Growing not dying

Last week, the article in the Wall Street Journal, “Cherish the Book Publishers—You’ll Miss Them When They’re Gone,” created a bit of furor around the internet and indie publishing circles. I mostly talk about writing in this space, but since I am an aspiring publisher, as well, I thought I’d offer a bit of a round-up for those who are interested, as well as a few thoughts of my own.

Yes, the article smacked of pretension, but that’s not anything Joe Konrath can’t tackle better than me. It had a lot of misinformation, but that was refuted by Kristine Rusch. I subscribe to a great site by writer, David Gaughran (who I can thank for the Rusch link) and he also chimed in with some great points about all the positive developments for readers and writers in this era of indie publishing.

I wanted to link to these articles to give you a little perspective on the whole indie publishing phenomenon (which isn’t all that much of a phenomenon if you ask me, it’s been around for a while.) I’d also like to add that my husband and I are both independent artists. He’s a filmmaker, and I was bitching on twitter about him leaving this weekend to go film a documentary in Omaha, but really, I’m ridiculously proud of him and his work.

Why do I bring this up? (I’m past the bitching now.)

Well, it’s always struck me as rather absurd that indie filmmakers and musicians are afforded a level of respect and admiration from the artistic community that indie writers are still struggling to attain. Why is this?

I’m genuinely baffled. Do we actually think the industry that gives book deals to television phenomenons and failed politicians is some sort of guardian of artistic enlightenment? Haven’t people working in the publishing industry said for years that they deplore how much quality work is going unpublished because of economic constraints?

Honestly, I don’t even understand why anyone thinks it’s a big competition. I think Eric Felton, when he wrote in the WSJ, was completely wrong in at least one thing. Book publishers aren’t going anywhere. There will continue to be writers who prefer working with a big publishing house just like there are actors, directors, and musicians who prefer the resources of larger studios.

But let’s give a little respect for growth!

Publishing isn’t a dying industry, it’s a growing industry. And there’s plenty of room for everyone. There is room for traditionally published writers (both great and horrible) and room for writers who, for a myriad of reasons, choose to publish independently. This is not the death of anything except a monopoly!

And that, my friends, is amazing and exciting and worthy of lots of articles being written in all sorts of forums.

But let’s skip the pretension, shall we?


  1. Pingback: Growing not dying « Spare some prose.

  2. Hey Elizabeth,

    Great post.

    You’re right, it’s not a competition. There’s room for everyone. And the thing is, it’s not as black and white as some people make out.
    I was having a discussion with some other writers about this, and one of them made an excellent analogy. She said indie writers are like small business owners, and trade published writers are like salaried workers.

    She said that this false opposition between trade publishing and self-publishing ignored all the people that work a nine to five and a trying to start their own business in the evenings and weekends.

    The fact is, a lot of self-publishers have trade books out, and a lot of trade published writers self-publish short stories or reverted backlist titles.

    I think this will become more common, not less common. So before anyone goes making generalizations about trade published writers or self-published writers, they should remember that there’s lots of writers with a foot in both camps.


    • So good to remember, and I agree. As a former small business owner, it’s a great analogy. There are so many new opportunities, it’s irritating to see people try to pigeonhole writers the way they do.

      My husband and I were discussing how much vitality the growth of independent film has added to movie-making in the past ten to twenty years. I think publishing is poised for the same infusion of talent and fresh perspective. We’re already seeing it and the reading public is ready.

  3. Pingback: Selling ourselves short « Spare some prose.

  4. I think we’re living in one of those periods of history that pop up once in a while wherein people become obsessed with the idea of things “dying.” I just saw a thing today about the predicted death (though I can’t remember if that was the word used) of full-length albums in the music industry, presumably supposedly due to the mass downloading of individual songs or whatever. People forget that artists always have a choice how to present that art. They also forget that almost all forms and formats of any given thing always have an audience. The size of the audience may go up and down and twist itself into a variety of Escher-esque forms with the passage of time, but its always there.
    These folks seem to assume that the growth and diversification will automatically lead to the death of pre-existing forms. Sometimes this has happened or nearly so, such as DVD pretty much supplanting VCS/video tapes. I just don’t see this happening when it comes to the printed word however, nor entirely even with music and if anything I think eventually there will be a “backlash” when people start to hit on the limitations of newer forms and formats and there starts be a re-swell in the market for older versions, leading to an evening-out and coexistence.
    So yeah, a little less obituary writing and a little more real speculation would certainly be nice.

Leave a Reply