I often get dragged into discussions about the book industry, mostly because people are too stupid to know the difference between Jon and Joe and blindly throw a @jkonrath into a tweet about how publishing is dying or some dumb company is fleecing even dumber authors who did the equivalent of paying $10,000 cash for head shots.
(Side note: It’s somewhat ironic that the term for this kind of shit is “joe job” given the name of the other person involved here.)
This is annoying on many levels, mostly because it distracts me from what I’m really trying to do. But more than that, all of this talking head parroting sometimes makes me wonder why I don’t keep up with what’s going on in the publishing world. I don’t read trades or spend time on publishing news sites, throwing down my opinion on whatever catastrophe is currently making the rounds. I don’t take sides on publishers versus “indies” or who signed with who or who decided to leave their publisher and self-pub or what the guy who wrote Wool ate for lunch or any of that. I don’t care.
I do not give a fuck about the book industry. I mean, I like to read books, and I publish the final output of my work so you can see if you want to read it. But I am a writer. I’m not a shameless self-promoter, and I’m not an industry insider. And I don’t want to be. I don’t write books for maximum profits. I write books because they’re trapped in my soul and need to be excised like the pus from a wound. I know it sounds pretentious to pull the “I’m an artist” card, but I’m definitely not a businessman, and I do not care about any of it.
I recently read a book called Post-Digital Print, which was one of the most inspiring books I’ve read in a long time. It outlines every “publishing is dying” screed that has happened since 1894, and I guarantee you that about a dozen of them are things you’ve never heard about. Almost every one was invented by a company that wanted you to buy their shit instead. Did you know that people thought radio would replace printed books? At the turn of the century (or a couple of decades later, I guess) part of the population thought books were turning everyone blind. It probably had some causal relationship to the rise in optometry technology at the time, and everyone was getting glasses, whereas before that only rich people got monocles, and everyone else squinted. Anyway, some industry geniuses said that radio would replace “the burden of reading” and save everyone’s eyesight. And we know how that turned out.
I’m not saying print isn’t suffering. But it’s not going away, either. There’s going to be a whole generation of artisanal printing, letterpress chapbooks and boxed sets of limited edition prints with high-end art book covers and over-designed interiors in esoteric fonts that makes Helvetica look like Comic Sans. Look at what happened with vinyl records. The 8-track was supposed to kill them, then the cassette, then the CD. There are now vinyl-only stores, limited-edition LPs with extra tracks and slick printed gatefold sleeves encasing art books and 45-remastered dual discs on 200-gram virgin vinyl. Yes, the airport reader is going to gobble down murder mysteries on their kindle, but book collectors aren’t going to be forced to shred everything and go to e-format.
What I am saying is that these talking head industry-mongers are not authors – they are inflating their own egos for their own industry, which is fear-mongering and hand-wringing. It doesn’t help your writing. They’re the people selling the ten dollar loaves of bread to the people who showed up late to the gold rush. It’s all bullshit. It’s all inconsequential.
Speaking of, gotta get writing – trying to finish the next book. I’ll end with a quote from my buddy George Carlin that pretty much sums it all up.
I figured out years ago that the human species is totally fucked and has been for a long time. I also know that the sick, media-consumer culture in America continues to make this so-called problem worse. But the trick, folks, is not to give a fuck. Like me. I really don’t care. I stopped worrying about all this temporal bullshit a long time ago. It’s meaningless.