As Sarah wrote yesterday, trad publishing is an industry built off doing the dirty to those they purport to serve. They are not alone in this: they are preceded (and eclipsed by) the music industry, the film industry (Hollywood accounting is more than just a metaphor), and of course the software gaming industry. And others, of course – these are just the most well-known ones.
All of these industries have one key thing in common: they are built around someone’s creative endeavors.
The someone can be a team of people working together, or a single person, but without creative folks bringing something new into the world, they would all die a slow and painful death. Yes, this applies to non-fiction as well. It also goes a fair way to explaining why Hollywood has become so completely bereft of anything resembling creativity.
When you run a business where the primary mode of operation amounts to shafting the people who create your content, you will burn out those who could produce the best content. Yes, there will be any number of second- and third- stringers, who will be good enough to give you the trickles of income that are being used while the industries churn through and burn out their sources. That’s without stopping to consider that such a business model is in and of itself evil.
A non-evil business model is one where the creator of the product, the customer, and the business owners all end up better off after business is concluded. One where a valuable service is provided for a reasonable price. Where the creator is reasonably rewarded for his/her/its efforts.
The kind of blatant fraud and criminal negligence that goes with ignoring requests for rights reversions, using contracts that sign away everything except (maybe) your firstborn and your soul, and then using accounting systems so archaic that you can’t say how many copies of the thing you printed much less sold… That’s evil. It’s treating your creators as interchangeable widgets (which is evil in itself, because no two humans are truly interchangeable, nor are people ever widgets) and then abusing them.
It’s destroying lives, the lives of the creators who are being so comprehensively shafted, and making life less pleasant for the rest of us. Imagine if you will a word where Terry Pratchett’s work was never published. Now ask yourself how many proto-Pratchetts have had their careers and potential aborted by this abomination masquerading as “business as usual”.
I don’t give a damn about the politics of the authors, the assorted publishing industry employees, or anything else, incidentally. What gets up my nose about all of this is that in the stampede to give off the politically correct auras and emanations, anything resembling competence has been thrown in the loo and unceremoniously flushed. I’m anti-incompetence, not pro anyone’s party line.
And yeah, I do take the view that this kind of deliberate incompetence is evil. We’re all human, no matter how debatable that might be with some of us. We have the ability to make our own decisions. To claim that someone’s circumstances “makes” them do something horrible is to insult everyone else with similar circumstances who chooses not to do horrible things.
I’d just like to know what the hell is wrong in this world that there are entire industries built on destroying people’s lives while telling everyone they’re all about fulfilling dreams.