Friday, August 16, 2013

The Big Lie from a corporate publishing shill

Have you ever noticed how people talk faster and louder when they have to defend a position they know is wrong? Like the Toronto cops defending the officer who shot Sammy Yatim nine times?

A member of the commercial publishing industry is doing the same thing in blog form with statements like this:

There are exceptions to every rule, and I’ll address that in a minute, but for now let me just say, the Indie Market is shit.  It’s a little pile of shit, wrapped up in shit, to make a shit burrito covered in shit sauce.
I wrestled with the idea of dignifying this idiocy with acknowledgement, and I finally decided that readers deserve the argument to be exposed for the vacuous, dishonest nonsense it is. But I will not do the author the favour of a link.

The Big Lie concept

If you want people to believe a patent falsehood, keep repeating it, and denigrate anyone who argues with you. In this case, the big lie — that all independently published books are bad — is backed up by many other lies. The reader who knows better has a difficult time knowing where to start pointing out the lies.

... The unedited, untalented, unresearched drivel that has been rejected by every publishing house
No: I know of many independent authors who spend a lot of time doing research (myself included). And any professional writer gets his or her work edited by a professional editor.

As for a whopper, the guilty blogger admits to fabrication:

On the other side of that you’ll find authors who have never tried the traditional literary market.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and pull this percentage out of my ass…Ahhhhhhh.  96%.  I believe about 96% of those who have never tried the traditional market don’t because they know they’re going to get rejected. 
Speaking of unresearched drivel ...

The blogger then tries to establish some credibility:

I work for a publishing house (and no despite your begging, I will not tell you which one, nor will I give you a recommendation, so please stop asking) so I know what it’s like.

You may think, dear reader, that this justifies the rant. This blogger is a publishing insider, and must know what he or she is writing about, right? That’s part of the Big Lie, too: make up some kind of credential to manufacture credibility. This blogger works for a publishing house — but in what job? Janitor? Boss’s kid who pretends to do “marketing”?

This is the same strategy that advertisers use when they tell you that 9 dentists out of 10 recommend their toothpaste. Remember the cigarette ad that said that doctors prefer their brand?

Now, for the one bit of truth, which you always find in the Big Lie:

Editors are necessary.
Image source: The Bleacher  Report Blog
Well, duh. Of course. The blogger puts this in not only because the shaky logic of the post demands it, but because one bit of truth helps convince the audience of the truth of the whole lie. It’s like “With milk and a glass of fresh fruit juice, this cereal is part of a good breakfast.”

It’s all to soften you up for the Big Lie:
The truth is, unless your work is good enough to be accepted by a traditional publisher, it shouldn’t be on the market.
I couldn’t let that go. So, I commented, more or less this way:

Well, what can you expect from an industry insider: defence of a moribund industry’s obsolete and dysfunctional business practices.

I have worked in publishing, too, for over 30 years, for book publishers (including one of the Bix), magazine publishers and newspapers. Guess what: their sales are all falling. The traditional publishing business model doesn’t work anymore, and the big publishing corporations cannot keep up with the market, or the zeitgeist, any better than dinosaurs could keep up with climate change.

What irked not just me but, as I write this, 163 commenters, is the blogger’s presumption of superiority. This blog is the first time I have seen anyone from any commercial publisher to say explicitly that only traditionally published books are worthy of publishing.

Every publisher I’ve ever read, or spoken with, admits that there are many excellent manuscripts in their slush pile, and they just don’t have the resources to publish every good book.
Source: Rebecca Berto
Novel Girl

In fact, most books published do NOT make money, particularly in fiction. The publishing business model works this way: the few successful books, the ones that sell, make enough money to make up for the larger portion that lose money.

E-books and print-on-demand have made that model obsolete.

I’m not the only person who thinks so. There are at least 162 others who commented on the blog, every one of them objecting. Most of them supplied their names or avatars and contact information — unlike the blogger, who remains (cowardly) anonymous.

One commenter, in fact, responded to my comment:

Well said, Scott. I’m self-published but I had a professional cover done and have had my books edited. I also work as an editor and all my clients are, wait for it … self-published authors. Surprise, surprise. Some of us actually do care about quality. We all know there are a lot who don’t, but they won’t stay in the business for long, and because the prospective purchaser of a book can read a sample, well, they can decide for themselves whether the book is up to scratch or not.
Traditional publishers have made a living off authors for a very long time and now that living is threatened. Not only that, contracts are getting worse and so are the editing services some publishers provide. I’ve seen many a traditionally published book that has sub-standard editing. And guess what, Anonymous (at least have the guts to rant with your real identity), a recent survey has shown that readers don’t give a toss about whether the book they’re reading is self-published or traditionally published.
I find [the] rant offensive, ill-informed, self-important and a generalisation. Thankfully, your opinion won’t stop anyone from following their dream to be published. Let the public decide what they like or don’t like. I’m not afraid for readers to have more choice, but I find it interesting that you do. I, for one, won’t let someone else dictate whether I achieve my dream or not :) .
The blogger is a crank — like the old guy who yells at kids on skateboards for going too fast.

