I Am An eBook Militant


Over at the new independent publishing blog, Publishing Renaissance, masterminded by writer Zoe Winters, I was reading writer Cliff Burns‘ post: The Ever-evolving World of Indie and came across a passage that got my back up:

The indie world still attracts the eccentrics, iconoclasts in search of a soapbox, real or virtual…but more and more talented, motivated individuals are using those aforementioned new technologies to create a forum for work that has been rejected by the “trads” for a variety of reasons. For some, it turns out to be a canny move: David Wellington and Scott Sigler secured book deals and Terry Fallis won a Leacock Award for a novel he published through iUniverse.

Emphasis added by me.

I’m not interested in any “book deals.”

I’ve been there. I’ve done that.

I’ve been in the stomach of that monster and will never be eaten by it again.

I posted a Comment, that referred to another portion of his essay, but it summed up my overarching sentiment concisely:

I’m telling you right now, Cliff: I will NEVER permit a treeware edition of my work. NOT EVER. There’s my line in the sand, baby.

Those who refuse to cross that line can go suck on Penguin Classics. They won’t have me on filthy paper.

For those late to this party, let me again sum up my own objections to printed books:

1) They have weight

2) They have bulk

3) If you move house move than twice in a lifetime (and I have) you resent those two physical attributes

4) You can lose them all in a disaster (fire, flood, F-18 fighter falling from the sky)

5) Being printed is zero guarantee of readers or sales

6) They’re easy to suppress

7) They’re objects of a decrepit and suicidal industry that’s slowly murdering writers

Aren’t those seven points enough?

Here’s one more: No publishing company will ever care about your work as much as you do.

I want you to think about that last bit for a moment.

Every publisher does multiple titles each year. The publishing industry is a giant machine spewing out thousands and thousands of books. Everything is put on a schedule, just like any industry, just like any assembly line. This is the reality of things.

You might have a hot book that is catching an advancing wave — but go to one of the dying dinosaurs of print and you can wait up to twelve to twenty-four months for them to deliver your baby. Timeliness is not part of their apparatus until sheer naked — and too often, idiotic — greed kicks in. And, trust me on this, unless your face has been all over TV (for good or bad, they don’t judge the color of possible incoming money), you’re just one more pain in the ass writer who thinks he has something important, who thinks he is somehow special.

You damn well might have something important and really be special — but don’t expect them to recognize that.

Remember those thousands and thousands of books they shove out every year? They can afford to fuck up yours. Think of them as great big dicks spewing out sperm. How many sperm does it take to make a baby? They can afford to have your important and special sperm drop dead on its journey to the egg of bookstore shelves. There’s more where that came from! Every day someone knocks on their door with a book proposal.

They don’t need you.

And things are reaching the point where you don’t need them, either.

I am an eBook militant because we are reaching a point in history that could have only been dreamt about in the financially-restrained lives of Poe, Balzac, Baudelaire, Dickens, and every fellow writer who came before us and who had to rely on the whim of print publishers — and who suffered greatly because of it.

I’ve just named four immortal writers. Quick: name their publishers!

That you can’t name them should help you to understand that people read writers — they don’t read publishers (although in my own life I have found one extremely rare exception).

We now live in a world where it is possible to create a blog that has a larger readership than most published printed books. That makes it possible for any writer to create his own destiny unlike any other time in history. The tools to capture and build an audience are free. The tools to spread the word are free. A writer will put more passion and devote more time to promoting his work than any print publisher ever would (even today, they still don’t understand how to use the Internet).

Why settle for the kind of marketing treatment a print publisher would deign to give you? It wouldn’t be second-rate work. It’d be third- or even fourth-rate. Your little squiggly book would never make it to the egg and create sales. It’ll be douched out to the backlist before the end of one year. A backlist that print publishers just sit on — never, ever releasing as last-ditch eBook editions — and then have the temerity to gripe how nothing in the backlist ever sells.


(Notice that this lack of sales didn’t deter Google from stealing most of the backlist!)

Given the historical record of print publishing — and given its current gross incompetency when faced with the Internet and eBooks — I don’t understand why anyone would want to be involved with that dying system. Going to them and expecting legitimacy or sales is delusional. All a writer is basically doing is giving up contractual rights that will never be used and sabotaging a career at its start.

I believe in the primacy of writers. I believe writing sells, not publishing brand labels.

I am an eBook militant.

You should be too.


Explore posts in the same categories: Books - Other, eBooks, Reference - Writing, Writers - Dead, Writers - Living, Writing

6 Comments on “I Am An eBook Militant”

  1. zoewinters Says:

    On point number 6: Not if the print version is using POD, that’s print on DEMAND. Every time you burn a book, all you did was order something that has an endless supply.

    As far as trad publishers go, I’ve thought at times that in the unlikely event that I ever did anything impressive enough to warrant the attention of a major publisher, that I would consider selling out something like mass market rights.

    To me those are subsidiary rights and I’m not going to be doing a MMP edition anyway. THe economics of that aren’t all that feasible.

    I also consider it a bit like franchising. It’s a way to extend your reach even larger and that’s always a positive thing. But it’s not something I’m going out chasing.

    And it’s definitely not something I’ve got all my hopes and dreams on. I’ll go as far as the readers allow me to go. Not as far as the gatekeepers allow me to go. The gates are coming down.

    If I ever did for some reason hook up with a publisher, it would be entirely a business deal, and I would be coming to them in the power chair, i.e. someone who they would respect as an equal. Without having earned that respect first hand, through impressive sales on my own, I neither deserve to play in the big pool, nor will I allow myself to be abused by that system.

    Because it IS worth it for the mega authors. But most everybody else, not so much. THough I kind of wonder why most bestselling authors even HAVE publishers, since I can think of no bookstore who would turn down Stephen King.

    And actually Poe published some of his own work.

  2. mikecane Says:

    Tch! You and your PODfoolery, Zoe! You must get over this paper fetish you have! Ha!

    Yes, there is a place for paper souvenirs — I’m just never going to agree to be one of them. (DRM in reverse, I guess — paper would be more expensive a medium for piracy than electrons!).

    And, yes, I know Poe published some of his own stuff. But most of his life was spent like most writers back then — being cheated to starvation by publishers.

  3. zoewinters Says:

    hehehe @ PODfoolery. I like PAPER dammit.

    Of course when it comes to the issue of moving, I tend to not have GIANT amounts of books. Everything not on my keeper shelf goes to the used bookstore for trade. And you always end up with fewer books than you brought in. (otherwise they wouldn’t make a profit), So… needless to say, I keep my books to one bookshelf. At least right now.

  4. bowerbird Says:

    mike, if you’re doing it yourself, you need d.i.y. tools.
    the ones they use on the plantation are too expensive.


  5. […] News Soon? Filed under: Groundwork — mikecane @ 7:28 pm My primary interest is writing and eBooks, so all day I’ve been monitoring the Twitterstream for the Tools of Change conference, hence […]

  6. […] post (he has a name, Mike Cane, and he seems to be a bit of a curmudgeon, which also charms me) makes an interesting case when he says: We are reaching a point in history that could have only been dreamt about in the […]

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