There’s an interesting article in Forbes on self-publishing. For once, the author seems to have investigated the case before regurgitating what he heard from someone—usually a disgruntled someone from traditional publishing—who doesn’t know anything. All the same, there are two weak spots in the piece:
1. His take on the Big Six’s business model. I don’t want to get into the analysis. Suffice to say, whenever someone claims to spot a major defect the business model adopted by an entire industry—one that went completely unnoticed by that industry—I call bullshit.
2. He predicts that the slush problem will be fixed by Amazon and B&N hiring reviewers. As if. They’re never going to hire real reviewers to pan books. That’s like Walmart putting a critic next to the greeter to warn people off its less than wonderful merchandise. On top of that, how many authors are going to tolerate being panned by their distributor? None. And how many consumers are going to believe an in-house critic? Even fewer. As it is, the “Vine” reviewers are a joke. They churn out copy to keep the freebies coming.
A third problem is the one ignored by most indies and misstated by most defenders of tradition publishing. The fact is that a large swath of the culture industry lives off the Big Six’s largess. Once they stop investing in books culture—they won’t disappear—the culture around books will probably die.
I hear the objection all ready: “Book bloggers and other social media outlets will take over from traditional periodicals, so don’t get yourself worked up.” Dream on. Book bloggers have no interest whatsoever in panning books—they don’t need the backlash. If they haven’t figured it our already, they’ll stick to books they like and ignore the rest.
But bad books—and criticism more generally—are also part of the book culture. Lose that and you lose everything but puffery and mutual masturbation: “Wow! This book is unbelievable! I wish I could forget it just to experience for the first time all over again!”
Anyway, that’s how I see it.