Commercial publishing, the way it has been done for the past 500 years, is over. There’s a new reality, and whether you like it or not, independent authors are producing excellent books and gaining market share.

No, the commercial publishers have no monopoly on good writing. You know this, and many of you produce excellent books, too.

It's now time for readers and writers to dismiss cranks, and look at independent writers in the same way they look at independent musicians: as creative people who produce the most interesting work available.

What do you think?


  1. One of the things that got me writing was to read a book from a big six publisher and know that I could do better, so to say that all traditionally published books are far superior to indie books is nonsense.

    In the last year I've read only indie books. Some have been bad and I've given up after a few pages, but the likes of Russell Blake blow many traditionally published authors out of the water.

    Publishers are actively seeking out indie authors and offering multiple-book deals, so they obviously aren't in agreement with the blog owner.

  2. Anonymous9:52 AM

    An excellent response, Scott, and you handled it with class and did not stoop to this person's level in order to express yourself. Saying that ALL indie authors are awful is like saying all Germans are Nazis. It has no basis in reality and truth. On my blog, I always encourage writers to constantly work on improving their craft because it's their responsibility, and some take that to heart and some don't, which is very sad. But to bunch all Indies together is narrow-minded and close to hateful. I find it sad that this person did not approach expressing her/his opinion with more tact. Great post!!

  3. I think we are going through a shift in publishing, and that while there are writers such as the ones the anonymous blogger complained about, they are in the minority. Fear always makes people think and say ridiculous things, and the bile in his post makes it hard to take him seriously.

  4. I couldn't tell you who published any of the authors I read. It's the author and story - not the publisher.

  5. "Traditional" publishing has only meant 'instant marketing channels' for some time now... Its not about content ... Its about sensationalized material to hype and 'market' ... Thanks for the perspective piece here ... Could we be getting back the merit of great stories? I certainly hope so :-)

  6. Tamy Burns8:34 PM

    Great job Scott. I have read many books, published by the bix, that were poorly edited and/or poorly written! On the other hand, I've read some great works by self-published authors.

  7. Anonymous11:45 PM

    Self-published authors and independent authors are not always the same thing. Anyone can throw something up on a web site and they are a self-published author. A real independent author might have deals with publishing houses or imprints or not. He or she might be propublished, or published by a small house for some of the books, or not. A real indie author actually gets his or her books edited, buys or makes pro covers, does real marketing and so on. Real indie authors actually act like publishers. So when you hear people equating the two, kindly try to set them straight.

  8. What a classy guy. 0_o Thanks for not sharing his link. Honestly, I think most of the motivation of these attacks are for blog hits. I also think anyone who makes blanket statements is generally ignorant, or trying to stir up conflict for attention, i.e. blog hits— or both. There has been a surge of these type of posts lately. Regardless, I appreciate and agree with your points. The proof is in the pudding. You either have the goods, or you don't, and if you're not investing in editing, etc., then pay the price.

  9. I interview many authors from both camps and it seems to me that there are only two things that might benefit a traditionally published Author i.e. overseas wholesale deals and paperback sales in bookshops and supermarkets. Many are fed up with the lack of marketing support given down the traditional routes and I know of several that have exchanged those few advantages, after many years of being traditionally published, to go it alone. Currently, around 30 of the top 100 books on Amazon are written by self published authors and if I had more time on my hands, I would probably be clambering to set up a brokerage to sell self published authors into High Street shops and overseas... I think that is all it would take to end this war over words - Revolution over! :-) Great article.

    1. You should read Hugh Howey's report on the Author Earnings blog. His statistical survey found that not only do e-books dominate fiction sales, way ahead of paperbacks, but that the numbers usually reported by Digital Book World and others are useless. He also found that, in genre fiction, independent/self-published authors outsell the Big 5 corporate publishers combined. Check it out at

  10. Type Pulitzer Prize winning books that were rejected by publishers into your browser. The list is long and illustrious. If this guy can't even come up with another curse word besides shit he should not even be allowed to edit comic porn.

    1. The lack of imagination and breadth is symptomatic of the problem with the whole commercial publishing industry. The fact that this guy works in a major publisher only reinforces that. What we, anyone involved in publishing, need to do is start thinking beyond the conventions of the past century.