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.

143 thoughts on “Self-Publishers are Reactionary Forces of Darkness!

  1. Second fisking I’ve seen of this and i still… well, I can believe it, i just don’t want to digest it. I mean, who is this idiot who is so worried about ‘literary culture’… and seems to actively dislike writers writing and selling their books to readers who want to read them, without all the malarkey in between that goes with traditional publishing?

    Alan Skinner, a former investment banker, who self-published his last three novels.

    His highest ranking Amazon book is #703,226. Its book one of a fantasy series, and book two and three are progressively lower in the stats.

    The blurb for each one says its a ‘completely original fantasy series with characters like you’ve never seen’. Uh huh, sure.

    So maybe he is attacking indie and Amazon because his books are bombing.

    1. A former investment banker (I think they scored about on par with Lawyers and Used car salesmen, but a fraction higher than pollies) – giving us the commissar’s speech how bad capitalism and free markets are? You know you’re in doublespeak-land. Or maybe investment bankers believe they need to socialize losses?

    2. Alan Skinner, a former investment banker, who self-published his last ONLY three novels.

      There, fixed that for you. 🙂

      And said novels sell very poorly, so essentially he’s rationalizing his own failure to sell by complaining about capitalism. It isn’t rewarding him for failing to succeed, therefore, the system is flawed.

      1. Complaining about capitalism….
        When, finally, the workers own the means of production.

        1. Of course one is supposed to complain when the workers own the means of production. It’s the State that is supposed to own the means of production.

          Back in the day, the Right-Thinking Left People used to point and sneer at the little old ladies from Brighton who allegedly said horrible things like, ‘What would be the use of giving a coal-miner a bathtub? He’d only use it to keep coal in.’ You see, the little old ladies from Brighton (whether they existed or not) were horrible people because they said these things. Whereas the Right-Thinking Left People are wonderful people because they only believe it and act on the belief, but are far too mealy-mouthed to risk offending a Protected Minority Group by actually saying it.

          So the principle they act on, without ever having the guts to say it, is: ‘What would be the use of letting a worker own the means of his own production? He would only use it to produce trash.’

          1. I believe it has happened. One of the small tin gods of the writerly did tell me he didn’t like the way I thought. I knew I was getting it right then.;-/

  2. This is exactly the same reasoning that leads people to say that it is “the will of the people” when a judge overturns a law that was enacted by a majority vote. Or when regulations that the majority opposes are enacted by executive fiat.

    1. Yes, his grasp of democracy – or his valuation of readers – seems more than just nebulous. The weird part was all grovelling support he got, instead of a single ‘you’re full of it, aren’t you?’

            1. There is no truth to the rumour that the Guardian, in its selfless devotion to accuracy in reporting and truth in advertising, plans to change its name to Al-Taqiyya.

              But maybe there should be.

    2. Or “law of the land” for rules set by illegal means. (Say, the judge that’s trying to yank a sailor’s custody of his daughter while said sailor is deployed, by requiring him to show up while deployed to the middle of the Ocean, even though that is against the solders and sailor’s relief act.)

      1. Oh the law – in theory a codex to assist in justice, is often perverted to do the inverse of what it is meant to do. I wrote about that in TRM.

  3. Thanks for the translation, Dave. I wouldn’t have known what the loon was writing about, otherwise.

      1. Doublespeal and corporatespeak both derive from the same mother tongue.As does campaignspeak.

          1. Actually they live in a dada-world where nothing means anything at all.

            To the Postmodern Left, then, the primary purpose of language is to tell lies so that people will think you are big and important. There is, you see, no such thing as communicating information – this was proved by Lévi-Strauss or Derrida or someone like that – so all that remains is propaganda. And who needs to spread propaganda for something that people are in deadly danger of discovering for themselves?

            So when a Postmodern Leftist speaks, there is only one conceivable thing for him to say: ‘Who are you going to believe, your lying eyes or me?’

  4. Also, this Alan Skinner is, himself, a self-published author. Presumably that is because he is, himself, reactionary? Epimenides paradox, anyone?

