I’m part of the revolution and I’ve closely watched the outcry from established authors and those who aspire to be published by legacy publishers.
To tell you the truth, I don’t blame the “legacy” authors for being frightened. For 20 – 40 years they have been part of a system that has worked for them, and now the rules and the world are changing, and it’s scary. When I first aspired to join them, publishing houses were friendly-seeming places where authors were nurtured. I sent my first novel to Doubleday and after six months received a genuinely regretful note of rejection that it was a good book, “with many fine moments,” but “we don’t know how we would sell it.” It didn’t fit into their categories. Much later, after several careers writing other things, I wrote my first novel, which surprised me no end by winning the 2009 Spur for Best First Novel.
By then, Westerns were out of favor with the literati, who apparently deemed them inferior to “culture” or “literature.” It was a long time since Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove won the Pulitzer in 1986. The literati are the people Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson, called “the guild,” the mostly New York-based crowd that considers itself the educated, who know what literature is and which books deserve to be published. They, I suspect, are the “gatekeepers” we hear so much about. (Thomas Nelson, founded in 1798, was purchased this year by HarperCollins. It rattled the publishing industry by establishing WestBow Press, its self-publishing subsidiary.)
This article, along with other defenders of the way-things-have-been, want the world to believe that books written by legacy authors are “literature” and those published by us self-publishers are crap. Most are, but much of what the legacy publishers foist on us is crap, too. Yet their defenders see us as nothing more than barbarians at the gates of civilization, so they run around crying, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”
It’s doing no such thing. Admittedly, it’s a sea change in the publishing industry, and change brings about alarming discomfort. I’m sympathetic to that. The world I was born into is not the one I’m living in. The recession we’re in now is the third or fourth since I became an adult. (I’ve lost count.)
Complaining doesn’t stop change. And I fail to see what the doom-sayers can do to affect this change we in. Ultimately, it’ll be good for people. It already is; it opens up a publishing avenue for those whose books are out of fashion, or hard to categorize. We can find an audience without waiting for someone to beckon us into the inner sanctum first.
All you have to do to relax and enjoy it is to love democracy. It’s the American way.