Answering Pub Perspective's Q of the day: "Has Digital and Self Publishing Devalued Authorship?"

Today on Publishing Perspectives, Edward Nawotka asks, "Has Digital and Self Publishing Devalued Authorship?" The gist of it:
...the very definition of “author” is changing. It is no longer merely used to describe a solitary writer working away in a room for hours on end. Today, it means the leader of a “tribe,” someone with their own community which they may have developed through their writing, blogging, Tweeting, et al. What’s more, technology has put the would-be “author” on equal footing with publishers: the cost of publishing — online or even in print — is free and/or accessible to most.

As a talented dabbler who developed into a person who writes books for a living, I’m not overly sensitive about other talented dabblers calling themselves “authors.” In my humble opinion, the definitions of “author” and “publishing” set forth above are more a devaluation of the important role others play in the production of a well-crafted book.

Writing a book without an editor is like applying lipstick without a mirror; I suppose a few people can do it, but they never look as good as they think they do.

The art of book design is something people don’t usually notice unless it’s done poorly, but a great design — from flap copy to font selection — makes a huge difference in the life of the book and the experience of the reader. (I was lucky enough to have Chip Kidd design the cover for my memoir, Bald in the Land of Big Hair, and I’m incredibly grateful for his contribution to that book’s success.)

The PR, sales, and marketing people I’ve worked with from Random House to the small presses are smart, business savvy, hardworking missionaries for the books they work on. The anal retentive copy editors and eagle-eye legal reviewers have vigilantly held my feet to the fire. My agent is my advocate throughout the process, keeping everything on an even keel, pushing for better positioning of the book, and shaking the money tree when needed. The head honcho at the publisher keeps the corporate boat afloat. Packing and shipping staff tote proverbial barges and bales. Bookkeepers tabulate royalty statements and (ideally) cut the checks that allow us all to do it for another day.

Of all the ridiculously unfair things about the publishing industry, perhaps the most egregious is that books don't have a rolling list of credits at the end. It takes a village. To dismiss the work of all these people as unnecessary is disrespectful and naive. If any one of them is sub-par, the book suffers for it. It’s scary to think people don’t know the difference, or worse yet, don’t care.

Comments

I could not agree with this more. While I'm trying to do everything I can to make my book as good as it can be, I am beginning to welcome the idea of others getting involved, if indeed the project is worthy. And you know what? If the project isn't worthy of that kind of involvement--if it's not going to generate the kind of excitement that could get a whole team around it--then I'm not sure I'd want to put it out there. I have friends who self-publish or publish through PODS, and that makes sense in certain niche markets. But if you want to reach the largest possible audience you can, it just seems that you'd WANT to have other people on your team.

On the other hand, I do believe in "the leader of the tribe" mentality, and think that is where we're headed. She Writes is perhaps a good example of this. Somehow I think Gen Y and below will push us into a new paradigm altogether, because they are so much more about volunteerism and the community. I wonder what trends we'll see sparked by them.
Nancy J. Parra said…
I also agree-you might create the product but it takes a village to launch it properly.
Mylène said…
Well said, Joni.
I agree, ladies. It's a rare, rare person who has the clear-eyed perspective to do an ego-free assessment of his/her own work. I personally haven't *met* this person, but I won't totally rule out such an individual.

That said, I'm holding out hope of someday stumbling across a unicorn as well. :)
Suzan Harden said…
Uh, Colleen, there's a unicorn Roe deer living in Italy.

After read his article, I don't think Mr. Nawotka meant to devalue the publishing squad behind a book. He's looking at how technology is changing the playing field.

To me, one sentence is key:
"One question that was raised on Twitter during a publishing panel was this: If you self-publish a book and nobody reads it can you still call yourself an 'author?'"

The real question should be: If you publish at all and nobody reads your book, are you a real author?

Isn't that the real gist, regardles of the team or format?
And if a tree falls in the forest . . . :)
Suzan Harden said…
LOL I've got enough problems weeding out cliches in my novel writing. Practicing on blog comments helps.

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