Publish or Die! Part 5

March 7, 2009

Disclaimer: I submitted a query letter re: Brown Girls to San Francisco-based literary Nathan Bransford. He rejected it. Therefore, I believe him to be an idiot misguided. This is not sour grapes. This is human nature. This is also my own personal opinion, Mr. Lawyer Man.

The following is excerpted from Mr. Bransford’s March 4, 2009 blog entry “You Tell Me: What Do You Love About Writing?” (nathanbransford.blogspot.com).

In sum: throughout the past two hundred years, someone could write a perfectly good book, but there was one big barrier standing in between the author and their readers: publishers. As much as I’d like to think the publishing industry is always right, well, it’s not.

But here’s what’s going to happen in the digital era: anyone will be able to publish their book, and there will be no distribution barrier. The same eBook stores that stock Stephenie Meyer and Dan Brown will stock, well, you. Readers will be the ones who decide what becomes popular. There will be no intermediary. It will be just as easy to buy a book by you as it will be to buy the HARRY POTTER of the future. Your book will be just a few keystrokes away from everyone with an internet connection (and their tablet/eReader/iPhone/gizmo/whatchamacallit of the future).

Just think about it: no wondering how in the world your book is going to find its way past a publisher into a bookstore. No more print runs! No one will be doomed by a publisher and bookstores underbetting on their success. No more bottleneck. No more que……… well, there will always be queries. Sorry!

Books will finally be able to live and die by, well, themselves, not by the best guesses of the publishing industry. Now, am I, the agent, writing my own obituary? Nope. I don’t think so. If anything things are getting more complicated, and authors will still need agents to navigate the business and negotiate with the Amazons and Sonys and Apples and whoever else rises up in the future. There will still be subrights to negotiate and distribution deals and all sorts of challenges that authors will be hardpressed to face on their own. We’ll still be here.

In reply:

Dear Mr. Bransford

This is going to come as a HUGE surprise to you, sir, but there is only one “big barrier” between my book and the reading public and its name is you. Well, you and the rest of your cabal.

I mean, come on, every new writer is commanded to never bother the Big Boys in the Ivory Tower Publishing World with their pitiful snot-pile of a manuscript. Instead, we are instructed to submit query letters to literary agents, who will act as a filtering system, gleefully flushing away the excrement and ensuring that not a single my-baby-produces-better-work-in-his-diaper book is ever published. And I think everyone will agree that you are doing an excellent job. And by that I mean, are you frickin’ kidding me?

I don’t know about you Mr. Bransford, but this system bears a striking resemblance to allowing a condemned man his choice of rope. It’s all going to end badly, of course, but offering the illusion of free choice is supposed to make the drop somehow less painful.

To blame the publishing houses for keeping us writers on the outside with our noses pressed against the castle’s windows is a childish shift of blame. I’m assuming this also means when a book explodes onto the bestsellers’ list, you, the agent who pulled that particular nugget out of the sewer with your bare hands, do not take any credit.

Pull the other one, friendo.

As for your future job prospects — once writers take full advantage of digital publishing and so no longer require your services to destroy our souls and crush our egos — I hope you’re good at working with your hands. Because there will be a squeegie in one and a spray bottle in the other.

Oh, don’t give me that face. I’ll still flip you a coin, as opposed to the bird you flipped me, but it won’t be anywhere near the amount you would have made from selling my book.

Nope, I’ll be keeping ALL that money, in return for doing ALL the work. This is going to be SO much fun.

Oh, and too bad you won’t be able to read my book, seeing as how you’ll be selling your Kindle to afford your next Happy Meal.

As for those deals and negotiations you mentioned, the only thing you’ll be navigating is the route to the welfare office.

The good news is you will have plenty of company on the unemployment line. You’ll find all their names by simply Googling “literary agents.”

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy your blog. You know, while you can still afford a computer.

Yours sincerely *chortle* *snicker*

Bitemymoko


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