Tearing Down Walls

About dadgum time something like this happened.

We are well into a complete remaking of the relationship between reader and author, where publishers are not really necessary. The types of services they provide certainly are, but their lock on distribution is long gone. Writers will always need editors, proofreaders, cover artists, and book designers…but we no longer have to become indentured servants to do so.

Who knows if ITW and SFWA will follow suit, but their insistence on “recognized commercial publishers” wore out my patience a long time ago. Traditionally-published authors have told me that most books under the old model might sell only 1,500 copies. That made sense considering how long it might stay out on the shelves at Barnes & Noble…it used to be 6 to 8 weeks, now that’s been whittled down to 2 or 3 weeks. If that’s your primary sales channel, your last name had better be Rowling or Clancy. If not, then don’t quit your day job. But in the Age of Zon, shelf life is virtually unlimited. Perigee has sold 3,000+ copies so far, so what’s the new threshold of success? Should it be pure volume, or sales over a given period?

The resolution allows for self-published books as professional credit toward membership, as long as three important criteria are met. Self-published books presented by authors applying to join the Union must contain an International Standard Book Number (ISBN), must demonstrate commercial intent, and must be peer reviewed before being forwarded to the membership committee of the Union for approval based on existing criteria.

To be fair, I get the “peer review” part. Some people will slap a cheesy cover over whatever words they’ve vomited onto a Word doc and manage to con people into buying it by plugging a few sock-puppet 5-star reviews on it. So yeah, there has to be some measure of quality control. But this whole notion of requiring authors to be in the trad-publishing Cool Kids Club seems pretty outdated and more than a little insulting as time goes on. What about guys like Boyd Morrison? He had respectable sales as an independent and was picked up by a major publisher only to get dumped before his contract was up. So he’s back in the indie world, and hopefully doing better for it.

Why should anyone care, though? I’ve asked myself that – and I suppose my only interest is in the opportunity to commiserate with other writers whom I might never encounter otherwise.

It could be fun. Or not. Maybe they’re all just a bunch of wiener-heads.

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