Who Needs Publishers? We All Do!
I’m glad that self-publishing has evolved from stigma to respectability. I love that worthy authors who might be overlooked by the major houses can now be read. It’s great that writers with a special niche, an established following or an entrepreneurial bent can make more money self-publishing than they would in royalties. But I’m also concerned about the future of books and the larger issue of assuring the flow of reliable information.
Here are just two reasons for that concern, based on my own recent experience.
- Advances. I just finished a nonfiction book that will be released this fall. It consumed the better part of three years… and the research entailed countless hours of reading, about three hundred interviews and some travel. My advance did not come close to covering the cost of all that information-gathering, but it helped. More importantly, the fact that a major publishing house was committed enough to write even a modest check was psychologically essential. Given my personal circumstances, I simply could not have sustained the effort to complete the project without that commitment…
- Quality control. After authoring and coauthoring more than twenty books, I was just reminded once again of the immense value of working with professionals. At each step of the way, from inception to restructuring to rewrites to finalizing the index, editors, copy editors and proofreaders made my book a better book… I’m a professional writer who takes great care with his work and has been at the business of books for over thirty years. And I still need editors…
My bottom line is this: when it comes to serious nonfiction especially, readers, libraries, reporters and everyone else concerned about accuracy and readability should rely only on books that have been competently edited. And long live advances: may they grow and may authors and their readers prosper. (Huffington Post)
Seems to me that advances and quality control in the traditional publishing industry are already sliding, hardly the inspiration for clinging to an increasingly inefficient publishing paradigm. But let’s remember that the evolution underway in publishing, from print to digital, doesn’t eliminate publishers, editors, advances, quality control, etc. Sure, self-publishing opens the flood gates which will inevitably reduce quality control of the publishing industry as a whole. But self-publishing is only one part of the switch from ink and paper to digital formats. And publishers will be important for a long time, they just will look and behave differently than they did yesterday. And books that sell, books that make money, will still incline publishers to advance them enough to get their next bestsellers researched, edited and written. That’s business!