Self-publishing in a different world

Well, a couple posts at Kidlit on self-publishing have got me thinking. And so here we go, and questions about why gatekeepers of today insist on their value:

If traditional publishers are just gatekeepers and editorial control, then why don’t they fully embrace the self-publishing model, stop all contract based work, and offer their services as a purely validation unit, saying: this book is good, we would have published it if we were still printing books.

Oh, then I guess the only way they could make a profit is by having authors pay for editorial and reviewing services.

But they wouldn’t have to pay advances! They wouldn’t have production costs! They could just sit back and armchair validate by reading books all day!

Since ebooks can be edited after being put online, they could even suggest editoral changes. Isn’t it all great?

So, again, what do publishers offer in today’s world? If it’s distribution, the net is replacing it. If it’s reviews, amazon reviews and a million blogs are replacing that. If it’s editing, there are plenty of editors in the world. They’d just need to offer thier services as individuals instead of companies.

I mean, why not? Authors would have higher royalties (technically, they’d be sales now, not traditional royalties).

Right now publisher claim to have the right to prevent you from publishing a book. For various reasons, it could be ANY (some of which are valid). But they are ultimately just looking to sell for themselves. But to try and retain that right, there are various agents, editors, and companies claiming the value they add as publishers and gatekeepers warrants their existence as publishers.

So change to only giving the value you add. Only offer editorial advice, since an author can retain all their rights. By self-publishing. Allow Capitalism to work by saying it’s possible for people to publish independently, and add your value by judging the work, editing the work, AFTER the fact. Or condemn it and try to prevent the author from selling their work. But lose the right to tell people what to publish. It’s obsolete in the digital age. If publishers are now ONLY gatekeepers to keep out the slush, then they need to change their business model to judge whether something already published is slush or not. Not before the fact, based on whether they can market it themselves.

Would it work? Imagine this: The beginning of life itself starts with a fully advanced society where publishers don’t exist, but the internet is in every single person’s home. John writes a book. He takes it to Jack, and Jack is the best editor in the world, and everyone knows it. Jack provides advice, for a fee, which vastly improves John’s work. John then goes to Daisy, who is the best cover designer in the world, and everyone knows it. She makes an awesome cover for John, for a fee. Now John goes to Arnold, who is the best book reviewer in the world. Arnold reads the book, says it’s a 8/10 (a rather high rating from Arnold, and the world knows it!). John then takes his book online, where anyone can download it for a fee, or can print it on demand, etc. He has a great review by a respected “gatekeeper”, editorial input from a great “gatekeeper”, and a great cover from a great “gatekeeper”. He paid flat fees to each of them for the service offered, and pays a distribution cost per unit sold online, based on actual prices. He ends up keeping %80 of each sale, overall.

Now we have a capitalist creation. Without traditional publishers. Where John is technically self-published, in exactly the same way that several modern people ARE doing it. The gatekeepers, what purpose do they serve today? Will they serve that purpose tomorrow? In light of the above scenario, John has self-published with every benefit that current traditional publishers claim they offer, but retains all his creative control (he doesn’t have to listen to Arnold or Jack, but he does, as it’s his CHOICE), distribution, and method of profit. And if his book was slush, Arnold would have said it’s slush, said it publicly, and therefor nobody would have bought the book anyways!

And why not? There is an enormous amount of risk involved. But all the risk is on John. He is solely responsible. Right now, traditional publishers are the ones that take the risk. That’s why they decide what to publish or not. But I don’t want them taking control in the face of risk. Capitalism rewards individuals who take risks with large rewards. They may fail, but it’s on them. Additionally, a person could, in the above scenario, never go to Jack, Arnold, or Daisy, and do it themselves completely. And still succeed by being good. That’s self-publishing – succeeding under one’s own power. The big issues that people seem to raise is that with the rise of Self-publishing, slush will start appearing en masse. Books will be hard to sort through, and good stuff will be hard to find.

Oh please. How many books can you read in your lifetime? Lets say one a week for 60 years. Around 3000 books. Guess what: Google Books is supposed to have somewhere around 100 million books in it. There is already a huge amount of literature. 3000 is a small, small pittance of whats really available and 5-star work available TODAY. There already is far to much to ever sort through. That argument doesn’t hold water.

So stop condemning the thing that will affect a business model that might become outdated, and figure out what services your company should offer to remain in existence. Even if it’s smaller one.

955 words I could have used in a novel.

About James Ashman

I write books of the fantasy, heroic, and adventure types. So far. I'm an author who loves fantastic stories.
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2 Responses to Self-publishing in a different world

  1. Sue Collier says:

    “why gatekeepers of today insist on their value”

    Because they’ll be out of a job otherwise?! In all seriousness, though, I think the trads are starting to run scared. Self-publishing has been around for many years, but now that it is no longer just a blip on the radar but a movement in full force, suddenly there is a lot of talk about it. As an editor in the trade during the 1990s, I can tell you we never even considered self-publishing; it simply didn’t concern us.

    I found it interesting that the only point Kidlit pulled out of all the comments made the previous day was that the old-time literary geniuses self-publsihng cannot be compared to self-publishing today. I happen to think that’s a good point, but there were a lot of other good comments regarding self-publishing–none of which addressed.

    I thought it amusing that Kidlit made a case for traditional publishing because the authors of “yore” are going that route now. Well, they have not choice; you can’t self-publish if you are dead.

    Thanks for a great post!

  2. Sue Collier says:

    Ack! Sorry for the typos. It’s Friday. =)

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