Sunday, September 7, 2014

Elitism And Willful Ignorance

This post was originally going to be about an article I read on The Guardian's website that grossly distorts the price points associated with the indie publishing market.  JA Konrath and others have already thoroughly fisked the lack of awareness the author presented, but I figured that I could add my own take to the mix.  However, a new article then appeared in USA Today.  That was when I knew the issue was much bigger than one article by someone who obviously hadn't done her homework.

There is a wonderful mixture of elitism and willful ignorance on the part of those who deride the indie publishing scene.  Suzanne McGee, the journalist who wrote the piece in The Guardian, seemed to set out with two goals in mind - first, to let the public know just how much indie authors paid to get their book out there(all while publishing numbers so absurd I wondered how anyone ever got started...the figures she presented aren't anywhere near in line with reality); second, to discourage others from getting into the indie side due to the cost.  After getting absolutely destroyed in the comment by several self published writers - including Hugh Howey, Barry Eisler, and Brenna Aubrey - Ms. McGee revealed that she'd spoken to a whole seven self published authors(who she says she could get before her deadline to her editor) and that she included some costs as "essentials" that really are not(at least not in the range she mentioned; in other words, she used opinion as fact in computing costs).  Her piece was exceptionally misleading, and the comments beneath were near universal in both taking her numbers apart and in mockery.

It's the second article that fascinated me most, though.  Alison Levine is an author published through Hachette, and the Amazon/Hachette dispute is at the center of the indie versus traditional universe right now.  As every other Hachette writer has done, she comes down against Amazon for having the audacity to point out that obvious - that there is no rationale for pricing ebooks as high, or close to as high, as hard copy books.  This meme has become so widespread that I honestly wonder if Hachette has orchestrated a campaign to have its writers come to its defense.

Ms. Levine intimates that the poor masses amongst us aren't buying books anyway, so those of the literate who can afford to buy won't really notice the difference between a $9.99 ebook and a $12.99 ebook.  After all, those pitiful peasants are too cheap to appreciate real art.  She goes on to say that those paying $1 for used paperbacks will stick to that (implied) trash and just ain't sophistimicated enough to appreciate or buy ebooks.  Therefore the price shouldn't be affected by them.

In yet more arrogance, she compares novels to high end works of art that show the "artist's blood, sweat and tears."  She acts entitled to a certain price point, and those bastards who do silly things like react to the market are taking money out of her pocket.  She deserves to make an amount of money she thinks is reasonable.

These writers show next to no understanding of the dynamics of the marketplace, as well as a healthy underlying fear of what the indie market and the ebook revolution has done to their comfortable world.  These innovations have threatened their livelihood, and, dammit, that's just not the way the world is supposed to work.

Ms. Levine and others could do so much better by embracing the changing times and using their position to force traditional publishing houses like Hachette to pay their writers more so they can do wacky things like pay the electricity bill, but they've got theirs, so screw everyone else.  Fortunately for us, the public has a much larger share of the vote in this than they do, and that vote is beginning to show.  That's why they have to squash it - if things change too much, they'll have to go outside of their comfort zone.

Going outside of a comfort zone is what indie excels at, and such change is growing larger by the day.  Such is the natural result of an arrogant industry that thought it had control, only to find that the world is no longer what they thought it was.

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