Friday, April 26, 2013

The More Things Change, The More People Scream

What a week! The anxiety levels are rising again as the latest numbers come out, and e-books have taken over a significant chunk of the market. The range of responses has been amazing.

The funniest "news" was James Patterson's full-page ad in the New York Times, asking for government bail-outs for traditional publishers. Seriously? At a time when the Big 5 and 1/2 are making record profits?

The most misunderstood was Neil Gaiman's keynote address at the 2013 London Book Fair. In his speech, Neil freely admits that things are changing, no one (including him) knows how things will shake out, and now is the time for folks to experiment. Industry pundits are pissed because they sure as hell don't want to embrace the change. Writers are pissed because Neil's already made his millions.

Neil's comments on the backlash can be read on his blog. I suggest you listen to his speech and judge for yourself.

And the establishment's attitudes were not helped by this week's NYT Bestseller List. Yep, that right. Three of the top five are indie writers.

Things are changing, and this bickering is so 2011. Get over it.


  1. I don't have the energy to listen to bickering. The work week for me sucked monkey balls as it was. No more, no more.

  2. Good speech. You know, I can empathize with the people who say that it's easy for Neil to recommend they embrace the idea of having 90% of their efforts fail, because he's already rich enough that he never has to work another day in his life. That's very true. He's got his, and he has the privilege of being able to experiment without it impacting his ability to pay his bills. Sure, sometimes a Kickstarter campaign he tweets about fails anyway, but I can guarantee you that a hell of a lot more of the Kickstarters he tweets succeed -- because of his recommendation -- than would succeed because of mine if I tweeted about them. (I'd have to get a Twitter account first, but even if I had one, you know?) Gaiman is in a position of privilege, of money and fame and the reach of his soapbox and the number of people willing to go along with him just because he's the one suggesting it. That's very true.

    I think what the grouchers don't get, though, is that true or not, it doesn't matter. He's right that 1993 is never going to come around again, he's right that no one knows for sure what publishing is going to be like in five years, and he's right that if you can experiment, you're more likely to stumble across something that'll work, maybe beyond your wildest cliched dreams. I can't imagine anyone would give a damn if I drew a picture on a tablecloth and stuck it under a rock. But if I tried a bunch of different things, maybe something would work. Maybe I'd find something that folks are willing to pay money for, aside from my books. I dunno, but maybe.

    The only guarantee is that if you don't try, you'll never find that thing. If you never send out any seeds, none of your seeds will sprout. The smart bet right now is that I'll never be as rich or famous or successful as Neil Gaiman. But that's not a reason not to try, not to experiment, not to cast a few seeds into the breeze, so far as my own resources will allow me, and see what happens.

    The grouchers are complaining because they have less of a chance of success than Neil Gaiman. (And I have to say he was a little disingenuous when he said that even he failed sometimes. Umm, yeah. There's still a huge difference between 90% and 2%, or whatever the success rates are between him and some random nobody.) But if you don't try, you WILL fail. If you put all your money on 1993 calendars, you WILL go broke. If you want a chance to win, you have to play the game, and even if the game is slanted in favor of people like Neil Gaiman, it's still the only game there is and you still have to play to win.

    I'd rather scatter some seeds, even if someone else's garden is going to have more sprouts in it than mine.



  3. It's very easy for all these writers to criticize Neil (he's made his dosh and all), but it took him thirty years to do so and he's actually done what he advises (experiment). He was a journalist, barely making ends meet with a wife and a son, when he took a chance writing a comic book script. He's also written novels, children's books, movie scripts, poetry, song lyrics, etc. The man does not sit on his hands.

  4. Ah, Whisk, at the rate things are changing, everything I did to publish my first story in 2011 is wrong by 2013 standards.