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On Publishing

"I still have contracts with major publishing houses; and were I offered substantial contracts with favorable terms, I’d certainly consider doing more work for traditional publishers."

--Michael Stackpole.

Out of World Fantasy this year, a drama has emerged concerning self publishing and traditional publishing. A fair part of that has emerged out of the use of the term 'slavery', which is justified here by Michael Stackpole--the short of it is he thinks it's fine and he originally used it to get a rise out of everyone to begin with--who also happens to work in a rape comparison. Both a fairly unfortunate and both serve really only to turn any valid conversation that Stackpole might have with authors about the topic into a flame fest over his trivialising over very real historical crimes.

Still, I quoted a part of Stackpole's original essay, because to me, it reveals the substance behind the fight, which is that authors are just trying to make money, and are willing to do it in any way possible. Without the self righteous name calling, Tobias Buckell notes that the 'one way' of making cash is incorrect, that you should stop listening to them--and he points out in his blog post that he, like others, like indeed Stackpole, has fingers in many aspects of publishing, from traditional, to small, to self, and that is how he makes his money. Stackpole himself spends too much time talking about how traditional publishers are evil to stop, and to point out that he himself has benefited and still does and would like to some more if they offered him the right kind of cash.

Publishing is a terrible business, but it is not terribly different from any business where supply outstrips the means of production, and you do not suffer any more being an author in a large publisher than you do being a 9 to 5 desk employee at a large, multinational company. That is why, of course, the slavery comparison is so obviously designed to get a rise and is insulting, because it ignores the fact that those people who were slaves were so without consent, without desire, and had no options open to them. Authors, no matter the stripe, do--and there is an endless amount of pitfalls, bad advice, good advice, wrong choices, right choices, and so on and so forth for you to make that will give you more and or less options, which is entirely unlike slavery.

At the end of the day, being an author is about being an artist who runs their own business, and you have to make a business model that works for you, and grow it and tend it, and yet still retain your joy and your artistic nature. There's an endless amount of ways to do that and anyone who says This Is the Way has simply found the way to make it work for them, and it might not work for you for a variety of reasons.

Worth remembering, that.

Also, perhaps, that bit about slavery and working for a publishing house not being comparable.


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Nov. 9th, 2011 04:59 am (UTC)
THANK YOU. I so prefer reasoned discourse. The vitriol is just getting boring now.
Nov. 9th, 2011 08:37 am (UTC)
it always does get boring pretty quick.
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