    1. Self-loathing. He doesn’t *want* to be a self-published author. He wants big daddy publisher to come along, give him a hand up, and validate his feelings.

      1. Nah, now, maybe. Because he flopped, and now he’s convinced himself that we plebs are insufficiently sensitive to his vast literary genius, so NOW he wants big daddy pub to tell he’s wonderful even if no-one buys him. Because it’s important for literature to have his ‘work’ seen. Methinks if he’d been a runaway bestseller, he’d have told us how the plebs appreciated his genius, and how wonderful self-pub was… ;-/

        1. But his work is so breathtakingly original. YA Fantasy about a magical land in peril that can only be saved by a band of unlikely heroes…

          Who could have imagined that?

          1. This is what happens when you refuse to read in the genre you are writing – you drag out all the tired old tropes and flog them as fresh and new.

            1. Cedar, too right. it happens a lot – especially for some reason from the darlings of the left – perhaps because they never read anything the plebs enjoy? Atwood, Jeanette Winterson = poster-children for digging out tired trope and telling us it’s not sf… but something new and wonderful. It’s not any of that…

              1. Oh, tell me about it. I see these literary types rewriting SF stories that were fresh and original . . . 50 years ago. And getting praised for it.

          2. Um. To be fair, old tropes can be twisted interestingly, and with some originality. It’s something I’ve tried my own hand at. Shrug. Dunno if they’re original, but I hope they entertain.

            1. It was C. S. Lewis who said:

              ‘Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.’

              Judging by what happens when he tries to write nonfiction, this Skinner fellow has no talent for telling the truth and not much interest in even discovering the truth. If Lewis is right (as I suspect), that puts him at a cruel disadvantage when he tries to be original.

        2. So, occasionally something that has already been around for years gets discovered. What do you think he will do if his self-published work one day is found by some group of readers for whom it is the right fit and they start to spread the word that it’s just wonderful and he suddenly realizes that now he _is_ a self-publishing success?

          Would be amusing, in a way. 🙂

    2. Once I found out that Alan Skinner has been self-publishing, the entire Guardian article started reading like an unpopular kid thinking that if he says enough nice things about the popular crowd, maybe they’ll let him sit at their table next lunch period.

      1. Or stop sticking his head in the toilet and flushing. Look he was carefully playing the buzzwords and triggers – like a investment banker would, naturally, read it and pick up the Ayn Rand reference – guaranteed to get him brownie points and support with Al Ghardian regulars, and dissing things as bad because they’re conservative (in behavior, but he knows that’s a buzzword for ‘bad’ – although the publishing establishment is conservative (in the sense it still operates as if in 1930 and resists change – not in political outlook) and Reactionary – because that implies we’re going back – although this is unlike any back that ever was and so on. He’s giving them exactly the tune they want to hear. And thus like the SF establishment turning a blind eye to Bradley and Breen and Delaney… they will welcome someone who made his living out of rampant capitalism.

        1. He might be right about that. Tyrants love to see their slaves cooperate in their own abasement. It’s an old Socialist principle that the best thing in the world is to do dirt on your own conscience for the good of the Party. Both Lenin and Hitler, I believe, called this ‘the Higher Morality’.

  5. Gee. Defensive of the publishing establishment, dismissive of those right of center, and disdainful of capitalism.

    My only question, was it Glen Greenwald who wrote the original, Damien Walters, or some unholy bastard-child of both ??

      1. So how about he gets off his duff and writes something so we can hold our noses long enough to read it and give him the cruel and nasty reviews he wants?

        1. That would require me to actually read something that he wrote though.

          Honestly, based on what I’ve seen from him so far, I don’t think I can do that to my brain.

            1. Ah, but he seems to be OK with nasty reviews.

              Obviously, that only counts for other people, and since he blocked me on Twitter, any negative review I gave him would be chalked up to a persona grudge.

              1. butbutbut… its a completely original series! with characters like you’ve never seen before!
                hm, sarcasm tag not working.

