Stinging Criticism of the Publishing Industry

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Williebee

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You think you are curators of literature, and both authors and guardians of culture, but those functions cannot possibly be performed by any organization being run with a primary profit motive. You are no more curators of literature than Nike is a curator of shoes. If you wish to remain solvent, you can only be authors and guardians of culture to the extent that it helps (or at least, doesn’t harm) your bottom line.

hmm, you think? (seriously) I haven't met a publisher or agent who sees this as other than a business, -- find something I think will sell amongst all the stuff that won't.

It would tend to indicate that better market research (if that is possible) would be in order.
 

Phaeal

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Heh, I like their masthead. "Publetariat," that's a good one. The rant itself is nothing new, but then, rants seldom are. There's always someone, dammit, who's gotten to that rant subject before you.
 

ChaosTitan

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Something that strikes me as ill-informed:

You don’t release every book in print, audio and ebook formats. You release very few titles in audiobook form, yet fight against Text To Speech (TTS) technology even on books you have no intention of ever releasing in audiobook form. You don’t show strong support for cross-platform ebook standards, yet you fully support the proprietary file formats used on the Kindle and Sony Reader.

Perhaps the author of this article doesn't realize that publishers can't release books in audio or e-formats unless they have first obtained the rights to such formats. While e-book release is becoming more and more common and those rights are part of many contracts, not all contracts automatically give publishers audiobook rights. My agent helped me retain those rights, so we could sell them down the road (if someone offered). That means more money for the writer and has nothing to do with the pub house.

And the Text To Speech tech? Same thing as above. If you have a reader that will convert my novel to audio for you, then audiobook producers will be less likely to shell out the cash to buy those rights from me. Especially if readers start becoming more commonplace among average folks (read: less expensive, less delicate). That means less money for the writer.
 

veinglory

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Generally I see the reverse rant that publishers are money grubbers who won't take a chance on unrecognised genuis authors. But I guess for that every rant there is an equal and opposite rant.
 

ChaosTitan

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Generally I see the reverse rant that publishers are money grubbers who won't take a chance on unrecognised genuis authors. But I guess for that every rant there is an equal and opposite rant.

I found this on their "About" page:

When you're an active indie on one of those other sites, it's only a matter of time before more traditional-minded site members start belittling and dismissing you and your work because "you weren't good enough to get a real publishing contract," or some similar nonsense. This is a place where you will never again have to defend your choice to go indie, because everyone here has either done the same thing or supports your decision to do so.

I don't think your assessment is far off, Em.
 

MaLanie1971

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Thank you for sharing. I don't know enough about the publishing business to comment, but you brought up many interesting points that have me thinking.

I will say from experience as a consumer, I have NEVER paid retail for a hard cover book, I always buy them used. However, I will pay retail for a paper back.
 

Gillhoughly

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:editor's hat on:

:editor reads piece:

Editor:
Meh, another rant from a writer who couldn't sell to the big kids.

Sure, publishing is screwed up, so is everything else. What else is new? If it was a perfect world what would this ranter do in her spare time? Why isn't she writing a new book that I might want to buy?

Nuts...I've edits to finish, a coffee to drink, a bagel to consume, and lunch with a very sharp agent with new books to sell from writers busy writing instead of ranting.

:keyboard click as she closes the page and gets on with her job:
 

Medievalist

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April L. Hamilton said:
You think you are curators of literature, and both authors and guardians of culture, but those functions cannot possibly be performed by any organization being run with a primary profit motive. You are no more curators of literature than Nike is a curator of shoes. If you wish to remain solvent, you can only be authors and guardians of culture to the extent that it helps (or at least, doesn’t harm) your bottom line.

No publisher is acting as a "curator of literature." In fact I don't think this person even knows what the word "curator" means; and no, it's not a librarian, either. And no, publishers aren't interested in that, at all.

News Flash: Publishers, like editors, and agents? They're in it for the money. No, really! Their jobs like, you know, pay the bills. Yes, most of them also like books and reading, but curators? Not hardly. Publishers will publish absolute crap if enough people will buy it. They do this every day, and it's a venerable literary tradition that is well over a thousand years. (Yes, there is a medieval equivalent to the National Enquirer).

Secondly, Ms. Hamilton seems abysmally uninformed; the publishing industry is not in "more" trouble than any other consumer product industry is; they're all in trouble--because people don't have any money. Books are a luxury item. They always have been, and always will be.

Her comments about hardover books are half-witted in the extreme, to wit:

April L. Hamilton said:
Many times I’ve wanted a book that I couldn’t afford in hardcover, or didn’t think was worth the hardcover price, but the book was never released in paperback. Apparently you aren't aware of this, but cost-conscious consumers---and this group encompasses most consumers---will frequently "wait for the paperback" in the same way they will often opt to skip a movie at the theater and "wait for the DVD" or "wait for it to come out on cable". This business practice alone probably costs you millions of dollars a year in unsold hardcovers and lost paperback sales, yet you continue to do it because it’s traditional to your industry and you’ve attached a certain degree of status and internal fanfare to the idea of a hardcover release.

Well no, actually, they don't attach prestige to the hardcover. Authors do, and some readers do, but publishers? Not so much. Hardcovers sell to libraries; that's their main excuse. A hardcover is more durable; if a publisher thinks libraries will be buying a book in sufficient quantities, they'll release it in hardcover. A hardcover has four or five times the circulation longevity of a paperback.

