Brooke Warner, of hybrid publisher She Writes Press, recently posted a blog on the HuffPost Books US website in which she was very critical of traditional publishers. What happened was that a traditionally published author agreed to write a blurb for a book that was to be published by She Writes Press. The author checked with her editor at one of the big five publishing houses and the blurb was pulled.
The reason for the decision is that there is a difference in ‘values’ between traditional publishers and other publishers: traditional publishers believe that “publishers should invest in authors, but authors should not invest in themselves”.
My reaction: this makes no sense at all! Why should authors be prohibited from investing in themselves?
Ms Warner said: “What should matter about a book is how well written it is–not the author platform or brand or how many followers a would-be author has. And yet, from a business perspective, of course it makes sense that this is what publishers today must focus on–or risk decimation. I left traditional publishing after a particularly symbolic experience, when I was actively discouraged from acquiring a book I believed in wholeheartedly but then met with excessive enthusiasm (and a large advance to back it) for a proposal propelled by a fancy agent, celebrity endorsements, and a whole lotta hot air. It wasn’t cannon fodder, and it ended up doing well for the company, but I’d compromised. I left three months later.”
She continues: “If you are asked to blurb a book, what should matter is whether you believe in it. If you don’t, you don’t blurb it. If you care enough about the author or the book, you offer your endorsement. End of story. It’s your choice. A blurb is a gift to the author. Authors do not pay for blurbs. They work hard to get them because the industry tells authors that they matter, that they sell books. She Writes Press authors have scored amazing blurbs–blurbs from New York Times best-selling authors and champions of people’s dreams. A publishing company, in my opinion, does not have the right to mandate whom its authors advocate in an attempt to control its reputation or to distance itself from “the other.” To do so smacks of elitism, one of traditional publishing’s lasting and detrimental flaws. We’ve already arrived at a place where people judge books on the writing, not on how those books make it into the marketplace. It’s time for traditional publishing to catch up, to pull its head out of the sand. That it’s lost sight of publishing’s mandate–to champion good books–speaks to its values. And those are values I certainly don’t share.”
Ms Warner – she was apparently quite angry when she wrote the blog – then mentioned a specific example of the ‘values’ of the big five: “Simon & Schuster has a self-publishing imprint called Archway, run by Author Solutions (of very questionable ethics who’ve been sued by authors and whose track record you can Google), which, awkwardly and oddly, is owned by Random House/Penguin. (Apparently Simon & Schuster has no qualms about the self-publishing arm of their business being owned by their biggest and direct traditional competitor.) One of the great promises of Archway is that you might get published by Simon & Schuster–if your book sells well enough. But their traditionally published authors apparently can’t and won’t blurb you. So there you go–you’re the pissed-upon little sibling. They happily run a self-publishing imprint, but they do whatever they can to distance that “subset” from the preferred children.
The war between the traditional press and the ‘upstarts’ is heating up!