                  1. Just as funny today as it was when I first read it. And just as relevant to the civil war in fandom.

                    1. Yeah, it really is pretty applicable. And, well, John is only slightly more low key than Larry Correia. 😀

                      My dream is to find myself on a panel with Larry, John, Tom Kratman, Sarah Hoyt and Mike Williamson…and that Joy person. 😀

                      Yes, I want in on the dog pile.

                1. Of course, because no one has EVER said that…

                  …just every newbie on every writing board in the history of the internet has said that, but I’m sure he’s completely right.

                  And, of course, the fact that subsequent books sold more poorly than the original tells you that he wasn’t all that original in the first place.

                  Plus, who the hell wrote that blurb? I’m sorry, that’s just freaking awful!

                  1. And he probably think his blurb is brilliant too, and that if he only had a deal with a dead tree publisher he’s have gotten the push to sell a bunch of books.

                    1. well Draven, it’s possible a dead tree pub might have told him he’d sold a ton of books. Several of us have had suspicions that his ‘cross-subsidy’ has been really happening with sales.

                    2. Probably.

                      Of course, my self-published novelette has managed to sell almost 600 copies since it came out toward the end of April, but the answer really has to have been a publishers push that he didn’t have.

                      I love guys like this. They’re amusing in ways they’ll never comprehend.

          1. He does have some of his short stories on his site for free, which is probably the only way anyone would read them. His style manages to be bland and bitter.

      2. People shouldn’t lie on reviews, but a “cruel and nasty” review is about the easiest thing possible to churn out and it can be applied to anything, no matter how amazing. It’s not dependent on the work in question, it’s dependent on the mind-set of the “reviewer.”

      3. Er. A nasty review from Damian Walter? It’s like a medal of honor, IMO. Should be worth a lot of sales. Look, his taste is so the opposite from 90% of readers, and his 10% would never buy it anyway, so it’d be a great commendation. I’d fairly sh!t myself if I got a praise-song from him.

    1. Or in some annual “State of the Department” reports from large public universities. But the prose form just flows, embodying so many Truths and disparate Knowledges without privileging any one—

      Ahem, sorry. Was skimming academic journals last night and I seem to have a bit of a hang-over.

  6. 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.

    Um….what the hell were they before? Oh yeah, consumers. They just don’t want to consume this guy’s stuff. It happens. Get over it.

    Honestly, that was one of the most insane articles I’ve ever read, written by someone who knows jack about the subject. David, I applaud you for your wonderful fisk. Beautiful. 🙂

    1. The part that stunned me was the comments… agreeing with him. Honestly, what are these people? Pavlov’s village idiots? “he said Ayn Rand is bad and self pubs are reactionaries.” We MUST support him!

      1. Yeah, even by other self-published authors. It was really, really surprising.

        I’m too lazy to go and look at sales ranking for everyone, but I suspect they wrote crap, wrote a crappy blurb, and when it doesn’t sell, they think it’s proof that self publishing is crap.

        Meanwhile, some of us have had some pretty nice success with going self or indie publishing. That is irrelevant because clearly, he didn’t have it, so it must not be possible.

  7. John W. Campbell once did an essay on the development of society–“Tribesman, Barbarian, and Citizen” (reprinted here: ). And while from what I’ve seen it doesn’t bear much resemblance to reality it, as most good essays are wont to do, provides some good points for thinking.

    One of the things I don’t think matches how the real world works is the supposed progression from “tribal” society to “barbarian” society to “civilized society, but an interesting point which may be relevant to the article being fisked is that to the intermediate stage (barbarian in the essay) the follow-on stage (civilization) looks a lot like the preceding stage (tribalism) and appears to be a step backward and as such a thing of horror.

    One of the things I mused upon, given Mr. Campbell’s prediction that the “next phase” of society would likewise superficially appear to be a “step back”, a return to barbarism, to “civilized” people. That led me to the thought of some kind of libertarian society.

    In any case, it could well be that folk caught up in “traditional publishing” could see self publishing as a big step back. An individual trying to self-publish in days of yore would be sharply limited in things like distribution without the “economies of scale” one gets with a publisher.

