they’re any good or whether they’re selling, I don’t know; but they’re certainly out there.

      • Indeed. Where’s the trade-publisher support and nurturing of Dino Porn writers?

        As for the title, only Commies care what’s ‘revolutionary’ vs ‘reactionary’.

        • Actually, that’s just the common psychological reaction: when someone pins his identity on being a part of a cool group (to the Left, in this case) and then discovers that there are people who are actually cooler, by the standards of the group — you have to label those other people as uncool to maintain your standing.

          He’s claiming self-publishers are reactionary, just because being reactionary isn’t cool. If they are actually revolutionary and democratizing, then he’s no longer relevant and cutting edge and cool. He’s just an old fogey.

          I think these publishing have got that old kid saying backwards. It’s supposed to be “I’m rubber and you’re glue” but they seem to keep doing the “I’m glue and you’re rubber! Whatever I say bounces off you and sticks to ME!”

    • I only took from this the point that authors who self-publish find themselves constrained to seek success at any cost; in other words, instead of writing “niche” books, they will analyze the market and write the books that are proven sellers.

      Huh… I guess I never got the memo.

    • Huh, I thought zombie romantic comedy was niche. Who knew?

    • I’ve certainly heard of authors that write to market. Definitely not unique to self-publishing. It’s been going on since there were publishers.

      And there are those who shift their resources to writing the next book in a series if that series is doing well. Again, this has been going on for a long time.

      I’ve heard WAY more authors happy that they can now write whatever they want. And selling things that agents and editors told them wouldn’t sell. The New Adult genre exists because self-publishers proved people wanted to read those kinds of books.

    • Once again, you tell me that I don’t exist. I write exactly whatever the hell I want to write, and let it sink or swim in the marketplace. But according to you, self-published writers don’t do that.

      So if I’m a hallucination, just who exactly is hallucinating me?

      • Don’t be silly, Tom. You’re not the hallucination. Your books are. You haven’t really written or published anything; you just think you have.

        Damn, I was really looking forward to reading Lord Talon’s Revenge, too. You’ll just have to get off your butt and start writing your hallucinations down.

  27. I doubt the market cares if self-publishing is revolutionary or reactionary. I doubt it cares if it is democratizing. So what?

    And those poets, academics, and writers of new and daring literary fiction? They can dare to click on the Amazon upload button. Why should anyone care if they are subsidized by publishers or their own day jobs?

    What is so special about these poets and daring literary authors that someone else has to subsidize them? Zillions of self-publishers have demonstrated they can write good books while holding down full time jobs.

  28. Huh? I once had a college instructor who could talk for hours and say nothing. Maybe he’s working for the Guardian.

  29. Kr’neki

  30. Did Evolutionary occurred to the writer of this blog?

    • Of course not, because that’s not proper Marxist phraseology. Cut open the guy’s head, and you would be likely to find a rat’s nest of cogs and gears rearranging and spitting out bits of recycled Trotskyist jargon from the 1930s. ‘Revolution, reaction, revolution. Dictatorship of the proletariat. Betrayal of the revolution against the jackbooted lackey counterrevolution of the reactionaries against the worldwide proletarian revolution. I want free cookies. Socialist Democracy not Bourgeois Democracy. Revolution, reaction, revolution.’

  31. So he says that every other author is a competitor? Wouldn’t that always have been the case? And from my experience, other authors–indie authors–have been more than generous with their help and advice. If it’s so competitive why are there so many of us helping each other? Kboards regularly has threads dedicated to sharing information and I wouldn’t have published my books to Google Play without one particular thread. Also, look around at all the boxed set anthologies–we’re now banding together to pool our readers.

    • If it’s so competitive why are there so many of us helping each other?

      Because we suffer from false consciousness, from which only Marx the Great and Powerful can deliver us. Pay no attention to that bourgeois behind the curtain!

  32. They have to admit, it’s a pretty good reaction.

  33. I just don’t see why they’re so concerned with what self-publishers are doing. These people spend an awful lot of time sitting around labelling us. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m too busy writing books people want to read, to be worried about what trad-publishing thinks of me.

    Which, I imagine, it what this whole article is all about. Not that it matters (because, um, what do I care what this person thinks of me and what I do?) but writing in popular genres is bankrolling my “other” fiction – the truly niche stuff. The stuff that won’t sell well because it’s not commercial enough. The stuff traditional publishing loved but couldn’t sell (because the market was too small). The stuff that won’t pay the bills.

    Yeah.

  34. Maybe this is the guy that can answer what publishing a book by every single member of the Duck Dynasty family has to do with upholding the cultural standards of literature.

