Yesterday I was
procrastinating taking a writing break on Facebook when I came across a post by Kristen Nelson discussing a controversial keynote speech at the Pikes Peak writing conference. For this speech, author Barry Eisler shared his thoughts on the choices authors have today in publishing…and it was not received well by many of the agents and editors at the conference, as evidenced by the resulting furious Twitter storm.
Controversy? Angry tweets? My curiosity got the better of me and I spent the next hour reading through his thoughts, as well as the follow up posted on Joe Konrath’s blog, including the 140+ comments. And I left feeling…undecided, so I thought I’d write about it here and see what you all think.
Personally, I hope to one day have an agent and go the traditional route, but I have nothing against self publishing either, and more and more I can see the benefits of going that route instead. Eisler’s speech brings up a lot of valid points, including the fact that authors who are traditionally published are not all treated equally. He compared it to a lottery, which I know, thanks to twitter, some in the industry had issue with. I agree it’s not a perfect analogy, but I saw his point – you might get that traditional publishing contract, but they might not really do much for you…or they might. Hard to say. It’s like winning the lottery if getting lottery tickets required hours and hours of work and dedication.
Also, Eisler discusses how much a traditionally published author is giving up (typically 70% of print, 52.5% of digital), and for what? He says that print distribution is the primary gain for going with a traditional publisher – everything else an author can take care of on his/her own.
I think Eisler has a very valid point, but like Elaine Russell said in her speech at the SCBWI writing conference, there’s still that stigma against self published writers. Being traditionally published gives a writer the stamp of legitimacy. And maybe for now that’s worth the cost, and worth jumping through all those hoops. But I do believe that stigma is lessening every day.
Meanwhile, I disagreed with many of the commenters who suggested agents were so upset because this means they are no longer necessary. It didn’t sound like that was the point Eisler was making, and in fact he clarifies that good agents will still be needed – their roles will just be shifting somewhat. This is something I definitely agree with – to me, having a good agent on your side would be worth the cost, and most of the ones I’ve been following (blogs, twitter, etc.) seem like they are on top of these changes in the publishing world and willing to adjust accordingly so that they stay necessary.
Also, I believe people post throwaway comments on twitter, and maybe they shouldn’t, but maybe other people shouldn’t take them so seriously, either. This is my problem with twitter – too easy to just hit “tweet.” And too easy to take a comment out of context. It’s like having a private conversation over a microphone, and that always makes me nervous.
So now I turn to all you fine folks. What do you think about the self publishing debate vs. traditional publishing?