First, a couple of quick things:
1. “The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance 2” has been released, containing stories by myself, Jeanne Stein, Jaye Wells, Caitlin Kittredge, Tiffany Trent, and Ann Aguirre. My story, titled “Trust Me,” is–I think–kind of a fun little yarn about Jack the Ripper, and is officially the Last Erotic Romance story I wrote (for now). So while I did tone it down a bit for the antho, expect lots of sexxoring.
Shorts are difficult for me, in general; I have a hard time keeping myself from expanding and expanding and introducing subplots. But this was a story that really didn’t leave a lot of room for a novel, and the idea had appealed to me for some time (as with all mystery buffs and goulish people, I am fascinated by the Ripper), so when I had the opportunity to submit it for the antho I jumped at it. So rush on out and get it; my story is probably the weakest of the bunch, given the other names involved, but I think it’s kind of a sweet little tale nonetheless.
2. Kari Stewart, my agent-mate and author of A DEVIL IN THE DETAILS, coming next summer from Roc, has written a great little series on writing series novels on her blog. You have to scroll down a few entires, but it’s well worth it.
3. Charlaine Harris did an interview at Voice America’s “Mystery Matters” show on Friday, and guess who she mentioned as one of her favorite secondary characters ever, right around the fifty-four minute mark? Terrible, my big bad greaser from UNHOLY GHOSTS. Check it out!
Now. To the point of the post. (Yes, I seem to be on a bit of a self-publishing kick. I promise I have not forgotten the Critique series. I’m just busy as heck these days and going through some other things I won’t bore you with.)
Here’s the thing. I am not against self-publishing. Absolutely, honestly, 100% not. I think it can be very useful. I think that if you’re a writer who focuses on a specific niche area of nonfiction, for example, self-publishing can be fantastic for you. So this is not a rant against self-publishing per se.
What it *is* a rant against–or rather, a cautionary post about–is the idea so many self-published or vanity-published authors seem to put forth that this is the Wave of the Future, and that said future will be so much brighter without those nasty old philistines at major houses churning out crap week after week.
Um. First of all, yes, as a writer with series at two NY houses and one UK house, I’d rather not be told my work is obviously crap because it’s being published by people who actually have the insensitivity to art to think they can make money from it (and in return have paid me for it.)
But this isn’t about me (except where it really is, which I’ll get to in a minute). This is about lots and lots of other writers, who’ve worked very hard and deserve to earn money for their work. I might add, this is also about book piracy, which a lot of those who engage in seem to feel is their way of Bringing Down the Man and Smashing the State and Standing Up For The Little Guy.
Because, sure. It will be a much, much better word when publishing is only an option to those who can afford it. Don’t you agree? Aren’t you glad these Caretakers of Art are decreeing that things will be better when nobody gets paid for their work, that they will in fact have to pay someone else to publish it, that they will have to handle cover design, marketing, and promotion all by themselves?
Yes, sure, every author is expected to do some promo, even at the big houses. But we’re not alone in it. We’re not making meetings with book buyers at stores trying to convince them to buy our books; our publisher’s sales staffs take care of that. Even when PERSONAL DEMONS was originally released by Juno/Wildside, a small press, they took out ads in Romantic Times and made sure the book got reviews. Yes, I have some promo plans on my own for my books. Yes, I carry out what I can. But I do the suff that’s fun. I blog. I Twitter. I play on Facebook when time allows. I don’t carry copies of my book hoping to sell them to random strangers. I don’t slip cards with my title and cover into my utility bills when I pay them in hopes someone will see it and give the book a chance. I don’t have to invest a dime of my own money if I don’t want to. I have, yes, but the only reason I can afford to do so is because I was paid an advance for my work.
Frankly, if I’d had to pay to be published, I wouldn’t be published. I couldn’t afford it. Nor could most professional writers I know, very few of whom could manage to scrape together $5k to pay a publisher.
So what would we have, in a world where those Evil NY Houses have fallen?
We’d have books written exclusively by those who could afford it. Much like in the 18th century, when so many books were diaries of some peeress’s trip through Europe with titles like, “My Gleanings.” FUN. I know I can’t wait to read books written exclusively by the wealthy, with no viewpoints other than their own. I’m sick of hearing what baby boomers think already; I can assure you I don’t want to read more of their “Gee, the sixties were sooo great!” back-patting. I know I can’t wait for a world where books written by those from other cultures have no chance to be translated into English and released here, when we become even more ignorant of the lives of those in the world outside because there’s no way to get their books in front of English-speaking audiences. Oh, and of course, given that self-published books tend to be much more expensive, thanks to POD technology, I can’t wait for a world when reading and books are even less available to the poor. When they don’t have the same opportunities thanks to their inability to get hold of books.
Oh, what’s that you say? Oh, right. The internet will provide all of that. Of course. Because I know when I want something to read I’d much rather spend hours and hours slogging around online looking for something decent than just go to a bookstore. I know people who can’t afford books totally have the money for laptops and ereaders and the internet. So in seeking to democratize literature, what you are actually doing is STEALING IT from those less fortunate than you.
We’d also have a lot more unreadable books. I’m sorry, but it’s true. For every excellent work of self-published fiction–and they are out there, make no mistake–and for every one that’s not bad, just not terribly polished or professional or interesting, there are dozens of horrible ones. Not horrible the way so many of you like to put down NY books which aren’t to your taste, but awful. Really.
Let’s not forget that the way most people learn proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling isn’t through school. I mean, we do learn those things at school, but we develop those skills by reading. So you tell me, how literate will we be as a society when there are no professionally written books? When there are no people to judge if a work is even readable or not before it gets published? When anything goes? Would you like to go back to the middle ages, when words were just spelled however they sounded? Because I wouldn’t.
But this is it. With no publishing houses, there are no gatekeepers. Without publishing houses, bookstores–not just the big conglomerate ones, but the independents–will fail. There will be no way to check a book out before you buy it. No libraries, which are already in trouble. Writers with talent will be forced to suck up to reach people in hopes of their financing the writer’s latest books. I know I look forward to the day where I have to go out hunting for a sugar daddy so I can keep publishing, and hope he lets me write what I want and not simply odes to himself.
Maybe I’ll be lucky, though. Maybe that sugar daddy will simply love my work, and will publish it. Maybe he’ll grease the right wheels so my book can be sold through some outlet. Maybe he’ll pay someone to help me polish it; not change it, but polish it, catch the things I didn’t catch. Maybe I’ll be really lucky, and he’ll even pay me a share of the book’s earnings.
In short, maybe he’ll set up a publishing company.
Bringing Down The Man or claiming the world will be so much better when the NY houses are no longer around is a fallacy. You’re hurting yourself, you’re hurting all writers, you’re hurting people whose only education comes from the books they find and read themselves, you’re hurting people who depend on those industries to put food on the table, you’re hurting artists in other countries, you’re hurting everyone with a story to tell. You’re making literacy a hobby for the rich.
Wow. That’s something to be proud of.