    The world, however, has changed. Things like distribution are no longer barriers when a major form of distribution is electronic and when things like POD and vendors like Amazon make anyone as close as your nearest mail drop.

    1. I’d guess he perceives it as reactionary because it means approved thought no longer has total control. So people can write ‘badthink’ without PC quotas or conclusions… and still sell it. Sometimes a lot of it. That has to be a step backward to his ilk.

  8. Actually, I enjoy these things being published. Not to read, mind you. The article is tripe writ large. But this type of article is being written and read by the ‘literary’ and ignored by the ‘readers’. As he said self publishing keeps the authors in competition with each other. Which translates that authors compete against each other for the publisher’s attention. I haven’t found a self publishing site that didn’t have a ‘helps’ section of some sort. Since they are eschewing the concept of self publishing, they keep the ‘literary’ (and from the comments section- there’s a lot of them) out of the way for us ‘hack writers’ that try to give the public what they want.

    What I liked most though was Damian’s comment. “The standard of writing is so poor in many of the books coming out from publishers that I hesitate to even call their authors hacks.”

    Good ol Damian wasn’t criticizing self publishing but, his own wonderful publishers and message writers. I wonder if anyone in his camp will spot it.

    1. I liked the part about how traditional publishers subsidize the “worthy” with the “popular” and that somehow this means something and proof! because such-and-such a publisher publishes some artsy stuff that will probably only get a 1k print run… (that may have been in the comments). And I’m thinking… they’re doing that 1k instead of something else that will sell and make them money? Heck, maybe it’s a tax dodge. But no matter what it is, the author could easily self-publish the same thing. But then they wouldn’t have the blessing of the Gatekeeper. (Or the Keymaster, for that matter.)

      I wonder if the butt-hurt is that these people need a trad publisher to identify “art” for them, or they won’t know what to discuss in snooty terms with their friends.

    2. (wry smile) It’s kind of like the necrophiliac bestiality movie found to have social redeeming value… it keeps the perverts off the streets. I do hope the literati stick tight to the traditional pubs.

  9. Hey, I am a reactionary force of darkness, aren’t I? Does that mean I should look into this self publishing thing?

    Honestly, I think I should read and write until I can figure out how to plan and execute a plot longer than a thousand words.

    1. Yeah, I’m reading it and sort of like… is “reactionary” supposed to be a bad thing? And how exactly is that different than “revolutionary?” Or is it one of those divisions where “I’m assertive” and “you’re aggressive.”

      1. Reactionary is supposed to be turning the clock back. Which… in the context, makes no logical sense at all. But I think he means it’s turning the clock back in that self-pubs just to please readers, not the PC thought-police (who are their definition of ‘progressive’). And as a lot of readers think the PC thought-police suck rocks and wreck their stories… and writers now want to please those readers – it is ‘reactionary’

        1. It all becomes crystal clear when you read the instructive history of Yevgeny Zamyatin. In We, you may recall, his dystopian state officially proclaimed that ‘our revolution’ was the last, and there could never be another. He answered that it was nonsense to talk about the last revolution, just as it was nonsense to talk about the last number. This remark killed Zamyatin’s career in Russia, got his works banned by the censors, and forced him to emigrate. (Fortunately he got out before the Gulag really got started.)

          If ‘our revolution’ is the last, and there can never be another, then everything that opposes it must be reactionary by definition. If we stand at the end of history, there is nowhere to go but backwards.

        2. A lot of projection there on Skinner’s part. He’s the reactionary — he wants to turn the clock back to that illusory Golden Moment in time when All The Right People controlled whatever actually reached the market, thereby maximizing the GoodThink and minimizing the BadThink. Self-publishing is OK as long as it’s by The Right People, of course. But anyone Not Of The Right People self-publishing (especially doing so successfully) is therefore A Very Bad Thing, except for maybe self-publishing collectives that can play gate-keeper and keep the BadThink out.

          If you look at from the hive-mind perspective, it almost makes sense. Otherwise, it’s just a muddle of stupidity lacking in self-awareness.

