Kristen Lamb has a blog post that does a great job of refuting all those articles that trash self-publishers and try to convince readers (and self-publishing writers) that traditional publishing is the only way to go.
“Author Animal Farm—New York GOOOOD, Self-Pub BAAAAAAD” uses as its springboard a Huffington Post article by Laurie Gough… which Lamb highlights as particularly ironic, as HuffPo has made a rather lucrative business of printing articles that it doesn’t actually pay for.
One doesn’t need credentials or to submit queries to editors and hope one day this “news” agency will publish said article for actual money. Nope. If a writer has demonstrated an ability to cultivate readers, then Huff has slots available. They truck in wagons of cash and the contributor is paid in clicks and feel-goods.
Then Lamb does a great job of—ahem—skewering the Gough argument, and explaining to self-publishers why toeing the line set by the NY publishing machine is all bullshit in the 21st century.
Lamb makes the very significant point that publishing’s history has had a lot more to do with economy and profit margins than it’s ever had with writing talent or quality of content. And that’s where self-publishers have an opening: If they can provide a product people want, at a price they’ll pay, the traditional industry can’t do a thing to stop them.
What’s unfortunate is that the traditional industry, knowing this well, already has the ear of the major media outlets, and is using it liberally to present all self-publishers as talentless hacks with no understanding of storytelling or the English language. Okay, that’s not exactly true; what’s more accurate is that they’re whoring their own writers loudly enough to block any sight or sound of lesser writers in the public eye, and denying self-publishers access to major promotional venues. Then they try to claim that the reason self-publishers aren’t getting noticed is that they’re not yet good enough to be brought into the traditional publishing venues… something only the traditional publishers can determine for the readers’ convenience, thank you very much.
But however you slice it, it’s clear the traditional industry is using its power, influence and ready cash to cock-block any new kids trying to make bank on their block. And the readers are obediently going through the traditional publishers’ gates, apparently oblivious of the fact that there’s nothing preventing them from going around the gates to get what they want.
This makes it hard for writers like me to make inroads with my audience, specifically, fans of serious science fiction. Most of them have already chugged the kool-aid and swallowed the notion that only traditionally-published SF writers can be worth a damn… to the extent that they won’t even entertain the notion of checking out my books (if they even manage to find out about them).
Will it always be like this? Who knows… maybe I’ll find a magic price-point that readers will like, or some added content to my books that really pulls at them, and my books will start selling. Maybe traditional publishers will slip up and, I dunno, make clear to its audience how little it really thinks of them beyond their wallets, and lose favor. Maybe the public will see the traditional publishers as the pigs they are, and actively seek out new sources for entertainment from better and more honest sources. Maybe someone with an ear to the public will start talking about my books and give me some promotional influence. Maybe a major shift in the US economy will give self-pubs new, strong in-roads to the market. Maybe a meteor will wipe New York City off the map. A lot of maybes.
All I know is, none of those maybes are helping me… yet. But I’ll keep watching.
Lamb’s article is here.