For the past three or four years, the book world has been inundated with advice, predictions, and knowing winks about the next phase of what it means to be a writer. We're told to exploit social media, to cater to our fans, to turn to self-publishing through e-books, to eschew copyright in favor of giving readers material for free. But what value does any of this actually have? ...Read the whole thing. As you can probably tell from the above, VanderMeer doesn't handle progressive publishing shibboleths with kid gloves. Indeed, he goes at them with a verbal sledgehammer (and oft-salty diction), and few folks will find themselves in one-hundred-percent agreement with his conclusions. Personally, his view that "the ridiculous length of copyright in the US/UK right now ... is too long" somewhat horrifies me. Why shouldn't future generations continue to benefit from an ancestor's imaginative hard work?
I feel passionately that some of the information we are getting is increasingly wrong and motivated by selfishness and, yes, to some degree, a form of hyperbolic illogic. ...
The problem right now really isn't the "tyranny" of big NYC commercial publishers or an Amazon monopoly. The problem is the virus of mediocre and received ideas coursing through the collective brains of the book world, infecting too many of its writers, commentators, reviewers. It's a kind of fundamentalism at its heart, and we want to believe in it because it's easy to do so. Then we don't have to think for ourselves and we can also worship at the altar of a God of E-Plenty.
Still, most of VanderMeer's thoughts strike me as spot on. "Self-publishing is a tool and like any other tool it can be used well or poorly." Yup. "All I can say is, if you think agents are evil sycophants who want to suck all of your money out of you and cheat you, feel free. I'll be over in this corner getting a lot more done for more money because of my agent." Seems fair. "Trad publishing offers something to the shy writer, the introverted writer, the writer who will *always* trip over themselves trying to yank at the levers of social media. And that thing is advocacy and support." Amen. Give it a gander and see what you think.
(Picture: CC 2009 by Philip Weiss; Hat Tip: @JRVogt)