It seems I may have understated the story this afternoon about Vook changing its name to Pronoun.
What I saw as a simple name change is viewed from inside Pronoun as a pivotal moment in the digital publishing industry. According to its manifesto on Medium, something has gone horribly awry in publishing, and Pronoun sees itself as the solution.
Either that or they've decided to start making late night infomercials:
Writing a book that has a chance of connecting with readers takes all of an author’s effort, talent, and passion. Yet the structure of the publishing industry puts a long chain of people and corporations, each with their own incentives, between you and your audience.
Traditional publishers, in the pursuit of blockbusters, take control of your publishing rights?—?then drop support for every author whose sales don’t generate a corporate level of return on investment.
Self-publishing forces you to choose between hundreds of costly services whose value is obscured by sales pitches. And once you publish, you’re on your own.
We believe authors deserve better.
Pronoun has posted a 1,174 word manifesto in which it lays out the many ills both in traditional publishing and self-publishing. I won't quote the post at length, but as I read it for the third time I can see signs that the company is setting itself up as the solution to a problem which doesn't exist.
For example, this is Pronoun's skewed view of self-pub:
Thanks to recent advances in the technology for creating, distributing, and reading books, authors can now publish on their own, with complete freedom?—?but no support.
Self-publishing as it stands today means finding your way through an array of costly services with drastically different features, business interests, and incentives. Many don’t deliver what they promise. The biggest company in self-publishing, Author Solutions (which was purchased for $116mm by Pearson in 2012 and is now part of Penguin Random House), is currently being sued by its own authors for its deceptive practices.
I don't dispute the description of Author Solution, but I fundamentally disagree with the myopic description of self-pub segment of the publishing industry.
No Support? Really?
The only way one can claim that there is no self-pub support net is if one ignores services like Bibliocrunch, which offers a concierge service (hand-holding, by any other name); publishing services marketplaces like Reedsy, and author forums like Absolute Write or the KDP Forums, or, and I kid you not, the comment section of The Passive Voice blog.
What's more, I am not a self-published author but I've watched the industry for long enough to know that there are readily identifiable authors who are genuinely helpful and will connect newbie authors with a support network.
Either we're not looking at the same industry or Pronoun is not being completely accurate in its description, and that bothers me.
Folks, the big story about Pronoun today is that it is launching a service which is going to be completely free to authors, a service which no one has been allowed to see.
That by itself sounds too good to be true, and when we add in this manifesto I see lofty aims combined with improbable promises.
I don't trust anyone who sets themselves up as the solution to an industry-wide problem, especially when I don't see the problems they describe. And when you add in the fact that the solution is both completely free and completely unexplained -
I can't speak for you but that raises red flags for me.
What do you think?