Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I Am An eBook Militant

Over at the new independent publishing blog, Publishing Renaissance, masterminded by writer Zoe Winters, I was reading writer Cliff Burns' post: The Ever-evolving World of Indie and came across a passage that got my back up:
The indie world still attracts the eccentrics, iconoclasts in search of a soapbox, real or virtual…but more and more talented, motivated individuals are using those aforementioned new technologies to create a forum for work that has been rejected by the “trads” for a variety of reasons. For some, it turns out to be a canny move: David Wellington and Scott Sigler secured book deals and Terry Fallis won a Leacock Award for a novel he published through iUniverse.

Emphasis added by me.

I'm not interested in any "book deals."

I've been there. I've done that.

I've been in the stomach of that monster and will never be eaten by it again.

I posted a Comment, that referred to another portion of his essay, but it summed up my overarching sentiment concisely:
I’m telling you right now, Cliff: I will NEVER permit a treeware edition of my work. NOT EVER. There’s my line in the sand, baby.

Those who refuse to cross that line can go suck on Penguin Classics. They won’t have me on filthy paper.

For those late to this party, let me again sum up my own objections to printed books:

1) They have weight

2) They have bulk

3) If you move house move than twice in a lifetime (and I have) you resent those two physical attributes

4) You can lose them all in a disaster (fire, flood, F-18 fighter falling from the sky)

5) Being printed is zero guarantee of readers or sales

6) They're easy to suppress

7) They're objects of a decrepit and suicidal industry that's slowly murdering writers

Aren't those seven points enough?

Here's one more: No publishing company will ever care about your work as much as you do.

I want you to think about that last bit for a moment.

Every publisher does multiple titles each year. The publishing industry is a giant machine spewing out thousands and thousands of books. Everything is put on a schedule, just like any industry, just like any assembly line. This is the reality of things.

You might have a hot book that is catching an advancing wave -- but go to one of the dying dinosaurs of print and you can wait up to twelve to twenty-four months for them to deliver your baby. Timeliness is not part of their apparatus until sheer naked -- and too often, idiotic -- greed kicks in. And, trust me on this, unless your face has been all over TV (for good or bad, they don't judge the color of possible incoming money), you're just one more pain in the ass writer who thinks he has something important, who thinks he is somehow special.

You damn well might have something important and really be special -- but don't expect them to recognize that.

Remember those thousands and thousands of books they shove out every year? They can afford to fuck up yours. Think of them as great big dicks spewing out sperm. How many sperm does it take to make a baby? They can afford to have your important and special sperm drop dead on its journey to the egg of bookstore shelves. There's more where that came from! Every day someone knocks on their door with a book proposal.

They don't need you.

And things are reaching the point where you don't need them, either.

I am an eBook militant because we are reaching a point in history that could have only been dreamt about in the financially-restrained lives of Poe, Balzac, Baudelaire, Dickens, and every fellow writer who came before us and who had to rely on the whim of print publishers -- and who suffered greatly because of it.

I've just named four immortal writers. Quick: name their publishers!

That you can't name them should help you to understand that people read writers -- they don't read publishers (although in my own life I have found one extremely rare exception).

We now live in a world where it is possible to create a blog that has a larger readership than most published printed books. That makes it possible for any writer to create his own destiny unlike any other time in history. The tools to capture and build an audience are free. The tools to spread the word are free. A writer will put more passion and devote more time to promoting his work than any print publisher ever would (even today, they still don't understand how to use the Internet).

Why settle for the kind of marketing treatment a print publisher would deign to give you? It wouldn't be second-rate work. It'd be third- or even fourth-rate. Your little squiggly book would never make it to the egg and create sales. It'll be douched out to the backlist before the end of one year. A backlist that print publishers just sit on -- never, ever releasing as last-ditch eBook editions -- and then have the temerity to gripe how nothing in the backlist ever sells.

(Notice that this lack of sales didn't deter Google from stealing most of the backlist!)

Given the historical record of print publishing -- and given its current gross incompetency when faced with the Internet and eBooks -- I don't understand why anyone would want to be involved with that dying system. Going to them and expecting legitimacy or sales is delusional. All a writer is basically doing is giving up contractual rights that will never be used and sabotaging a career at its start.

I believe in the primacy of writers. I believe writing sells, not publishing brand labels.

I am an eBook militant.

You should be too.

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