I wanted to
inflict upon you share a few further thoughts with you on the matter. Why would a major publisher want to start a self-publishing division? The obvious answer is money, of course. Which makes all the noise about traditional publishers ensuring quality, curating culture, and defending literature all the more obvious as the load of horse pucky it is.
David Gaughran did an excellent job on summarizing why this venture is a bad thing for writers. I’ll not repeat what he said here. For one thing, this isn’t an echo chamber, and for another, I doubt I could say it as well as he did.
Instead, I want to speculate on how this might come back to bite Simon and Schuster in the ass, and what serious writers can do to make that happen.
In the comments to my post, Paul McNamee speculated that this move may have been calculated “to sabotage the self-publishing industry from the inside out.” If I’m following Paul’s logic (and Paul, please correct me if I’m not), then what this company is doing is…well, I’m not sure. Because I can’t see any way that this won’t boomerang on Simon and Schuster. It might hurt self-publishing by taking some writers out of the game by creating such a hell that they give up writing. I’ll explain why that isn’t necessarily a bad thing shortly, when I discuss why not all writers are created equal. It might also give the general reading public the idea that all self-published books are crap. I think that’s what Paul meant. Even so, I can’t see Simon and Schuster coming out ahead in this deal.
Here’s why: Big publisher buys/creates/conjures-up-through-diabolism a division that will help authors self-publish. Fees for “publishing”, never mind editing, are exorbitant. Anyone who signs up for this program is either desperate, stupid, incompetent, or some combination of the above. If that comment offends you, too bad. People who pay vast sums of money for someone to do what they could learn to do themselves (publish, not edit) or pay a percentage for the life of the copyright instead of a flat fee for a service(editing, cover art, etc.) have to be at least one of those things.
There’s absolutely no reason anyone who wants to have a writing career would agree to those terms. Period.
What I think could happen is that Simon and Schuster, or rather Author Solutions, will begin to attract manuscripts that are horrendous. Horrendous in terms of quality, horrendous in terms of story, horrendous in terms of character. Horrendous, completely and totally. I don’t know what imprint these books will be published under or how closely they will be associated with Simon and Schuster in the mind of the average reader. From what I understand, most readers don’t know or care about the publishers of the books they read. I’m so far outside the distribution on this, it isn’t even funny. Ever since I was old enough to go to a bookstore and select my own reading material, I’ve been hyperconscious of who the publishers were. That was how I selected my next book. I looked for things by publishers who had published the things I liked.
What I predict is that the prophesied tsunami of crap won’t come from self-publishing in general but from this new venture of Author Solutions and Simon and Schuster. What I hope is that it will be so bad, and so many readers will get burned by what they buy, that they’ll start to look at who the publisher is more closely. And that Simon and Schuster will be prominently associated with this in the public eye. Resulting, of course, in falling revenue. A company that does this deserves all the bad that happens to it.
See, not all writers are created equal.. And I’m not talking talent here. I’m talking about professionalism. A true professional understands the field in which he/she works. Understands what is ethical and what isn’t. Understands that in almost every endeavor, success only comes after toil and hard work. That most writers have to learn their craft, and while some learn quicker than others, one novel, memoir, or nonfiction book does not a writer make. Dean Wesley Smith, in more than one post on his blog, distinguishes between writers and authors: writers keep writing no matter how many books they’ve published while authors write one or two books and never get over it, basking in the glory of a small number of publications, never building a career. I think he has a good point.
I predict Simon and Schuster will attract a lot of author wanna-bees, people who don’t understand the first rule about writing for a living. Money flows to the writer. Period. No exceptions.
In a way, Simon and Schuster will be doing the rest of us a big favor. They’ll be clearing the field of all the people who just want to be published. These folks will get discouraged and quit. Dean thinks this is already happening and that the trend will accelerate. Those serious about their writing will do the best they can on their current project, put it up for sale, and move on to the next project. These will be the people who will have careers. These are the people who will write great literature. These are the people who will define culture. Not the major publishing houses.
To paraphrase an old saying: The best revenge is in writing well. That’s how serious writers will help this horrendous lapse in judgment come back and bite Simon and Schuster on the ass. By writing good books, books that people will want to read. And doing it consistently enough and often enough that the difference in product becomes so obvious a blind man could see it. If that happens, and I admit it’s a stretch, then Simon and Schuster could very well get a reputation for producing a tsunami of crap.
I don’t know if that will ever happen. A lot will depend on how closely Simon and Schuster are associated in the minds of the public with what’s going to be coming out of this deal. There’s been a lot of talk in recent months that publishers need to develop distinctive brands in the minds of the reading public. That can be, and hopefully will be, a two-edged sword. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Oh, and I’m looking forward to Konrath’s reaction to the news.
I wrote last December that I wasn’t going to be buying many books from major publishers but would be focusing on indie works. That decision was reinforced today.