Are Self-Publishing Authors Killing the Publishing Industry?

29Oct12

So says Melissa Foster in a post over on Huffington Post. Her primary thrust seems to be against the 99 cent novel. (I had thought it might be aimed at the atrocious conduct of too many SPAs (spamming, attacking reviewers, amassing paid and shill reviews etc.), which continues to be a concern.)

To which Passive Guy makes the following retort:

PG suggests the evidence demonstrates that traditional publishing grossly mishandled literature in the United States as it moved from a diverse collection of small publishers to a few large publishers owned by even larger international media conglomerates that care for nothing more than quarterly revenue and profitability. The combination of price increases substantially outstripping the rate of inflation and a stifling environment of homogenized me-too copycat titles was destroying the culture of reading in the United States.

Indie publishing has reinvigorated American publishing and is rebuilding the publishing industry in a different, author-centric form. Big Publishing has devalued the author of the written word. In a thousand different ways, megapublishers disrespect authors, forgetting that books don’t come from editors and agents and vice-presidents and bribes to the New York Times to obtain favorable reviews.

Twenty-five years from now the creative destruction of legacy publishing we are witnessing today will be regarded as a major cultural turning point, a literary renaissance. We will celebrate countless brilliant books created by authors who would never have been published by the corporate cretins that slithered into control of the levers of Big Publishing.

I tend to agree.

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8 Responses to “Are Self-Publishing Authors Killing the Publishing Industry?”

  1. I think the primary two concerns for indie authors right now are:

    [ ] Writers giving away their ebooks as a free promotion, which gives readers a massive supply that keeps them from needing to purchase books.

    [ ] Writers going all in with Amazon and ignoring Smashwords and other distribution outlets. While Amazon treats authors great right now, without competition they’ll be hard pressed to continue the great treatment.

  2. Stan, I have a lot of those free or really cheap books on my Kindle. They’re in the “not so good” file which also includes books from “real” publishers. Good writing is good writing wherever we find it. Thing is, there’s not so much room for complacency any longer. Big time authors whose work has gotten sloppy will still sell to their die hard fans but those same readers, or those who might have become new readers, have the option now of finding good writers in the same genre whose e-books don’t cost $20.00. By the same token, we can bypass the FREE TODAY shilling to buy a book from an author we know won’t disappoint.
    Kind of like going to a locally owned store instead of Wal Mart not just to buy local but also because they’re going to have what we want when we want it.
    And if Smashwords et al want us to buy elsewhere they need to make it easier for us to buy. Same goes for the boutique publishers who would prefer we buy directly from them. Don’t make it so impossible for us to spend money with you.

  3. We’re still in the “frontier days” of the new paradigm. A lot of this will shake out, eventually.

  4. Things change. I remember stopping at the drugstore for a coke after finishing my paper route in the late 40’s ($.05 for 6 ounces.) I discovered Faulkner among the druggist’s paperbacks (which I read for free while drinking the coke–because spending a real silver quarter seemed unnecessarily extravagant.) Now–god knows what the quarter would be worth–the book would probably cost $8.95. There wouldn’t be any newsboy to discover it (the newspaper has folded)–and all the 12 year olds are playing soccer (unheard of in 1948) or electronic games. Unfortunately, even the book business must adapt to change–but the return of ‘affordable’ fiction has to be considered a good thing.

  5. Self publishing became popular for one reason only; because authors were frustrated with Traditional Publishing. Not because they were being rejected for a bad project, but because someone said ‘Nope, that story worn’t sell.” How do they know? No one can predict the next hot trend, and saturating the market with one cookie-cutter genre will only result in a bloated market.

    • I do have a sense that many, many SPAs never sought the chance for rejection, DC. I suspect many of them never attempted the query process or an agent search. I think it became popular in large measure because it is so easy, anybody can do it. There are certainly many in the boat you describe, too.

      • Oh I agree, Pete, but the problem is, many fall into that mindset that it is easy. Honestly, what the hell is easy about it? Sure, learning to format and all that fun stuff, is easy. 😛 but it’s writing a good, solid novel–which is the important part, that’s hard.

  6. I never understand why people say that self-publishing authors are ruining publishing. Yes, publishing is changing, and yes, the 99 cent book may indicate something about the authors’ attitudes about their own work (or not), and yes, many self-published books are released before they’re ready, but it’s here to stay. Why flog a dead horse?

    Good books do not necessarily rise to the top of the bestseller lists, whether traditionally published or self-published, and discoverability is a challenge for any publisher, including traditional publishers. This has always been true. In the end, even if you don’t have much faith in the public’s tastes (and I don’t!), free speech must win the day. Let the crappy books make their authors tons of money, and, yes, let some good books rise to the top, too. It’s a lottery, but so is life.


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