Joe Konrath hosted Barry Eisler on his blog recently for this article: A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing: Eisler on Digital Denial. Joe’s comments are at the bottom of the article, and they’re worth reading too.
It’s reassuring to me that formerly traditionally published authors are now choosing to publish their own work. Yes, the barriers to entry are lower, and yes, that means less-than-impressive works reach readers.
But it also means that authors have many more choices, and many more opportunities to shape their own careers. Generally, I believe choice and options are beneficial, and for far too long, authors have been given few choices if they wanted to stay in the business.
I presume Eisler’s account of his talk is accurate – I wasn’t there, of course. There were a lot of witnesses, and given the reasonable, logical tone of his article, I imagine his talk was similar. So I find it intriguing that some agents and others in the legacy publishing system were so incredibly rude, unable to even consider the point Eisler was making. That tells me that A) those involved in legacy publishing feel threatened by the increasing choices authors have, and B) authors dealing with at least those individuals should be concerned with how they are treated.
As an author, I like to think that my words are a critical part of the overall book. The cover is important, the editing is important, the blurb on the back is important, but fundamentally, the book is produced by the author’s creativity, talent, and skill. The book IS the words between the covers. Everything else is icing. So it seems fair and logical to me that authors should be a valued part of the process of making and selling books. Without authors, books wouldn’t exist. These comments make it clear that at least some legacy publishers/agents/other personnel don’t think that authors SHOULD have choices. THE most critical person involved in producing a book should have no other options in how to get that book out to readers aside from playing by the rules set by an industry that doesn’t appear to value their contribution to the whole process. Really?
Check out Joe’s notes on the financial reality of self-publishing vs. the reality of legacy publishing. I’m not saying that self-publishing is for everyone, or that everyone will make money that way. In fact, I hope that overall, the competition for readers drives up the quality of self-published books (because I agree, there are some pretty horrifically bad books out there).
As an author, I like having choices and some level of control over my own writing career. Will I make a zillion dollars on my books? Not likely. But at least now I have options to shape my own career, rather than being at the mercy of a publisher who prioritizes another author’s career over mine.