Publishers and pies

Self-styled publishing industry pundit Michael Kozlowski, whose foolishness is exceeded only by his bad manners, had this nugget of conventional wisdom to offer in the comment box of an article on The Passive Voice:

Indie authors are for the most part very lazy. They spam out e-books without any regard for quality and think quantity is better. I have noticed over the years that if you mention the e-book industry declining they will always say “its [sic] because we don’t want/need an ISBN” and then they will defend the indie movement.

If indie authors really wanted to be taken seriously they would buy cheap ISBN numbers and be counted. But that takes a few hours worth of work, something they aren’t willing to do.

Indie authors for the most part are lazy, incompetent and have no regard for the self-publishing movement.

I found that I could not let this go unchallenged. My reply follows:


OK, Kozlowski. I wasn’t going to waste my time commenting on your drivel at its original location, because I have a pretty strong suspicion that disapproving comments are ‘curated’ out of existence. But you’re here, so I’ll have a bash.

We ‘indie’ authors are so God-rotted lazy that we actually start our own publishing businesses. We not only write the books; we hire editors and copyeditors, commission cover art, arrange for wholesale and retail distribution, handle our own promotion and PR, and not only that, we, unlike you, actually engage with our end customers, the readers – a section of the food chain that your part of the business is still barely aware of and never listens to. And we do all this on our own time and our own dime, without anybody paying us an advance. [Read more…]

The role of publishers in the Internet age

The publisher’s fantasy:

The reality:

Despite all our best efforts to educate them, consumers are not actually as stupid as all that. They know how to ride around. Alas.

Writers, on the other hand, can frequently be bamboozled into paying the toll. You just have to convince them that it will bring them Fame and Prestige. They want to brag to their friends and relations about being found worthy to pass the gate. They imagine that these persons will be impressed; whereas in actuality, the friends and relations will only respond with a hearty horselaugh. But by then, we have the writer in our clutches. Our minions’ contracts are for life and the afterlife; they are signed in the awful covenant of the Copyright Law, which is far more enduring than blood.

     (signed)
     H. Smiggy McStudge

Comparing notes

An interesting day today.

Our Esteemed Cover Artist, Sarah Dimento, delivered the cover design for my forthcoming story collection, The Worm of the Ages and Other Tails. (Current plan is to release Style is the Rocket in May and Worm in June. I have another short book that may be ready to go in July, if my health holds up.)

Here is a closer look at the cover:

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Author Earnings: The terrible horrible awful news

My dear McStudges, minions, slugs, and uglies:

The September report from Author Earnings is out, and there is good news and bad news.

The good news is that our paid and suborned propagandists in the human media are busily at work pooh-poohing the message, shooting the messenger, and otherwise smearing muck over the picture so that their victims will be gulled into believing our version of the story.

The bad news is the story.

It is vitally important, at this juncture, that we close ranks and maintain absolute solidarity whenever the humans can see or hear us. Among ourselves, we may bicker and feud as much as we please; our operatives will continue to feed off one another, as is our nature, for it is a Studge-eat-Studge world that we live in, and all’s right with it. But we must never be seen to fight in front of the servants. We must repeat the Official Story in absolute unison; but we must never be so stupid as to believe it ourselves.
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Isaac Bashevis Who?

From The Daily Beast (hat tip to The Passive Voice):

John Glusman, vice president and editor in chief at W. W. Norton, can still remember his first job in publishing. It was the summer of 1980 and he was fresh out of grad school, working as an intern at Viking. One of his duties was to file carbon copies of each week’s typewritten rejection letters. One Friday, as he burrowed into a filing cabinet, Glusman came upon an ancient rejection letter, written back in the 1950s. The book under consideration was a collection of short stories by an unknown author—in Yiddish.

The editor, obviously displeased at having to consider such an obscure book, scrawled on the typed rejection letter: “WHO IN HELL IS I. B. SINGER?”

Answer: the writer who would go on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978.

It’s nice to see that the Official Curators of Literary Culture in New York have always been doing the same bang-up job that they are doing today.

The secret of writing success

The word “secrets” implies that there are magical actions you can take to become a successful writer—in other words, that there exist sufficient conditions for success. (Let’s agree to measure “success” as a book that has had N readers since its release, where you pick N > 1000 to fit your own criteria.) I hate to say it. There are NO SECRETS – there are no sufficient conditions. There seem to be necessary ones, but some outliers often don’t satisfy many of those either.