  35. Again yet AGAIN, basic logic FAIL. This article claims:

    “Cross-subsidies from commercial titles support poets, academics and writers of new and daring literary fiction who will never appear on bestseller lists. Such concerted action is impossible in a fragmented world where each writer pursues individual success.”

    Where in the bluewideworld does this article get the notion that authors of new-and-daring-literary-fiction, poetry, and academic writing are BARRED FROM SELF-PUBLISHING???

    -I- didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission to self-publish. Did you? Did HM ward? Does Lawrence Block? Or Hugh Howey? oes anyone? (Oh, wait, yes. Writers with broad “non-compete” clauses in the traditional publishing contracts may have to ask for permission–which can be withheld.)

    Why-oh-why do trad pub mouthpieces, such as the author of this article, keep making the ludicrous assumption over and over that Certain Types of writers CANNOT SELF-PUBLISH just like everyone else can? Why?? Where are they getting this bizarre idea???

    • Where in the bluewideworld does this article get the notion that authors of new-and-daring-literary-fiction, poetry, and academic writing are BARRED FROM SELF-PUBLISHING???

      No, no; they’re just barred from cross-subsidies. In other words, they don’t get to leech off us worthless commercial troglodytes like the special snowflakes they really are.

      How ever are we going to get good art unless we tax the art that people want to pay for art that people would pay good money to stay away from?

      • Well, that “subsidy” claim has always been grossly exaggerated. What commercial fiction has MOSTLY subsidized are middleman–retail corporations, distribution corporations, and publishing corporations–not other writers. There’s not that much money left over for “daring new litfic” and poetry after commercial fiction profits have paid for Manhattan office space, BEA booths, CEO salaries, and celebrity books that flopped after multi-million dollar advances were paid out.

        Besides, back to the logic FAIL, if the much-storied in-house “subsidies” for poets and new-and-daring-litfic authors dry up, they can self-publish, like everyone else.

        Yet we keep seeing this ludicrous claim in the media (and from various ignorant mouthpieces on the internet and at the BEA, etc.) that some types of work, such as literary fiction and poetry, will mysteriously vanish from the face of the earth if PUBLISHERS don’t publish them.

        • Besides, back to the logic FAIL, if the much-storied in-house “subsidies” for poets and new-and-daring-litfic authors dry up, they can self-publish, like everyone else.

          Sure, but then how will anybody know that they are literary? At present, the only real way of telling a ‘literary’ writer from one of us slobs is that some sufficiently elitist publisher says so.

  36. If you know the first thing about art history, you know that all revolution is a reaction to what came before.

  37. By definition, self-publishing is an individualistic pursuit in which each writer is both publisher and market adventurer, with every other writer a potential competitor and the reader reduced to the status of consumer.

    Uh . . . what was the reader before being “reduced to the status of consumer”? A benevolent patron of the arts? Yeah, I”m sure a publishing company’s marketing department, who mainly control what gets published, don’t see readers as consumers. Riiight.

    I’d suggest for indie publishers, readers are “reduced,” or maybe honored, to the status of fans.

    I think they’d rather prefer that. This article is so full of self-refuting logic, it’s like shooting at the side of a hill. You can’t miss very easily.

    • Uh . . . what was the reader before being “reduced to the status of consumer”?

      That’s kind of what I was wondering myself. I mean, as a reader, I certainly considered myself a consumer. I was really fine with that too.

      Maybe it’s just my dyed in the wool capitalistic nature kicking in, but how exactly is one “reduced” to the status of consumer when consumers are the most powerful forces in any market?

      As for the whole crock about how commercial publishing pays for more artistic writing, what does the Guardian piece’s writer think motivates traditional publishers? They don’t read a manuscript and ask if it’s artistic enough. They ask if they can sell it. They’re businesses. Profit is their sole motivator, which is quite alright.

      By contrast, indie publishing can be motivated by so much more than just money. You’ve got a story that you want to tell, and don’t care about money, then what’s the harm in self publishing that story? You don’t care if sells, whereas a traditional publisher does.

      Of course, if they admitted that, then one of their reasons for existence goes out the window, and they’re not about to admit to their growing irrelevance.

    • Uh . . . what was the reader before being “reduced to the status of consumer”? A benevolent patron of the arts? Yeah, I”m sure a publishing company’s marketing department, who mainly control what gets published, don’t see readers as consumers. Riiight.

      To the Curators of Culture™ in general, the reader is a guinea pig: a passive receptacle into which we put Literary Formula #4714-D, in order to see if this time the culture changes the way we want it to change, dammit!

      To Big Publishing, the reader is a unicorn: a mythological beast whose existence has been unreliably reported by booksellers, but that has never actually been seen by sober witnesses. At least not by witnesses who work for publishing companies.

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