Thursday, December 15, 2011

What if the movie studios (like big publishers) were driven out of business and all we had was people's YouTube clips of them jumping off their roof or giving makeup tutorials? I'm sorry, but I'm not going to the movies to watch YouTube clips, just like I'm not paying for self-published crap on Amazon, which may be our only option someday if Amazon has it's way and puts the publishers out of business by becoming a publisher itself.

So many of these self-published books are just not good enough. So many of them (and I would know, remember, I work in a bookstore; I see them everyday) are not edited or formatted properly, to say nothing of the rotten cover art and cheap, flimsy paper and binding.

Maybe the way a book looks isn't important to you, but I think it's important to a lot of people. I, like a good portion of people, am not interested in ebooks because I am a collector of the object of a book. My home library is a comfort and pleasure to me. I love being surrounded by books. And I love when they are beautiful objects, with satiny jackets, deckled edges, and a comforting heft in the hand. And the fact is, I have yet to see a book made by CreateSpace or iUniverse or whatever that meets these standards. They just look like junk.

But I do think it's great that so many people are getting to tell their stories, and I do believe that there are masterpieces that are being self-published today (just as masterpieces are found in the slush pile), but I don't want to live in a world where we have millions of happy, self-published authors and NO GOOD BOOKS.

If you read that leaked memo from publisher Hachette a few weeks ago, then you know all the work that publishers do to bring quality books to market. I'll summarize it here:

1. Publisher acts as CURATOR, finding the talent and nurturing them as they work. This includes wading through all the crap that is now being churned out with CreateSpace and finding the work that is actually good. It also includes editing by a professional editor, not someone's neighbor or husband or friend. People who have edited bestselling, award-winning writing--these are the people who continue to do the work of editing new material. They are good at it.

2. Publishers have the MONEY to fund the writer's work. Part of the reason that the books they publish are good is because their writers have time and money to write full-time.

3. Publishers have the network to DISTRIBUTE. They have sales reps who have actually read the books who then sell them to bookstores, online and off, independent and chain.

4. Publishers MARKET and PROTECT the work they helped build. They have a vested interest in the intellectual property because putting out books is all they do. They don't also sell TVs and Elmo dolls and Hunter boots and diapers. They just do books. And those books have to be good.

Amazon's efforts at taking down independent bookstores are just the tip of the iceberg. They want to take down the publishers too. And when they do that, when they are the only company making and selling books, and they are also making and selling gadgets and who knows what else, you have to know that the quality of the books won't be a paramount concern. And my guess is the price won't be so great then either.


  1. I love the YouTube analogy! Well done.

  2. It's true, and it's scary, but devote readers and bibliophiles will continue to support independent publishing and bookselling. It all will just be scaled down considerably, and many (us included) will have to find some other source of income!