          1. Or shorter: “We would control the entire narrative, if it weren’t for those meddling kids!”

  10. The point where my brain jumped the tracks and ran for the hills in self-defense was the line “Publishing then becomes timid, fearing to be adventurous and revolutionary lest it betray the expectations of its market.”

    I had no idea the dino-porn market even EXISTED prior to (if I recall the article correctly) two writers getting together and coming up with increasingly implausible scenarios (alcohol may have been involved) and dissolving in gales of laughter when they reached dino-porn and deciding to run with it for pure shits and giggles. So how could there be an expectation of anything? An extreme example, but still. If the author of the article had any exposure to how things REALLY go in indie publishing, it is idea first, audience second. IF there is no audience for, say, action-adventure stories featuring Mormon accountant T-rexes, it wouldn’t have stopped me from writing the first one. Might stop me from writing the second one, if nobody buys book 1.

    1. Right now hardly anybody is buying mine. But that’s not going to stop me from writing them. The way I figure this: I don’t like writing itself that much, well, sometimes I do but not all the time (but having written is very satisfactory, and I do like story editing, looking for plot holes and so on, at those times of the year when I can concentrate well) but I’m compelled to make up stories all the time, and it seems I feel much better in general when I do write them down. So yes, I guess it’s mostly self therapy. But if I bother writing them down, well, publishing them doesn’t cost much more than some time and effort so why not. There is the chance, maybe pretty high, for embarrassment, but considering that I have always been a coward when it comes to doing anything potentially embarrassing and that has led to several missed opportunities that probably makes it even more beneficial as therapy, I guess embarrassing myself is something I need to learn to tolerate better (but I will keep using the pen name :), I do have other reasons for it too.).

      Write for myself, publish in case some people might like them. I will try to improve as a writer, and I may even pay for edits in the future if I can afford it, but this is still primarily for me.

      If something at some point starts to sell better then I will start paying more serious attention to the commercial aspects. No point wasting a chance to make some money. But if it doesn’t happen, well, somewhat disappointing of course but no biggie. Then I will just keep doing for myself. I can’t stop thinking up stories anyway, no matter what, but if I don’t write them down I can get stuck with the same ones for years. Writing a story down helps me to move away from it, maybe because it fixes its shape so I can stop playing with it, and writing one, then moving on to the next seems to, well, it makes me feel better for some reason. So why not.

      1. I am surprised — I’ve bought most of your books and really enjoyed them. No one seems to be buying much right now and I also am not selling much lately.

        1. Thanks. There is so much that it is easy to get buried. I do hope that I’m good enough to start getting some attention as sales when I get more published (probably will need a lot more, and probably will need to publish more often too), but that remains to be seen.

          1. Yea– my problem as well. I just don’t have the energy to write as much as I should so that I can get more up– plus I need to finish a trilogy in one of my worlds. So ummm, yea

      2. That’s really interesting. I wonder if I would feel better if I started writing the stories in my head down.

        1. Possibly. There is a reason why we make them up, I presume. Maybe fixing them as a story allows me to process mine through or something. At least it makes me to get the whole story. I’m more pantser than a plotter, as long as I don’t write the whole thing keeps on mutating, and as I said, I can get stuck with the same one for years. If I write it I need to fix it in one place, and make it logical, make sure it does have a plot and so on. And I get rid of that one.

          Makes room for the next one. I don’t know, maybe I am also processing something else in my head at the same time, and when I write it’s easier for me to move on with that too.

          1. Part of the joy of this place is that I now have assurance that someone besides my family routinely makes up stories. (Alright, Walter Mitty was pretty good evidence, but still. I “know” you people.)

                  1. I’ve never heard of someone who doesn’t, when the topic comes up… I just can’t ask folks if they DO!

                    I can deduce my husband does, because he’s always thinking about this or that…

                    1. I think I have known some who didn’t, not stories in the sense of imagining up main characters who are obviously different from themselves and not even using their favorite television, movie or game characters and dreaming up scenarios they would want to see for them, but of course everybody at least daydreams of stuff happening to them (or idealized versions of themselves) from time to time.

                      But it still needs a name. Everything has to have a name. Something scientific sounding.

