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Aspiring Author Blames Publishing Cabal for Closure of All Self-Pub Platforms

7165990596_015efd103b_oEvery time I start to think that Porter Anderson might have a point when he tells indie authors that there’s no need to proselytize any more, or that self-pub is being oversold, a post like the following crosses my desk.

Iain S Thomas wrote for The Huffington Post today about his struggles to get his first book published. Tell me if you see what’s wrong here:

Here’s what I believed when I was trying to get my first publishing deal:

There is a cabal of writers and publishers purposefully keeping me out. Every successful writer is part of this cabal. They know who I am and they hate what I write because it is too good and they feel threatened by me and my work. I’m just too brilliant. Too edgy. Too innovative and new.

Of course, I never verbalized this or said it in my head in this specific way or perhaps I would’ve realized how ridiculous and narcissistic and petty it sounds. But there was always a feeling of something being incredibly unfair, and if I give words to that feeling, then that is the feeling and those are the words, however delusional they may sound now. I never realized, at the time, how much comfort there was inside that feeling because it absolved me completely of any and all responsibility for my success or failure.

While we could share a chuckle over the irony of an author taking responsibility for his own success or failure in attempting to hand control over his success to a publisher, I didn’t write this post to set Thomas up for ridicule.

The point I wanted to make was that he discussed this solely in terms of  a traditional publishing contract.  While I am sure he is aware of all of his options (including self-pub), his post still assumes that there is but a single option.

That kind of blind spot is exactly why indie authors need to keep proselytizing. Without the constant reminder that authors have multiple options for getting their work on the market and in the hands of readers, new authors will come in to the industry with the assumption that the only way to succeed is to sign with a publisher.

That simply isn’t true, and indie authors need to keep saying that.

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Mackay Bell June 17, 2015 um 2:07 am

Yes, it’s wrong on two levels. The one you mention, which is that it is foolish in this age of self-publishing for anyone to worry about whether their work will be rejected by a secret cabal who doesn’t want them to succeed. Just publish it yourself if you think its good.

But also… he seems to imply that he’s being so foolish because there isn’t any cabal. Maybe there isn’t a "cabal" but there is a club. A club of publishers and agents and writers and chosen universities and newspaper reviewers, who really don’t want any competition (as all the hand waving about Amazon proves) and who really aren’t interested in your work. This club is perfectly happy to tell you to send it to agents where they know it will not be read. They are happy to tell writers that they have to have agents (when in fact they will read stuff that their friends and associates wrote who don’t have agents) and that there is a meritocracy, when, in fact, it’s a system designed to help insiders and to keep outsiders out.

And, in fact, that’s why people like Porter Anderson are doing the industry/cabal/clubs bidding by telling self-publishers to pipe down so the greater masses won’t realize they have choices and can make it on their own.

David Gaughran June 17, 2015 um 3:28 am

I think Porter is annoyed because we keep talking about things that make him squirm (like publishers exploiting writers) and don’t give two hoots about the stuff that gets his blood flowing (like ISBNs). I’m not sure why he’s so obssessed with ISBNs. Maybe he was hired to be? I see you can go to his website and purchase his services, such as they are.

Mackay Bell June 17, 2015 um 4:01 am

That’s all part of the Amazon "must release it’s data" meme.

Remember how well their effort worked to get the government to step in an save literature by forcing Amazon to be nice?

There’s another effort to keep talking about the crisis because Amazon won’t release their data. They’re trying the "it would be good for indies too," routine. "Indies don’t know what’s going on either, and we can’t trust AE." I think it will work just as well as their efforts to get indies to support government action on ebook pricing.

Steve Vernon June 17, 2015 um 7:36 am

Earlier this year I was at a group book signing outside of a small independent local Halifax bookstore. It was a slow crowd and a bad pitch – but the store owner has always been good to me and HAS sold an awful lot of my books so I was glad to be there to help out.

We had maybe five or six authors – but the loudest of them was a self-published fellow who loudly proclaimed that he had lost his shirt self-publishing and was never going to self publish again.

I asked him how he had lost his shirt and he told me about how he had paid some fly-by-night vanity press umpteen thousand dollars to provide him with a garage full of paperback copies – of which he had sold only about six or eight copies.

I felt bad about that – especially because I had actually purchased one of those six or eight copies at a local bookstore that was charging an arm and a leg and a couple of toes for – so I asked him if he had ever considered e-publishing and putting out a POD version through Createspace.

He hummed and hawed a little and let on that I did not know what I was talking about and he had not heard of any of these companies and besides all that he didn’t really care if he sold any of those copies because he just wanted people to KNOW that he had actually written a book.

So I told him that I was sorry that he had lost his shirt but that it was probably an ugly shirt to begin with and he shouldn’t really feel bad because he still had his hat that he could talk through.

The conversation slid downhill from there.

Perhaps I ought to learn how to proselytize a little more diplomatically in the future.

There are an awful lot of people out there with an awful lot of misconceptions about writing – which goes to show that you can lead a horse to water but he is still most likely going to crap on your boot while he is peeing in the stream.

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