Steven M. Moore

Why ‘the tsunami of crap’ doesn’t matter

Andrew Updegrove offers some gloomy prognostications about the difficulty of finding books one wants to read, and the continuing necessity of gatekeepers: reblogged at The Passive Voice.

Actually, his fears are groundless, and his prescriptions wide of the mark. Chiefly for my own records, I reproduce here what I had to say about the matter, with slight additions:


 

Discoverability is not linear, but logarithmic.

That is to say: Finding what you want out of 100 different choices is not 10 times as hard as finding what you want out of 10 different choices. It is only twice as hard. The difficulty of choice increases not in proportion to n, but in proportion to log n. (This is why decimal notation was such a brilliant invention. One digit is enough to specify a number from 0 to 9, but two digits will specify a number all the way up to 99. With just six digits, you can choose one particular number out of a million.) [Read more…]

The Curators of Culture

Wise and great are the Keepers of the Books, for they provide the People with all the knowledge that we need.

There is the Red Book, and there is the Blue Book.

The Blue Book tells us how to plant the pobble seeds, and when to pick the pobble fruit, and how to cook the pobble fruit, and the proper manners for spitting out the seeds after the pobble fruit is eaten, so that we will not look like the brute beasts.

Also the Blue Book tells us how to harvest the stems of the pobble plant, and how to make them into fibre, and how to weave the fibre to make the grundle cloth, and how to wrap the grundle cloth round our bodies to cover our nakedness in the approved manner.

And the Blue Book tells us not to stare at the light, for the light of the sun is too bright to stare at, and it is the only light we need; all other lights are a snare and a delusion. We have one food, one plant, one cloth, and one light; who could want for more?

The Red Book, now, the Red Book is a thing of magic.

The Red Book contains the Song, and the Poem, and the Exciting Story. It contains an excellent colour plate of the Picture, and a detailed plan from which we can rebuild the Statue if anything ever happens to it. We thought that the plan was needless, because who wants a plan when we already have the Statue? Then one day the Statue was struck by lightning, and we perceived that the Keepers of the Books were wise to make the plan.

O great and varied Culture that we enjoy, having all the things that we need, thanks to the Keepers of the Books! Praise be to them.

Now I hear that a madman, an infidel, a disturber of the peace, is writing a Yellow Book. What can this be, but evil?

For what can there be in the Yellow Book? It cannot be about food, for we already know all about the pobble fruit. It cannot be about clothing, for we already know the grundle cloth. It cannot be about the false lights, for we need only the true light of the sun.

Moreover, the Yellow Book cannot have a song, for we already have the Song. If there is a song in the Yellow Book, either it is the same as the Song, or it is different. If it is the same, we do not need it; and if it is different, it is false. For who could sing any song but the Song? Surely it is a great evil that anyone should try to deprive us of the Song, by luring us with false substitutes.

Likewise, there cannot be a poem, or an exciting story, or a picture, or a plan for the Statue, for we already have all those things.

What can there possibly be in this Yellow Book, but confusion, lies, and destruction?

Therefore you must pardon me, while I join the rest of the People. We go now to smash the maker of the Yellow Book with stones, until he is dead.

Our Culture must be protected!

The transformation of publishing

A lot of people miss that the transformation of the publishing industry has little to do with literature, authorship, even the reading audience. It is a business transformation driven by shifting costs.

There is no more economic need for publishing companies. Printing presses, paper and binding, distributing books are all so cheap they might as well be free. There is still a need for editors, qualified critics, and the other players who contribute to well-done polished books, but with improved electronic communications, a project manager, not a publishing house, is all that is needed to produce a book. Publishers are endangered by the disappearance of their purpose.

The transformation has not done well so far with incorporating the non-authorial contributors to the evolving publishing process, but it is early times and I have hopes.

I believe readers like and are willing to pay a premium for good books. Therefore I, as a reader, am not threatened by the transformation and the other contributors to a good book are not threatened either, but the ride may bounce us all around for a while.

—Marvin Waschke, on The Passive Voice

The role of the Agent

As portrayed with eerie accuracy by John Belushi in The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash.