It is hard not to see today's press release by Simon & Schuster UK as a direct and aggressive reaction to the wave of negative publicity surrounding last week's launch of self-publishing imprint Archway Publishing, which will be run by Author Solutions, the giant self-publishing solutions provider every author of a writing blog is suddenly queuing up to hate.
I did not have
sexual publishing relations with that woman
While self-publishing stalwarts and watchdogs like Victoria Strauss, Emily Suess and David Gaughran have been consistent and vocal in their criticisms and concerns about Author Solutions and its many self-publishing imprints, a new and growing bandwagon of self-publishing experts (Lin Robinson will guide you on the dangers of this definition) have happily waded in on the discussion as if they were describing the biblical fight between good and evil or exposing the new crime lords of the Sicilian Mafia. Frankly—and consider this as a major blunt comments ahead alert—few of them were out of their self-publishing nappies, from what I can see, a couple of years ago, and many don't know their ASI from their ASS!
I'll ask this new self-publishing bandwagon more bluntly now what I asked last week when I first reported the S&S and ASI deal. I'm still waiting for a reasonable answer.
Where the fuck were all you big-mouthers and experts three years ago when ASI agreed deals with Harlequin and Thomas Nelson?
Your silence was deafening. It is strange that the only discenting voices, for the most part, came from the author and publishing community you sometimes feel it easy to deride and ridicule as being backward and closed—the traditional community of authors, agents and publishing guilds. They might have had their own vested interests in mind, voicing them on the plank of anti-vanity publishing, but they still stood shoulder to shoulder and made sure they were heard. But, of course, the self-publishing bandwagon was not heard. Many of you only became self-publishing experts and self-appointed moral custodians of what is right and proper in publishing over the past two years.
Is Author Solutions or any of its imprints a good option for a self-publishing author? Absolutely not. The company sells overpriced publishing packages, the dream of being published rather than the books of its authors, and indulges in deceptive and heavy-handed marketing services to authors. Would I recommend them as an option to any prospective self-publishing author? No. But that's because I know there are better options out there for almost all self-published authors, and not because I feel it my duty or role to dance on their grave or portray them as the publishing devil incarnated. I happen to think that ASI's e-publishing platform Booktango was a step in the right direction for the company to move away from its paper-centric strategy and address some of the negative criticism against it.
Victoria Strauss, blogging on WriterBeware last week on the launch of Simon & Schuster's Archway Publishing and the involvement of ASI, asked why S&S couldn't have went with a self-publishing provider with a better reputation. I'll answer that straight off. There is simply no other self-publishing provider with the global reach, digital publishing engine and market understanding of self-publishing combined that could come even close. Give Smashwords another year or two to develop global reach as a publishing platform and retailer and it might give ASI a run for its money, though, I'm sure CEO Mark Coker would argue that point with me now.
ASI is not a publisher, whatever claims it might make on indie publishing after hopping on the self-publishing bandwagon. It provides services for authors. But, like it or not (and I don't one bit), they remain the leader in global self-publishing brands and signing up thousands of authors every year. That global reach just got stronger with the S&S launch of Archway Publishing last week. Deal with it and move on, or start to examine who is actually listening to your expert advice. And do you want to know something else? Many of the authors signing up with Author Solutions are not inside the precious self-publishing cocoon, privy to every last word of expert advice from previously self-published authors, consultants, marketers, and every yahoo with a book, course or moral to peddle. Many, many customers of ASI are first-time writers, publishing for the first time. Writers, not self-publishers! You won't find many of them hanging adoringly off of every word on Joe Konrath's or Seth Godin's blogs. If they are online, you are more likely to engage with them on Rachell Gardner or Nathan Brandsford's blogs. More likely, they're just too busy writing.
The real challenge for the self-publishing community is to break out of its cocoon and start directly addressing writers—not other self-publishers, as so many authors do when they are marketing their books. I include TIPM in this challenge as well. It's easy to convert the already converted to listen to and acknowledge sound advice. And that advice should not always pertain to our adopted path to publishing. So instead of lambasting Author Solutions and Simon & Schuster, we need to start understanding why so many writers sign up with poor publishing services and why the publishing industry is where it is before we start imparting expert advice. If your answer to the above is that ASI is the publishing devil in disguise, or that new writers looking to be published are naive and stupid, then, frankly, you know less about the business of publishing than you think you know. In short, you are living in a self-inflicted polarised publishing world.
Enjoy the silence.