Friday, October 02, 2009

Sticking Head out of Hot Water

It seems my last post caused a bit of a ruckus online. Unfortunately, most of the discussion happened over at Teleread, so the many comments about my thoughts sit there. I still managed to read it through and I'm now processing reader reactions. Funnily enough, the news that prompted the piece may have been false or exaggerated. Welcome to the 21st century media world!

I will respond more thoughtfully soon. I don't have time now. But I will say that I am not just frustrated but legitimately concerned by authors calling for editors to leave publishing companies, which have clearly become the enemy, and work with authors directly. Perhaps editors can come together and do this as an agency of some kind, I know that is being done and discussed, but too often, editors have been laid off and have had to start freelancing - a problem faced by graphic designers, sound editors, and many others in creative industries. I know many people in this situation. That would be all well and good if freelancing did not mean getting buried by insurance costs and scrambling for your next paycheck. This is a labor issue. Writers of all people should appreciate this.

I would want to look into how many self-published authors who are so invested in throwing aside the shackles of publishing companies are either independently wealthy or have a day job, and just see writing as a hobby. For some of us, writing and editing is our only livelihood. Am I worried about someone stealing my lunch, to paraphrase a commenter here? Yes. And my dinner, and my mortgage, and my health insurance.

Publishing does not have to be as solitary as all that, and as reliant on the market in the way some folks are demanding. Reading may be something many of us do for leisure, but getting the books made and distributed is labor. That labor needs to be protected.

To me, just to be clear, the ideal is a small, focused, smart, independent publisher with a defined list. I applaud Akashic Books , Chelsea Green, New Directions, and more. They know their community, they take risks, and they support their authors and their employees. (I particularly wanted to be clear on this in response to Michael Pastore's misreading of my post, in which he thought I was arguing that only big name, corporate publishers could responsibly find books for readers to read. Hardly the case!)

More on this soon.

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