Self-Publishers are Reactionary Forces of Darkness!
A gift that keeps giving –that’s been Stardogs
on Amazon Kindle so far.
I’ve finally succeeded in wrestling Smashwords into submission (it’s just a flesh-wound) so the book is now available on Smashwords, B&N, Apple, Kobo, Uncle Tom Cobbly and all.
And from the point of view of ‘how-gullible-and-stupid-do-they-really-think-anyone-is’ Doublespeak –as material for blogging about… the UK’s Grauniad is just about as rewarding. This particular piece, is so ‘brilliant’ for that that I’m going to devote an explanatory fisk to it with my gifted snarky translations. Now, Doublespeak is not Greek. Or Chinese. I know, I tried putting some of it into Google translate and got: Σταματήσουν να πίνουν τόσο πολύ ούζο, μαλάκας or Stamatí̱soun na pínoun tóso polý oúzo malákas, and 官方经济报告，2014年Guānfāng jīngjì bàogào,2014 nián. So because it may make as much sense as either of these languages to non-speakers of the same, let me kindly translate. I have a lifetime of experience in understanding its nuances, which may otherwise pass you by, that is, if the sheer gibberish of it does not just leave you wondering if you’re wearing your wobbly boots.
“Trumpeted as a democratic broadening of the publishing field, ‘authorpreneurialism’ actually narrows the world of reading and writing”
Translated into ordinary English I believe this means authors doing it themselves instead of relying on traditional gatekeeper – AKA publishers — has actually broadened the world of reading and writing, (narrowed in doublespeak is used like this ‘the little rock-pool narrowed out into the Pacific Ocean, becoming much more restricted.’) Or more simply put ‘This is a bad thing for us and our friends.’
“Now price and success, too often the determinants of value, have made it respectable.”
Translation: ‘price’ – It’s cheap, anyone can do it, and riff-raff are getting in. ‘Success’ as a measure of merit – meaning people just decided they liked reading it, and paid money for it when they had a choice of it or something else is a bad way of determining value, because it generally rates our writing as not worth paying for. And how could that be true? We know what is good for you, much better than you do. You’d just read books you enjoyed, which would be awful. Stop being so darn uppity.
“Unfortunately, self-publishing is neither radical nor liberating.”
Translation. Self-publishing isn’t Statist nor limited to the message we want you to preach. Sometimes it doesn’t even have a message.
“And, as revolutions go, it is rather short on revolutionaries.”
Translation: Almost none of you self-pubs look like Che. Or systematically commit abuses like him. You self-pub writers are a disappointment. You’d look terrible on a T-shirt.
“It is actually reactionary”
Translation: it’s a revolution, but against our established order, which has been around for more than a century. And it’s not going backwards either, but claiming that is nearly as good a get-out-of-jail card as ‘raciss’.
“a contracted version of the traditional publishing model in which companies, who produce for a wide range of tastes and preferences, are replaced by individual producers each catering to very narrow range.”
Translation: Our doublespeak mathematical skills are on the same level as our English skills. Big Companies, six of them controlling 85% of paper sales catered for “a wide range of tastes and preferences” which are so indistinguishable that no reader could tell who the publisher was, and in which the number of books sold per literate financially able buyers has dropped steadily for fifty years because they had not a clue about the market outside their NY circle, is being replaced by several million new entrants each targeting niches they know about. Even if the individual entrants have a narrow appeal – call it 1 inch of the spectrum, compared to the big six’s almost identical 12 inches – the whole spectrum is several miles wide, and is finally getting some coverage.
“In other words, democratisation is nothing more than the expansion of the publishing process from the few to the many. But this both overestimates the barriers to traditional publication – the vetting and selection process may be deeply flawed, but every writer can submit a manuscript”
Translation: ‘the vetting and selection process may be deeply flawed’ = it was a complete and hopeless cock-up which was statistically worse than pure chance, at least for the top 10% (they would buy 0.01% of that), where ignorance of the market, socio-political bias and buddy-nepotism meant they would take worse books at the expense of books that had real promise. They favored books for reasons that had nothing to do with pleasing readers or selling. Even if they tried: They had neither the tools (market research, adequate statistical data or analysis,) nor the skills (editors’ jobs are to pick bestsellers. They probably missed a thousand for every one they found. Even with all the push they gave, cooking the books, and they still failed most of the time) and the writer of the piece generously admits it ‘may’ be deeply flawed?!!!!
“but every writer can submit a manuscript”
Oh my. What a treasure we are abandoning. Translation: every author could buy a lotto ticket. The prize money is tiny, and we only let you enter one competition (submit to one publisher) at a time, and we’ll give you a form rejection in a couple of years. I was bought out of the slush. 1 book, out of 3000. And that was at least partially pure luck. Secondly, the statement isn’t even true, at least in SFF. Most of the publishers were closed to un-agented submissions. The publishing industry kindly outsourced slush to agents, and got the authors to pay for it. Generous! And we’re just giving all that wonderful stuff up, to let readers decide what they want to do with their money. No wonder the writer of this piece is so offended. It must be awful that every writer can still submit a manuscript, get published, and not even have to suffer a near useless vetting process.
“It also fails to consider whether the democratisation of publishing produces a similar democratisation for the reader by making literary culture more open.”
Translation: Readers? The hoi polloi? The great unwashed? Let THEM choose? Of course they’re totally unfit to decide what is good for them. I mean offer them a bacon sandwich or an organic spinach and camel’s milk yoghurt smoothie, and you know what they’ll take don’t you? The Nambula winning ‘If you were also a Brontosaurus my love we’d stomp them to jelly before going extinct because our love wasn’t binary’ wouldn’t be a well-deserved bestseller then. The lower orders need us.
