Until recently it was easy for the traditional publishing industry to puff its condescending chest out and hide behind pretense and bluster, but the staunch gatekeeping the industry practiced was always a shell game. Works and authors deemed unprofitable were labeled not good enough, while works and authors that could be packaged, edited or ghostwritten for profit were granted admission into the literary sphere.
As I’ve noted numerous times, the claim that the publishing industry provides cultural stewardship has always been a lie. The very fact that screams are now emanating from corporate publishing offices tells you that self-publishing is not inflicting cultural carnage, but merely decreasing revenue and decentralizing power in the industry. Many of the people who make their living in those offices continue to toe the party line despite the obvious shifting landscape, but at best that has been a delaying tactic and at worse complete delusion.
There will never be any shortage of celebrity-driven bilge in the literary world, but as many celebrities have discovered to their horror, having a bankable name doesn’t guarantee you’ll get what you want in any business. If you’re a movie star the studios will jump at the chance to produce your next genre blockbuster, but if you’re trying to fund a small-budget art film you’re going to have as much trouble raising studio money as an unknown actor with dream. The only difference is that the studio can slam the door in the unknown’s face, while they have to go out of their way to shower you with sincere and deeply felt sweet nothings. Likewise, if you’re a literary fixture or a rising star the publishing world will be happy to take another volume of whatever you’re famous for, but if you want to wander into the short-fiction weeds or publish an experimental work you’ll probably find few takers. Unless of course you’re willing to give them more of the good stuff in the bargain, in which case they’ll begrudgingly kick your pet project out the door and support it with marketing that meets the bare minimum of their impossible-to-enforce legal commitment. [ Read more ]