You know, it's not like this stuff is rocket science. It's not like there's a publishing conspiracy. And by the way? "Indie publisher" does not mean I self-published my own book. Speaking of which: this is the blurb for her book, from Amazon:

book blurb said:
I announced the official launch of my new online community, Publetariat.com, on 2/11/2009. The site got over 7,000 hits in the first 24 hours following its launch, and 3-month average Alexa traffic rank in the top 6.92% of all websites-a figure which, when adjusted to account for the brief time period during which Publetariat had been open to the public, equates to a rank in the top 2% of all websites. What makes these results even more astonishing still is the fact that I'd only come up with the idea for the site one month before, on January 15, 2009. In 18 days, I'd taken the site from concept to go-live. In just 25 days, I'd taken it from concept to an Alexa traffic rating in the top 2% of all websites! In this book I explain how I did it, and provide the practical, concrete tips and advice you need to create your own online community success story.

This is filled with so many misunderstandings, beginning with the word "hits," that I am astonished. Her interpretation of ranking data is innovative, to say the least, not to mention the use of the word "community" in ways that make me wish she'd spent more time in online communities than she seems to have spent.

So yeah, clueless at best, and possibly, mostly interested in driving site traffic.

I'm increasingly tired of people who think publishing means

Writer writes book
Writer gets cover from digital stock and 'shops it
Writer prints book
Writer promotes book
Then A Miracle or Three Occurs
Writer is rich

At least she doesn't talk about bookmarks and lollipop trees.
 
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willietheshakes

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I dunno, Sask -- the rant struck me as ridiculously uninformed and self-serving. Lines like " You believe in the inevitable longevity of your industry, in its very right to exist regardless of profitability" are so ludicrously far from the truth of people actually IN the publishing industry that I can't take anything else in the rant seriously, regardless of any possible merit...

Someone has an axe to grind, and isn't doing it awfully well. If you're going to set up a straw dog, it should at least bear some resemblance to reality.
 

Soccer Mom

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Dude. That was a lot of words to say "be more responsive to consumers."
 

MacAllister

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The writer has no real concept of what publishers do, no real understanding of what "indie" actually means (it's not vanity/self pub) and comes off like a spoiled dipshit, honestly. I was rolling my eyes within a paragraph...and I'm not in publishing.

Honestly, anytime anyone does a rant aimed at "the problem with you people" they make themselves sound like an uninformed lout, and embittered, as well. This person doesn't understand publishing. They don't understand what publishers do. They don't understand readers. And worst of all, they're trying to paint their own ignorance all over everyone else with a rhetorical stance that presumes agreement. I read the rant, it got stupid all over me.

I tend to agree with the writer's own summation, frankly, "there’s no way some nutjob on the internet could possibly understand [publishing] as well as [publishers] do."
 

NeuroFizz

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Stinging criticism? More like stinking criticism. And in this case, she's farting in a broom closet.
 

KikiteNeko

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You don't have to sell out to be successful. That is a popular way of thinking. I guess because it's easier to blame someone else than to improve and be successful
 

icerose

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You don't have to sell out to be successful. That is a popular way of thinking. I guess because it's easier to blame someone else than to improve and be successful

Why is it considered selling out if you write fiction for the pleasure of others?

Who says people like Meyer and the like sold out? What if that's what they love to write? Selling out. Please. Not everyone writes literary fiction nor has the desire too, but I guess I'm just a sell out because I write what I feel like writing.
 

Bubastes

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Why is it considered selling out if you write fiction for the pleasure of others?

Who says people like Meyer and the like sold out? What if that's what they love to write? Selling out. Please. Not everyone writes literary fiction nor has the desire too, but I guess I'm just a sell out because I write what I feel like writing.

A-freakin-men.

Being called a "sell out" is a compliment. It means other people enjoy reading my stories as much as I enjoy writing them.
 

KikiteNeko

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Why is it considered selling out if you write fiction for the pleasure of others?

Who says people like Meyer and the like sold out? What if that's what they love to write? Selling out. Please. Not everyone writes literary fiction nor has the desire too, but I guess I'm just a sell out because I write what I feel like writing.

I'm in no way saying that good literature is sell out literature. What I'm saying is that embittered authors who can't get a break begin to accuse successful authors of being sell outs. Most of the successful literature I come across feels very honest, even "indie" sometimes.

But in the case of Meyer, I don't think she sold out; I think she LUCKED out. Because in her pages I see garbage as far as the eye can see. But that's a whole other topic.
 

icerose

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I'm in no way saying that good literature is sell out literature. What I'm saying is that embittered authors who can't get a break begin to accuse successful authors of being sell outs. Most of the successful literature I come across feels very honest, even "indie" sometimes.

But in the case of Meyer, I don't think she sold out; I think she LUCKED out. Because in her pages I see garbage as far as the eye can see. But that's a whole other topic.

Okay, sorry you had my hackles raised there, I thought you were saying you don't have to sell out to be popular as in many authors do sell out to be popular.

I'm okay. :)
 

MacAllister

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Here's the thing. Lots of people love baseball. They love to watch it played, they play in local city leagues, they play pick-up games on weekends, and they day-dream about playing pro ball.

Some people are good enough to play in the minors, where they get paid--albeit not a lot--to play the game they love. A very few talented souls play major league ball. It's not a matter of luck that gets them there, either--even though luck sometimes may play a part. It's that combination of talent, work ethic, and careful management.

So where on earth are all the websites rants about how major league baseball is broken, and playing in the majors is all about who you know not how good a player you are, and how the good ol' boys running the system are passing over world-class talent because they won't pay millions to Joe Bike-Messenger who pitches for a city-league team on weekends?
 

KikiteNeko

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So where on earth are all the websites rants about how major league baseball is broken, and playing in the majors is all about who you know not how good a player you are, and how the good ol' boys running the system are passing over world-class talent because they won't pay millions to Joe Bike-Messenger who pitches for a city-league team on weekends?


No websites for that. They've switched to podcasts.
 
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