                    2. The name would be good in case somebody some day tells you that what you are doing is a waste of time (has actually kind of happened to me, a couple of times, although it was years ago when I was just barely adult. I was told I spend too much time daydreaming).

                      Then you could put on a tragic expression and say “I know, but have this problem… it’s called a ****** syndrome…” 🙂

                    3. Hehe, I never had that happen… somehow I got a reputation of being very sharp tongued when startled.

                      (Actually, I’m just honest if my mouth engages first and someone asks me something rude, so I answer absolutely honestly. There’s a reason I try to think four or five times before I say something.)

                      If someone had accused me of daydreaming I probably would have looked at them curiously and to them I was thinking… in a way that implied that they’d find it pleasant if they’d tried it.

                      Dang it, why can’t I do this stuff when I WANT to insult folks!?!?!

      1. Doing it for fun, for jollies, because one has a good time doing such things. I think it sometimes has a flavor of having a twisted, abnormal, or sick taste in what one finds enjoyable, but that may be just my impression.

        Also doing something for shits and grins.

        I don’t know the origin. Perhaps laughing so hard that one defecates.

        1. Doing something “just for the shit of it” just means you’ve go no reason whatsoever to do it. I couldn’t say where the term comes from, or even guess.

  11. So I’m curious – on The Red Fiddler were you trying to go for the O’Reilly technical books look? Because when I saw the small icon for this book as the image on the Facebook link to this article my immediate thought was, “Dave Freer’s written a tech book? I wonder on what topic?”.

    1. 🙂 The result of one of Eric’s fan’s – Rick Boatright IIRC doing the covers for us. I just don’t have the time or money to redo the shorts covers right now.

    1. I think Vogons run the selection committee for the Bancroft Awards (best US history book). For a while when the prof said, “And it won the Bancroft” the entire class would groan. If it was any good, the designated reviewer would add, “And despite having won the Bancroft, the book is surprising readable.”

          1. It has its moments, yes. For a while I got the sense that only dull, dry, “meaningful works” won. There’ve been a few that are both readable and important (“The Minutemen and their World” is one) but “enjoyable read” is not one of the Bancroft selection criteria. Here’s the list, in case anyone is interested: Some are good, some are a slog, some make the slogs sound like a fun adventure.

    2. Very close, but not exactly right. It was, in fact, taken over by the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council:

      ‘Vogon poetry is of course the third worst in the Universe. The second worst is that of the Azagoths of Kria. During a recitation by their Poet Master Grunthos the Flatulent of his poem “Ode To A Small Lump of Green Putty I Found In My Armpit One Midsummer Morning” four of his audience died of internal hemorrhaging, and the President of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council survived by gnawing one of his own legs off.’

      By their fruits shall ye know them. You can tell this was the work of the MGANC because the publishing industry, and the portion of literature that it still controls, has been well and thoroughly nobbled. The proof is that the average award-winning ‘literary’ novel reads as if it had been written by an Azagoth of Kria.

  12. Thank Mr. Freer for reading and translating the Graudian so that I don’t have to. 😀 You have taken one for the team.
    As a reader, my own response to Alan Skinner is, “Screw you, I read what I want.”

  13. I’m thinking the thing that upsets the author of the original article the most isn’t so much that you’re non-conforming, it’s that your non-conformity doesn’t follow established guidelines or go through approved channels.

  14. “When writers fear readers, who remains bold enough to push the boundaries?”

    Translation: We fear publishers and hesitate to “waste” our time writing something Big Pub would frown on, and so we churn out something just like the latest Bestseller except “fresh.” So of course we will be even more fearful of all those readers and never do anything to upset them.

    But we actually love the readers, and woo them with all manner of strange things until we discover what they like, or perhaps collect a following that likes what we write, then we settle down to a happy long term relationship, only occasionally bringing in a surprise to keep things fresh and new.

  15. And I especially like the part where we were supposed to financially support the “better” writers who sold less. Umm, no, sorry, I give emotional support and professional advice and beta readings to support my fellow writers.

