Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Buchan on Traditional Publishing

In an editorial at Publishing Perspectives, Sparkabook CEO Lisa Buchan discusses the history of traditional publishing then states why she still believes it provides value for today's writers. Excerpt:
During a recent conference I attended on Publishing Futures, the discussion touched on the global political views of the "abolish copyright" movement. This political lobby group asserts that copyright and the publishers battling to uphold it are getting in the way of a pure flow of creativity from writer to reader on the internet. I heard several worried publishers around me calling out the question "so what is our value as publishers?" Unfortunately the discussion swirled away without these voices being heard or answered.

I have been thinking a lot about the answers. It matters, because I am worried we will lose the publishing mechanism that allowed writers to become a professional group in the first place.
Read the whole thing. From the get-go, let's agree to not knock those who prefer self-publishing over the traditional route. Wonderful works have landed in readers' laps due to CreateSpace and Kickstarter campaigns, and I'm pleased that ISLF friends such as Lars Walker, Tony Chavira and Michelle Davidson Argyle have boosted their creative careers through such means.

Having said that, I'm not sure I possess enough talent to self publish.

The problem, so to speak, is that self publishing requires an expansive skill set. Authors must don the editing hat, the typesetting hat, the cover design hat, the promotional hat and on and on until they've veritable leaning towers of haberdashery perched atop their noggins. I enormously admire those who can manage it. Yet I think that Mary Robinette Kowal, author of Shades of Milk and Honey and one-quarter of the Writing Excuses podcast team, has a good word on the subject. When recently asked if she would self-publish given the opportunity, she said, "I ... would not. Understand that having come from an art major background and working as an art director, I have all the skillset to self-publish, and I've avoided it like the plague. Not because I think it's bad, but because I'm much happier to have people give me money and then have them do the work."

(Picture: CC 2011 by Septuagent; Hat Tip: @DBeyondBorders)


YA Sleuth said...

As someone going the traditional publishing route, I have to say that I'm amazed at the amount of talented people involved in getting the book out there. You'd need to hire all those people (at least editors) to get your story ready if you were to self-publish.

That said, like you mentioned: too many talented writers and great books don't make it to a big house. So self-publishing is sometimes your only route.

I hope in the future, there will be more organizations/collaborations to 'filter' the good from bad for readers (like some sort of seal of approval). Right now, I have a hard time telling what's good and worth the money--aside from books by author friends whose writing I love.

Loren Eaton said...

As you say, I'm glad that self publishing exists for those who get overlooked by the big houses for some reason. I'm perpetually shocked that Lars Walker doesn't get snapped up by a large publisher; his work is amazing.

But on the whole, most of us need that army of editors and publicists and graphic designers. I can't do it all on my own. Heck, sometimes it's hard enough to scratch out a sentence!

Chestertonian Rambler said...

The only thing bad copyright laws have been good for is creating quality short stories. Early American copyright protections were virtually nonexistent, which meant that authors could only make a living by selling their works to magazines (where first publication meant everything.) The result was a surprising flowering of the form.

Nowadays, though, that probably wouldn't happen. PowerBooks are so much more convenient for overnight plagiarism than manually-set printing presses.

Loren Eaton said...

Watch out, CR, you'll give Apple ideas. I can just see the tag line now. "iPress: Start your own Reformation."