“By definition, self-publishing is an individualistic pursuit in which each writer is both publisher and market adventurer, with every other writer a potential competitor and the reader reduced to the status of consumer.”
Translation: Writers have to write something a reader might want to pay for. ‘reduced’= Allowed to choose – if this was ‘reduced status’, what were they before? Tied down torture victims? Clamped into poetry ‘appreciation’ chairs on Vogon Constructor ship?
“Publishing then becomes timid, fearing to be adventurous and revolutionary lest it betray the expectations of its market.”
Translation: blue screen error…. Restart. Translation as best as possible in safe mode: Publishing, the left-wing establishment organization has been on message, regurgitating the party line faithfully, but now if it actually has competition might have to compe… cannot parse. Blue screen of death.
“This is a natural tendency in traditional publishing but it is one restrained by the voices of its authors who are free to put their work first and entrepreneurship a distant second.”
Translate. (Pause for helpless laughter) …. No. No. NO. No one is ever going to believe authors restrained publishers. The power imbalance is just too ridiculous for even doublespeak.
“With authorship and entrepreneurship now equal partners, the new authorpreneurs have thrown off the dictatorship of the editor to replace it with the tyranny of the market.”
Translation: The old dictator was our chum. We were… close. We went to parties together in San Francisco with that lovely feminist there. And we wrote what we were supposed to, what was good for people and now these upstarts…. These… these… reactionaries are just letting buyers decide. And some of the scum probably want adventures and… shudder, binary fiction. And the tyranny of the market – yes, a brutal tyrant giving readers a free choice. Just evil!
“Dana Lynn Smith defines readers as “people who buy the book to read … the most obvious category and it includes your primary audience (the ‘ideal customer’ that the book was specifically written for)”. Or you can see it in the anger which greeted Will Self’s confession that he doesn’t “really write for readers”.”
Oh, that is AWFUL. Translation: It’s so bad that the people who pay for the product should have some vague expectation that product is for them. How can they be so UNREASONABLE? It’s ART. We KNOW it is art because it pleases us.
“When writers fear readers, who remains bold enough to push the boundaries?”
Translation: when writers have to give a damn what readers want to read in order to get them to buy the book, readers may actually get what they want. And an answer – pretty much anyone who wants to push real boundaries can. It’s a big world and it doesn’t cost much to publish, and there are other people out there who will like the most bizarre or depraved things. You just won’t get validation and affirmation, or be subsidized, and be able to tell the hoi polloi that it’s your ‘boundary’ or nothing, any more. No loss, most of them chose nothing anyway.
“The risks that are an inescapable part of an industry where every book is a gamble make traditional publishers very conservative. But they are far more liberal, far more radical than self-publishing in its current form. Cross-subsidies from commercial titles support poets, academics and writers of new and daring literary fiction who will never appear on bestseller lists. Such concerted action is impossible in a fragmented world where each writer pursues individual success.”
Translation: We’re scared our books are so bad no-one will buy them if they have a choice. We expect to be able to be parasites. And just because no-one wants to read them, doesn’t mean they aren’t great literary fiction! (and that’s so true – but it’s hardly a reason to give the lice money).
“Can a literary culture where writers are producers and readers are consumers be truly open? Only if your definition of an open society is one ruled by the market.”
Translation: literary culture FLOURISHED under Communism. Er. NOT. But we apparatchiks were well paid for denouncing the wicked West. And we MISS that. Especially the pay.
“The individualism of the self-publishing authorpreneurs, is disturbingly close to Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, in which the greatest goal is individual fulfilment.”
Translation: Sorry… mem. stack overflow… reset with logic parameter disabled. Earlier, readers were bad because they wouldn’t let writers merely write to please themselves and pay them for this, now writers are bad because they want to write to please themselves. No problem in doublespeak-land. Logic works the same way Math does there.
“No wider context needs to be considered because these wider goals will take care of themselves if every individual pursues a personal objective without regard to anyone else. It is the philosophy of pure laissez-faire capitalism that rejects community and mutual responsibility.”
Translation: Capitalist BAD. Socialist good because anyone wanting to read your work is not important. And we wise ones will decide what you peasants have to be made to carry. We are ordained… by er… um Gaia, yes Gaia to decree what the community needs, in case you wanted to know. She thinks we and our fellow-travelers deserve the best for preaching the message, even if no one reads it. Oddly I have had much more help from other authors – self pubbed and otherwise, than I ever got from publishing. We do support each other.
“If self-publishing is to be a radical and revolutionary force it will be forged by creative collectives, groups of committed writers and artists who inter-publish, contributing to the publication not just of their own work but of the work of the others in the group across diverse genres and literary forms.”
Translation: If traditional publishing can’t pay me enough to live well on for crap no one wants to read, perhaps I can sucker some other organic soy latte sippers into carrying me.
And good luck with that.
The funniest thing about this is that really, for experimental writers or poets, actually e-books and self pub are far more accessible and it is possible for the Arty-est to make some kind of living, because the size of the market expands many-fold on what traditional publishing gave them. Yes, they actually have to find some readers… but stuff I wouldn’t wipe my butt on finds support on Kickstarter and Patreon.
And the second funniest thing was the comments section. Hmm. Maybe mad cow disease somehow got into the soy lattes….
And as a thank you reading this far, and as free sample for those who might not have read my drivel, uh, work, yes work. Red Fiddler
is FREE for the next four days. Enjoy.