    As a *reader* I kick in financial support to writers I really like. New (to me) writers? I buy a book and give a try. And if they’re “Worthy” I’ll buy everything they write and give them reviews on Amazon. But support the collective? No. Way.

    1. I finally got around to reading the first Wine of the God’s book. It rocked. 🙂

        1. (Yes, really, I could be a copy editor… “these are not the extraneous apostrophes that you are looking for….” Gods…. Wine of the Gods.)

  16. Guess he couldn’t reign in hell so he decided to serve in heaven…

    Or vice versa?

    Oh yeah, and it’s doubleTHINK and NEWspeak! Sorry but I’m a 1984 geek and that drives me crazy!!!

      1. 🙂 Yes, you guys are right – doublespeak only entered the English language later, probably due to faulty memories like mine. Should have been Newspeak – but I’m too friggin’ lazy to correct it all right now.

        1. Oh, never mind us. It’s an established usage now, and besides, we’re like the old yellow hound dog in the (Southern U.S.) story. This would be the one that was sitting out on the veranda beside its master, and every so often it would lift its head and bay piteously. A visitor asked why it did that.

          ‘The dern fool hound is a-settin’ on a nail, is all.’

          ‘Then why doesn’t he go and lie down somewhere else?’

          ‘It only hurts enough to complain.’

  17. Oh, and thanks for the free story. I’ll hit you with a review when I get to it, same with Stardogs.

  18. It’s funny how Skinner is quite clearly a man of the Left, yet fiercely defends the power and influence of huge multinational corporations- whatever problems he might have with them, he hates the idea of individual initiative and entrepeneurialism far, far more.

  19. Y’know, I read this and thought, “No, surely he’s cherry-picking the quotes.” Then I followed the link, and as soon as I saw it was the Guardian, I knew better. 😉 Brilliantly done. I’ve been reading the best parts to my housemates.

    1. It was just so… dense and intense with it, that I kept thinking this has to be a spoof. No: it seems it was a view into the high integrity world of investment-banking speak…

    1. (snort) I think you can take my word for it, Tom, that’s a goal you no longer have to strive for. Congratulations. It’s kind of like being on Jim Hines shit-list, and Damian Walters public displays of what his village is missing, or Mary Kowal to call you dangerous — probably worth an extra 20% on your sales for no losses, because their fan-boys weren’t ever going to read you anyway. Alas, I’m still waiting for these accolades. I’ll just have to keep beavering away or they’ll think I’m a pussy.

      1. Oh, and your only limitation, Dave, forces of darkness and evil legion of evil-wise, is that you’re actually a nice person. This, fortunately, is a handicap I don’t have…

    2. Well Tom, since Larry already has “International Lord of Hate”, I think it’s only proper. So, with all the powers of the internet invested in me, I hereby dub thee “Tom Kratman: Reactionary Force of Darkness!”

      1. Sniff…sniff…I’m all choked up…and I want to take this opportunity to thank the little demons, Baal and Beelzebub, and all the Ifriti who’ve been so key to my success…

  20. It’s been amazing over the last 20 years or so watching what’s been happening to the publishing world. I still remember reading Eric on the Baen Free Library about DRM etc and the publishers shouting “no way”. We then got to ebooks and ‘no one will want them’ mindset and now of course it’s only publishers should produce ebooks.

    It was great reading your translation and seeing another line in the sand being washed away.

    I currently have over 3000 books in my kindle library. A good number of them (like the Baen Free library) were free books that then got me hooked on a great author who I am more then happy to buy from.

    The majority of them would NEVER have got through a publisher to see the light of day or work it’s way out of the slush pile.

    Thank you every single writer who puts up something I can CHOOSE without having to wait for a publisher to decide if it’s something I would like.

  21. That was brilliant I got a real nice chuckle out of reading this – an even bigger chuckle, in fact, than I got from the original Guardian article.

    To be honest, that linked article is just so…wrong that I wouldn’t even know where to start a rebuttal. I’m not the biggest fan of self publishing – I would never self-publish my own work, for instance – but even I realise that market concerns are a point against (rather than for) traditional publishers.

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