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A Note Regarding Yesterday's Post
c is for cat
None of it was meant to say that self-publishing cannot work--there are many kinds of self-publishing, and when passionandsoul  self-publishes his books on rope bondage, or alexandraerin  puts her stories online for donations, or haikujaguar  sells her books and art through her own site, these are obviously positive things. They are also unique, high quality, and not representative of any way of the experience most people will have in self-publishing. And it needs to be pointed out that my own success in that field is directly related to my traditional publishing career, not despite it or separate from it.

I like the cottage industries of etsy and Livejournal, I like the work of independent artists--but not simply because they are independent. And I don't want the entire world to become etsy. Most of my friends can barely get seen over there as it is, let alone make a living. 

Obviously I am as invested in the online donation model and crowdfunding as I am in traditional publishing. Which is why I would rather not be drowned in a wave of unedited horrorshows because a huge number of artistic paths and options got removed through the death of publishing. It's about choice. I should be able to choose as an artist to sell my own work however I like, or have it sold for me if that's what I want. Reducing choice is rarely good, and that's what Amazon is really doing: trying to reduce readers ability to choose anyone but them. And writers, too--let's not forget their attack on POD presses a few years back in all this.

What I said was that the self-publishing world contains vastly more badness than goodness, and navigating the reader toward your own work is brutally hard when most authors do not have concurrent training in marketing, professional graphic design and book packaging. This is not a controversial statement. All it means is that the good self-published projects out there are in desperate need of funding and attention because it's true even now that they are much harder to find than a book in a bookstore or on an online bookseller. (Check crowdfunding )

As for the idea that New York level editing is available free or cheap from your nearest writer-group buddy, I can only say I hope that one day those who think that get to work with a top-level editor, and find out what an amazing, transformative experience that can be, how it can help them grow as a writer in ways they couldn't imagine on their own, sort of by definition. Then ask that editor how much they get paid.

Self-publishing has so many defenders, crusaders, and zealots. It is not in any danger. It will always be an option. But options are what is in jeopardy right now.

To manglequote a favorite movie: Amazon is Amazon's friend!

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"...unique, high quality, and not representative of any way of the experience most people will have in self-publishing."

I'm self-published and I approve of this statement.

It's a little like what happened with "alternative" rock (what a label). It originally meant punk or the DIY experience, and part of that meant you had a lot of truly crappy, talentless bands to sift through so you could get to the few gems. Pooling a few hundred bucks to press your own split 7" with another band didn't make you a good musician, and sometimes it meant a musician that could have been good had their artistic development retarded because they never stopped making basic, easily fixable mistakes.

I see the same thing happening here. There are a couple of people doing the DIY thing right (I'd like to think I'm one of them; I leave that judgment to others). There are many orders of magnitude more people doing it very wrong.

That doesn't mean DIY is no good - just that one of the hazards of existing in that space is you have to work that harder to draw attention to yourself over all of the dross.

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You'd think.

Amazon doesn't really care about indie art, they want their cut. They have a 70% royalty rate, but it comes with a lot of strings and exclusivity contracts.

Speaking of self-publishing, I wonder what Amazon's policies mean to self-publishers selling their ebooks through Amazon.

Wouldn't Macmillan's model be advantageous for some small self-publishing ebook authors to use also (not pinned to Macmillan's $5.99-14.99, but with the same sliding scale principle, and the publisher setting the retail price).

Wow, editing sounds more interesting than I'd originally thought. Although I'm locked onto my PsyD target and probably couldn't afford to make a sudden right turn into whatever schooling pro editors need to do their thing, I wish I could get involved with it somehow.

I used to do incredibly detailed beta runs for other amateur writers, where I'd clean up the grammar and such; I used to send huge emails where I described what I was feeling and thinking at many points during the story, including my impressions of individual characters and larger storyarcs and whatnot. I didn't like the idea of trying to hijack someone's story, especially because published writers seemed so cranky about having to deal with editors, but I thought that the writer should know whether they're actually generating the sensation that they want readers to be feeling. Sometimes the writers rewrote things based on the feedback because they realized that they might have missed their target.

But reading things actively like that and giving such a detailed response takes a lot of time and effort, which is a big reason why I never do it anymore. Honing my skills to a professional level and then doing it for money would be kind of cool, since I enjoyed the work but can't justify doing it for free with my current schedule. :/


It does take so much time and effort and is a job, just like writing. Hence--they should be paid. I hate seeing that whole side dismissed.

It doesn't require any schooling, though most people have some four-year degree in a humanities field.

