Maybe you’ve already seen it on Huffington Post, but it was news to me. The gist is that a twentysomething woman in Texas who’d been rejected by NY publishers is now “making millions” by self-publishing her work as e-books. Why am I conflicted?
One one hand, I’m cheering for the author. Seriously cheering. There’s nothing I love more than a story about someone who’s endured rejection after rejection and at some point says, “Enough, you people! I’ll do it myself!”The fact that she not only did it herself but became a success is fantastic. The truth is, NY publishers don’t know everything. When I worked as a publicist back in the day, there were countless tales of books that had been passed over by one publishing house only to go on and become huge sellers elsewhere. Or, as legendary screenwriter William Goldman famously said about decision makers in Hollywood, “Nobody knows anything.” So again, good for the author for going it alone and fulfilling her dream.
On the other hand, I feel sorry for publishers. I used to be one of them and I hate to see them lose their grip. They’re struggling to adapt to a changing marketplace. They have fewer employees than they used to. Everybody’s overworked and underpaid. They have corporate owners now. They’re under intense pressure to score a bestseller and have little incentive to say yes to a manuscript that seems even the slightest bit risky.
Of course, publishers do bring some of their problems on themselves. I mean whose brilliant idea was it to publish the autobiography of Justin Bieber or, as was announced today, Bristol Palin? Why throw money at people just because they’re famous when there are genuinely talented writers out there? Will we read about a $10 million book deal for Charlie Sheen tomorrow? (Please no.)
One of these days I’d like to publish a novel in an e-book only format and see what happens. Just for something different. If the young woman in Texas can do it, so can I, right?