Up the Workers

Another inter­est­ing piece in The Guardian about self pub­lish­ing (this is the term they’re apply­ing to inde­pend­ent ebook pub­lic­a­tion) by Alison Flood.

This caught my eye:

Publishing has always been a quasi-mono­poly built on the lock pub­lish­ers had on paper dis­tri­bu­tion. Digital dis­tri­bu­tion has broken that lock, but leg­acy pub­lish­ers are still behav­ing as though they have mono­poly power,” believes Eisler. “They’re run­ning their busi­ness with two gen­er­al imper­at­ives in mind: (i) main­tain the primacy of paper (in sig­ni­fic­ant part, by delay­ing the release of digit­al books and pri­cing them too high); and (ii) offer pun­it­ive fin­an­cial, cre­at­ive, and oth­er terms to authors. Or, to put it anoth­er way, pub­lish­ers are cur­rently run­ning their busi­ness in a way that pun­ishes both their end-user cus­tom­ers (read­ers) and their pro­viders (authors). This was sus­tain­able when pub­lish­ers faced no mean­ing­ful com­pet­i­tion. They do now, and will have to adapt or die, because yes, more and more authors are eschew­ing the leg­acy mod­el in favour of self-pub­lish­ing and in favour of the emer­ging Amazon hybrid mod­el.”

I, and many oth­ers, have com­men­ted on the art­icle. Brace your­self for the some­what arrog­ant mode, but I’m respond­ing to some counter-inde­pend­ent com­ments. It runs:

Interesting art­icle. I like the data (indeed, I’ve blogged on Scott Pack’s blog ‘Me and My Big Mouth’ a couple of times about my own ebook pub­lish­ing exper­i­ences, where I’ve tried to be trans­par­ent about my sales).

Whether ebooks will be good for the pub­lish­ing industry is a moot point. It is cer­tainly good for me. In my case, my first book was pub­lished by a small press and went nowhere because, back then (in 2005!), you had to get your book into a high­street book­seller or oth­er­wise die on your arse. Over the years since then, I’ve had count­less agents and pub­lish­ers rave about my work and then mut­ter some­thing about marketing/categorisation/effort and not pub­lish it. Clearly they thought it was not the both­er. I dis­agree, and I’ve now sold more than three thou­sand cop­ies since March.

Again, it’s a moot point wheth­er this is good for pub­lish­ing. I will be forever indebted to Amazon, who man­u­fac­tured and pushed the Kindle when every­one (includ­ing me, at first) was pour­ing scorn on it. They’ve giv­en me the chance to have people read my work. That was nev­er going to hap­pen with UK pub­lish­ers.

Are my self pub­lished books crap? Quite pos­sibly, but I don’t think so. Both were pro­fes­sion­ally edited and both have good cov­ers (the first my own, the second pro­duced by a pro­fes­sion­al). Both books have mean rat­ings great­er than 4 on Amazon. But, more than this, dozens of people a day are down­load­ing my books; a large per­cent­age of them will be read­ing them.

That’s the revolu­tion: being able, as an artist, to reach the end point of the cre­at­ive pro­cess.

Up the work­ers.

Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

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