WSJ op ed on the ebook self pubbing gold rush

Eric Felton has a lot to say about the brave new world in his excellent op ed "Cherish the Book Publishers - You'll Miss Them When They're Gone":
"It isn't just the elusive prospect of riches that excites the untold thousands of hopefuls crowding into the new self-publishing space. They are buoyed by escaping the grim frustrations of trying to get published the old-fashioned way...It's only natural for those locked out to despise the gatekeepers, but what about those of us in the reading public? Shouldn't we be grateful that it's someone else's job to weed out the inane, the insipid, the incompetent? Not that they always do such a great job of it...

Look in the forums Amazon hosts for its Kindle "direct publishers" and you won't find many posts asking how to do the basics of traditional book production—copy editing, anyone? But there are plenty of threads with titles like "Promote your book" and "review swapping?"—orgies of desperate back-scratching that make old-school literary logrolling seem downright genteel."
Read the rest. Then let's talk. I think he makes some excellent points, but misses the bottom line: the complete devaluation of the craft of writing. I'm not terribly concerned about publishers going the way of the Mohican. They'll survive by paying less and less as more writers clamber for fewer opportunities. The endangered species here is the author.

My first novel was pubbed in 1996, and I've done about a dozen books since then, several of them NYT bestsellers, either under my own name or as a ghostwriter. The industry has undergone a tectonic shift in that time and, in my humble opinion, not kept up with changes. Dedication to craft isn't rewarded in the brick publishers a whole lot more than it is in the mosh pit of self-publishing. There's an agonizingly thin tier of people who make it big, under that a moderate strata of folks like myself who make a good living, for which we are grateful. Then there's the other 96%: a roiling, frustrated, passionate and increasingly empowered population of people who are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

I'm in the process of self-pubbing my backlist titles (though I'd like to think I've had enough experience in the industry to call myself a small publisher, as opposed to an author who self-pubs) and my hope is to gather a coalition of other midlist authors who made it past the gatekeepers of old school publishing and can offer books that will elevate the quality of accessibly priced ebooks. Authors do need to band together to support each other, not as incestuous back-scratchers, but as a craft alliance.

Traditional publishing isn't about ink and paper. It's about artistic integrity, zeal for writing, respect for careful editing, thoughtful presentation. All those are possible in the brave new world of ebooks.


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