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One is lead to the inescapable conclusion that what they really can't stomach is the democratisation of publishing. They seem to feel that our gain is somehow responsible for their loss. John Carey was right when - brilliantly dissecting literary snobbishness in The Intellectuals and the Masses - he argued that the élite who felt their position threatened by the 19th century increase in literacy, invented new forms which would deliberately exclude the lower orders. It seems that now, we are faced with a backlash from a small group of intellectuals who feel similarly threatened by a new method of delivery which threatens their exclusivity.
What phases me, though, is the reiterated statement that this new regime will mean less money for writers. I keep wondering which writers they have in mind, since - with a very few exceptions, winners in the blockbuster lottery - every writer of my acquaintance has found him or herself better off under the new regime.
It's tempting to conclude that at least some of these writers who are complaining have had a reasonably smooth passage into publishing. Maybe they even secured decent advances. But as any older writer could have told them, for the vast majority of mid-list writers, life is more like a game of Snakes and Ladders than a box of chocolates, and most of those snakes have no respect for talent. Your counter hits the square, and down you go.
This also helps to explain why so many of us oldies are embracing the digital revolution with such enthusiasm. We and our colleagues have become disillusioned with the process of submission, enthusiastic response, extreme delay and ultimate disappointment, because the 'sales department remembers that something similar, five years ago, wasn't just as successful as they thought it was going to be.'
This kind of nonsense isn't just frustrating. It actually interferes with the creative process. You lose all enjoyment in the act of writing, because you're invariably trying to tailor your work to suit an ever shifting set of demands. I have wasted years of good writing time trying to negotiate with this world, trying to get the whole damn industry to treat me and my fellow writers not as humble supplicants, but as professional business partners.
Recently, at a conference, a participant asked me, 'How do you manage without all the support and promotion of a publisher.'
Cue hollow laugh.
Professional editing, design and promotion can all be bought in. Of these, I'd say that editing and design probably should be bought in. If you still find yourself making mistakes, at least they are your own, honest mistakes. This is never as frustrating as the experience of handing over large chunks of equity in your intellectual property in return for some hypothetical 'respect', only to find yourself being let down time after time by the very people you trusted to do their best for you. Loyalty cuts both ways.