Book editing is mostly taught by apprenticeship. You work as an assistant to one or several editors for several years for very low wages. Being an editor encompasses a lot more than editing text, though -- we call that the fun part of the job.

To me, the weird thing is that reasonable people like you and Jay Lake are reacting to all this death of publishing nonsense as if it were an actual possibility... (well, I realize you're airing your views to explain things that perhaps should be obvious to people who don't get it. But still.)

I have no doubt that self publishing will grow as it becomes easier to produce and distribute ebooks on your own. However I do not expect publishers to say, oh well, I guess we'd better shut down... I expect them to continue to produce books, and do everything in their power to remain in business, including evolving in various ways to remain technologically current. I expect the majority of books read to continue to be books that exist in a physical format, in book stores and libraries. Most importantly, I expect that readers will pay money for the books they really want to read, which are written by the writers they know, and the writers they know are published writers. If all those writers start self publishing, that'd be one thing, but I don't expect that. Some people will be interested in a free or very cheap ebook by an unknown, to check it out, but they will still want their Stephen King book, or their Robert Jordan book, or their Palimpsest, and the retailer that continues to offer those books will be the one who gets their money.

I don't know. The only way I see publishing dying is if authors decide to abandon traditional publishing and self-publish en mass. And if that happens, then it will be ok, because the authors wouldn't do that unless it was better for them that way. As you said, if a company offered to do what publishers do, authors would line up to participate. As long as that's the case, publishing's not going anywhere.

At least that's how it seems to me.

PS I support you guys, I hope my sometimes reflexively combative tone doesn't obscure that. It's definitely unfortunate that some authors are taking a financial hit due to this foolishness. But I don't think the industry is about to crumble or anything.

I don't think so either, which is why I posted this.

To me, the paragraph in the original post about how if publishing did die somebody would set up a publishing house and authors would flock to it illustrates why it's not going anywhere. It fills a need. I believe self-publishing is going to go to some amazing places because trad publishing doesn't and can't (and shouldn't realistically be expected to) fill every need.

After everything I've read from you, as well as quite a number of other author friends of mine, over the past week's worth of publishing/e-book/Amazon vs. Macmillna posts here and on FB, I believe the safest course is to just continue to write for my own pleasure and not even consider having something actually published.

Except that in the end it's the best job in the world, when it goes your way.

While I applaud your writing for pleasure, I hope you can do it for money as well. Especially because if it's good, I'd like to have a chance of seeing it. And that will only happen if you publish, either traditionally or on your own.

That said, I think it's strange you would react to this week's events in the way you describe; I don't understand why this weeks events would effect your desire to publish one way or the other. If you want to write, and you want to perhaps make money at it, and most importantly you want people to see what you wrote, then nothing has changed this week: publish. If you don't want to make money or be seen, again, nothing has changed: don't publish.

I would be interested in further explanation if you have it though.

I wrote a few (possibly) passable stories. One of my stories was edited and it became more than passable. I LOVE EDITORS.

You know, I'm glad to see someone stop and point out the obvious things about Amazon in all this.

I was listening to somebody on NPR giving an address about the economy (we came in on the middle and left before the end so I don't know for sure who it was) and one of the things he talked about was corporations raising their profit margins by slashing how much they pay their workers.

I really see this kind of deep-discounting (not just Amazon's e-books but the print books offered at Wal-Mart and the big boxes) of industry-produced books as the same thing. Authors aren't employees, but those who are working to produce value for the company are getting less of it back.

The longterm effect of this strategy--as it's employed across is that the working class doesn't have the money to spend that should be driving the economy... it's a classic example of concentrating money at the top of the heap and widening the gap between the top and the bottom.

I favor cutting the price of e-books below print when doing so puts more money in authors' hands, which usually means when they're doing it for themselves. It's one of the only places that the self-publisher can compete, price-wise, and charge a price that people are comfortable taking a chance on an unknown.

I share people's enthusiasm for things like Amazon's self-publishing stuff, though I think it needs to be tempered by the realization that most people who undertake it will "fail" if their goal is more ambitious than "make my stuff available". There are more degrees of success near the bottom when going that route than there are the traditional way, but that strangely doesn't make it easier to become Stephen King/J.K. Rowling.

I'm not sure how this week's bumbleblast is supposed to help self-publishers, except possibly giving more authors motivation to self-publish (and possibly discouraging Amazon from fixing self-pub ebook prices, and encouraging other vendors to compete with Amazon, etc).

Overall, the more feasible self-pub becomes, the more incentive for traditional publishers to treat their authors better. (Dare I say, sort of like a Public Option in a HC bill?)

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