Writers v celebrity ‘authors’

6 Oct

(Originally posted to the Literature section of MyMedia)

While there are some famous people who can write well, and who have an avocation for writing, there are many more who slap their names (and often their faces) into something someone else wrote, and then go around selling it.

Publishing in the 21st century is more challenging than ever, for many reasons; the advent of self-publishing, which is so much more agile in following market trends and satisfying existing demand by offering the diversity and variety that traditional publishing is, still, too risk-averse to try.

However, those same publishers who will declare novels like say, The Martian, un-saleable*, will often latch onto a recognizable name, and be happy to offer ridiculously large advances to them, in the hopes that those sales will shore up their flawed, and flagging, businesses.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, this gimmick doesn’t actually work. Many big name titles do not earn back their advances, while genre books–a good chunk of which are the oft mocked romance, as well as ‘pulpy’ mysteries/thrillers–keep the lights on.

The whole structure of traditional publishing houses is, honestly, pretty bonkers, a legacy of a ‘gentlemen’s business’ that’s never kept pace with the society it’s meant to serve and reflect.

Why does this matter, in the age of self publishing, you may ask. Well, it’s like this.

Self publishing means that authors have to be a full corporation. They keep all profits, but they are also responsible for all expenses, all marketing, all decisions, all labor:

  • Editing for content.
  • Copy editing.
  • Formatting.
  • Proofing.
  • Cover.
  • Visibility.
  • Pricing.
  • Tagging and blurbing.
  • Branding.
  • Discoverability.
  • Language rights.
  • Audio rights.
  • World or country rights.
  • Library availability.
  • Advance copies for trad publications.
  • Online presence.
  • Media presence.
  • PR savvy.
  • Taxes and business books.

And so much more.

And some authors embrace all the above, and are really good at all of it. Others are really good at finding the right people for what they cannot or don’t want to do. Yet others sign with relatively small presses who’ll do at least part of all the above for them.**

But there many, many authors who just want to write. And they are good at it. And they have been doing it for a good long while. They may, or may not, make a living wage off their writing (see publishing decline above), but dammit, they do pay their own way, earning back their advances, and then some.

Which is why they are not particularly fond of the celebrity hack.

(This post brought to you today by this thoughtful rant by children’s author Jo Cotterill)

~ * ~

* Andy Weir published The Martian originally on his blog; after his many fans convinced him to, he started selling digital copies. After the book had made so much noise, it was a steady roar, then, and only then, did traditional publishers take notice. (source)***

** And those who do are all too often at the mercy of unscrupulous people who make a living off the many writers who are discouraged by traditional publishing’s rejection–see Absolute Writer or Editors and Preditors, if you need to corroborate what I mean here.

*** I could have gone here with any of several romance authors who started in self or indie publishing, then got snapped and re-packaged by trad publishers after they hit big, but the audience over at MyMedia would not recognize their names, so.

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