I’ve criticized Dean Wesley Smith in the past. But I found this particular recent post by him to be very enlightening and useful.
Quite a long time ago (by the age of my blog) I posted a speculative piece about what the future of publishing might look like. As part of that speculation, I talked about how today’s mid-lister (and tomorrow’s Big Name) authors might grow increasingly disillusioned with overly-aggressive contracts from Big Publishing, and would defect to strike out on their own (though I was mostly wrong about the means of that defection, I appear to have been right about the motives).
And that’s basically what Dean is talking about.
In his post, Dean discusses some simple changes to contracts that Publishers could make that would attract him back to traditional publishing. But what’s important is that what Dean’s looking for isn’t more money, it’s contractual control over his own work. He’s asking for a firm rights reversion date, artistic control of his own writing, and equitable consideration for contract cancellation in the case of a publisher’s failure to live up to its own terms. And Dean equates this control with his own dignity and respect.
I don’t hide the fact that, for myself, I prefer the traditional publication path to the digital self-publishing path (though I’m yet in no position to make a decision about which path I will ultimately pursue). But I agree with Dean that these are some pretty basic requirements for writers to expect in their contracts. And of these, the most important clause that Dean mentions is the one about rights reversion. Continue reading
Last time I started talking about what I called “the seedy underbelly of the digital self-publishing revolution”, by which I mean all the things I’ve been learning about it that leave me feeling uneasy. Specifically, last time, I talked about Amazon’s proposed e-book subscription service, and my general unease with Amazon’s hegemony in the digitial self-publishing world. But that’s not the only part about this whole thing that makes me worry about it. Here are a few more posts that gave me further pause.
When one traditionally-published author decided to digitally self-pub some short stories her publisher decided she’s in breach of contract. The Passive Guy relates the tale here and here. The long-story-short of this tale: making this move on her own spooked the publisher – rightly or wrongly is not the point – and apparently on some level the publisher was offended. Many of the most prominent cheer-leaders of the digitial self-publishing revolution will take stories like this as further evidence of the EVIL nature of the traditional publishers – a point that must surely be bolstered by the fact that some agents have written in support of the publishers in this case, as opposed to the author. I don’t take it that way. I take it that publishers are human. And that they’re beginning to buy into the rhettoric of the digital self-publishing cheerleaders that this is an existential dilemma for them.
The story, itself, wasn’t the least surprising to me. I’ve heard warnings from established, traditionally published authors warning of something like this well before I read this story. Self-publishing, they have said, is the kiss-of-death in the traditional publishing world.
The real point, then, that I wanted to make was this: if in the long-term, traditional publishing is your goal, is now the time to rock the boat and go-it-alone, in the hopes that later the traditional publishers will overlook your self-published history? Continue reading
So, I’ll start by saying that I see the arrival of the Digital Self-publishing Revolution as largely a good thing. It’s more confusing than the old world – now instead of a comparatively straight-forward process of submitting to agents and editors and hoping for the best while expecting the worst, you’ve got a thousand different possible levers you can try and pull. (Some of them you can’t actually reach. Some of them don’t actually do anything when you pull them. Some of them have an effect, but it’s hard to figure out what that effect is.)
But, largely, it’s a good thing because it gives writers and readers both new options that they didn’t have before.
Still, I’m put off by the revolution’s cheerleaders who shout hurrahs: “The Revolution has come! Publishing is disintermediating! The Traditional Publishers are dying, and good riddance for they were made of EVIL and soon it will be complete freedom for writers and readers and puppies and kitties will rain from the skies forever! Amen! P.S. And we’re all going to get so rich by writing!”
That’s hyperbole. But the basic message is the same. If you move in writing circles, you can’t help but read one or two such blog posts on various blogs per week. And that’s if you don’t actively follow Joe Konrath or Dean Wesley Smith or others like them. But their message puts me off, not only because I think it’s an unrealistic vision of the future, but because something about this vision seems a little off to me.
In the past few weeks, I’ve come to understand a little better why I’m vaguely uncomfortable and unsettled about the digital self-publishing revolution. There is something dark, something unspoken, something critically unexamined staining the underbelly of the Digital Self-publishing Revolution. I don’t think these are things talked about enough, yet. Continue reading