Sunday, July 29, 2012

Barbarians at the Gate

I've spoken a few times before about the indie publishing movement and its shift from the fringe into more of a mainstream phenomenon.  However, not everyone is thrilled with this change in direction and the results it produces.

This article in the British press, linked to through The Passive Voice, shows the attitude of a lot of both traditionally published writers and publishing houses(as well as a few agents).  The general tone, besides revulsion and condescension, is sheer horror that these independently published amateurs are damaging the wonderful world of literature...the same world that produced such awesome works as this one.  Why, those nasty independently published writers will get the country club all icky!

The way we read is undergoing the most tremendous change we've seen since books became more marketable commodities in the late 19th century.  Anyone with an Internet connection and an idea can upload their work to KDP Select and consider themselves "published."  And those with a little bit of money can go the print book route with print on demand publishers like Lightning Source and CreateSpace.  This has caused high pitched shrieks from the good old boys club known as traditional publishing.  After all, the pace of publishing change is supposed to be glacial, not moving at warp speed like it has the last couple of years.
(Ahh...that's more like it)
Yes, with so much access, there will be a great deal of rubbish that will make into the reading world, but so will a great deal of stuff that traditional publishers ignored.  These may not be the literary masterpieces that the traditionally published world is used to, but a lot of them are great fun to read, and now they can get a chance to find an audience previously denied to them.

However, judging by the reaction, you'd think the Visigoths are coming over the 7th hill and civilization itself is about to collapse.  It reminds me of a scene near the end of the movie The Patriot when Lord Cornwallis laments, "How could it come to this?  An army of rabble.  Peasants.  Everything will change.  Everything has changed."

To me, only the barriers to entry have changed.  People will continue to buy either buy books or not based on whether they're any good - it's just that there's a much larger selection to choose from(or weed through, if you prefer), and consumer choice is supposed to be a good thing.  The only way this can be viewed as bad is if you view book publishing as an exclusive club whose membership should only be determined by those already part of it.  Unfortunately, as evidenced by people like Scott Turow, too many on "the inside" see it as exactly that.

What makes me smile, though, is that these gatekeepers no longer control the levers of total power.  They can try and stand against the tide of change, but they'll be little more than a voice shouting at the wind.  Now that the cat's out of the bag, you can't reverse the course of history, and a lot of them think this is the end of their livelihood, so they're naturally scared.

Traditional publishing won't go away any more than print books will, but their share of the market will be severely dwindled.  Folks like JA Konrath and Amanda Hocking have shown how possible it is to make a good living publishing independently, without having to go through all the bullshit a writer does with a traditional publisher - you get paid more regularly, control your own cover, and don't have to wade through contracts so lopsided that they would tip over the Titanic.

The barricades are down and the guards have run for the hills.  The only thing left is for the peasants to take the city for their own.  Do you have the stomach for the assault?


  1. Hi Russ. I like this after action review of blogging you provided!

    I was pretty surprised when you said you were going to blog 3x a week. I think you have done a great job keep it up. I often wonder what the right number of posts truly is. If you post all the time does it not become special or does it truly become part of one's routine? I don't know ya know......

    I agree on the consistency, content and such.... I have blogs I subscribe to that I simply delete....not yours though.... you always make me chuckle!

    I started out with two posts a week...went to three and just changed back to two. My reason being that I wanted to spend that extra time working on my next novel. Blogging is fun but I want to write novels! I am hopeful that novel writing will be the way I pay the bills.....blogging certainly won't be. I think blogging should compliment your book writing.

    OK, I could pontificate my thoughts on this all day.... but my question much to too much blogging? Any takers?

    1. I view blogging as a way to build a potential audience for my novels. Plus, it allows me to interact with that same audience.

      And if some things don't change soon, I'll have plenty of time away to write. :-/