So blame this on Cheryl Smithem. She posted a link to an article about a speech given by author John Green entitled, "Why I'll Never Self-Publsih". She pinged me in the post because she knows I have a few opinions on publishing and self publishing. Not that I am opinionated or anything.
OK, so I went and read it. This was a speech he gave to the ABA, American Booksellers Association, and basically I think he was playing to his audience. Oh, and go read the article / speech before reading the rest of my post or it may not make sense. It may, but I can't promise anything. What follows is the response I wrote to her on Google+.
"On one level I agree with him. A book, any good book, is a team effort. Even if self-published there could be editors, proof-readers, illustrators, PR folk, promoters, vendors, etc… True enough. And there should be. An artist of any sort relies on the input of others. An painter needs someone who creates paint and canvas. Then maybe a gallery and even a publicist. A musician needs someone to create the instrument, to maintain the music hall, to sell tickets, etc…
Now, where the change is coming is that the artist (of whatever genre) can do more and more of that themselves or select their own team. This is what has been happening in the music industry – it doesn't eliminate the need for music companies, but it changes the roles. And give the artist more control – if they want it. If they don't want to take on those tasks, fine. But they lose the control over the way they are done. A pure tradeoff and nothing wrong in either direction. Just a choice.
Where he is wrong is where he says all of the self-publishing stuff is "bullshit". And yes, that is his term. He is already doing a lot of that with his blogs and Twitter and YouTube. A lot of the promotion that used to be completely the field of the publisher he is already doing. But by choice. He just isn't taking on that part of the publishing work that involves the direct mechanical creation of the final product. The book. That is fine, it goes to the tradeoff above and it reflects where he wants to be on the scale.
That scale will be different for different people and for different genres. The ability to self publish, do most all of it oneself, is fantastic for non-fiction works of limited audience for example. At the other end of the spectrum it also works for a performer like Amanda Palmer who could reach millions of people she wouldn't have through the "standard" channels.
The big question is how the publishers and others in the production stream will change and increase their value. From the proofreaders and editors, to the publicists and agents, the roles need to be tweaked for the modern world instead of remain stagnent to a century or more ago. The music industry learned this the hard way by having iTunes, and now others, eat their lunch. They could bitch and moan all they wanted, but this is change. The one constant in the universe. Get used to it, grow up, move on.
OK, so I have gone on too long about this. But it is an area I feel strongly about. I love books. I used to be a book dealer. I will also buy books from publishers, large bookstores, local bookstores (when I can find them), and small presses. But I also buy books directly from authors or any other method. I buy because I want the book – I don't give a rats fuzzy butt about how it was published. I do care that the publishing was done with care though – edited well, proofread well, technically produced without flaw.
And I love it when I can have more direct contact with the authors. That is the real "self" in self-publishing. The removal of the barrier, real or imagined, between the author and the reader. All the rest is just mechanics. Who care cares who does the mechanical work? Unless you are speaking to a conference of them and they are paying for your room and board at that conference."
Once I wrote all that in response to Cheryl I realized it was longer that one of my normal posts here. So I have copied it over here. Hoping to get some sort of response or feedback from Cheryl, Andra Watkins and Cameron Garriepy too.