Why we need publishers (an author writes…)

The Bookseller, UK publishing’s trade newspaper, has published an online report (here) from the London International Book Fair, just concluded, on a debate that was held between the forces of Light and Dark — sorry, lost my head, between new media and the dinosaurs, erm, publishers.

The blogger mostly comes down on the side of the Brave New World. S/he, however, somewhat sabotages his/her case by the following:

Franklin however reminded us of all that some regard as arrogant, old world and out of synch with today’s changing market. He lead with one could best describe as publishers know best and all else is drose. He went on to crusade against self publishing as if it was the devil and even made the claim that , ‘Free is too much to pay for the vast majority of self-published books,’ but quickly added as any speaker would having stuck the knife in, that “It’s too much to pay for some of the books that come from publishers.”

Now, without wanting to be more of a pain in the butt than I normally am, may I point out:

  • For ‘he lead’, read ‘he led’
  • For ‘with one could best’, read ‘with what one could best’
  • For ‘drose’, read ‘dross’
  • For ‘self publishing’, read ‘self-publishing’
  • For ‘as if it was the devil’, read ‘as if it were the devil’
  • For ‘claim that ,’ read ‘claim that,’
  • Use all double or all single quotes
  • And finally, I would have broken that last sentence up into two.

I could go on and do this to the rest of the post, but kindness (and time) intervenes. My point in even doing this is not malice. I could have written the sentences above too. Because this blog, and many blogs, are reminders that what publishing adds in value is invisible, until it is not there. It adds extra eyes, to prevent us, the authors, from making all the howlers above. It adds people who have spent their lives reading, who want to make us, the authors, look good.

Publishers, although I have my doubts about many (and I am well aware many feel the same about me), are there for a reason. Any single author on his or her own has lived with his or her book for far too long to be able to see its flaws, both big and small.

So, publishers may not survive in the form they have existed in for so long. But please, let’s keep the expertise. We need it.

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  1. Monica Emerich

    April 14, 2011 - 6:51 pm

    I agree, and would add that a similar case is made for “journalism,” or what stands in for that any more with “newsworthy” being a matter of how well a blogger can promote his or her viewpoints and how quickly s/he can be picked up by Huff Post. There’s wonderful citizen journalists giving us current views onto events otherwise shrouded by governmental secrecy, but to have journalism classes steadily go the way of the dinosaur in higher education is a frightening matter.

  2. MJ

    April 14, 2011 - 9:51 pm

    I agree absolutely. That said, publishers are also increasingly falling down on the job. (That doesn’t argue for self-publishing as much as that the regular commercial publishers should get their act together.) I’m sorry to say that the Kindle version of “The Invention of Murder” is full of howlers, most likely the result of being scanned in by the publisher but not proofread afterwards. Phrases in italics continue in italics for several more paragraphs, and most noticeably, on many pages there are multiple random periods (/full stops) in the middle of sentences — probably the result of the scanner picking up dust on the page and reading it as periods. It is very distracting, not to say maddening. Of course, conventional publishers provide a filter that keeps the utter dreck out of the pipeline. But when they’re not keeping scores of typos out of the book, they’ve certainly eliminated one of their reasons for existing.

    • inspectorbucket

      April 15, 2011 - 7:24 am

      I’m really sorry to hear about the literals in the Kindle version of IoM: you should write to the publisher and complain — they won’t do anything until enough people do complain. Whining: The Way Forward!

  3. chris hughes

    May 21, 2011 - 11:44 am

    I’ve come back to this in sheer frustration, the result of reading a book! Now it is a very good book, The Medical Detective, by Sandra Hempel – the story of John Snow, cholera and the Broad St pump. What is making me foam at the mouth is the vast number of errors which in my innocence I believed were picked up by proof readers long before a book finds its way to the printers. For instance, ‘saterised’, ‘air freshner’, ‘fourty’ and the use of the word ‘cannon’ instead of ‘canon’. I am now proof reading the book myself rather than reading it! What is worse, this is a book written by Granta who I assumed would actually care whether they were producing quality or shoddy. But having seen in the past month on the Six O’Clock BBC News ‘jeopody’ and ‘fiancie’, as well as ‘duel carriageway’ and ‘gardner’ on the local news, perhaps I just need to take relaxation classes before my blood pressure explodes!

  4. inspectorbucket

    May 21, 2011 - 12:05 pm

    Probably deep breathing is best… I needed some last time I was in the States. According to (I think) NBC, there is an island in the Mediterranean called ‘Cypress’. Watching televsion is *such* an education!