Rusch: ‘It’s a toxic environment in traditional publishing right now’
July 22, 2013 | 10:31 am
The media will talk about “The Cuckoo’s Calling” for a just a little while longer—at least once more through the news cycle. That’s because JK Rowling is such a prolific name when it comes to modern books. She wrote the Harry Potter series that appealed to so many different people.
So when it was revealed she was the author of a crime novel under a pseudonym, every blog and media outlet wrote about the story from nearly every angle, including the effects it had on the publishing industry.
However, Kristine Kathyrn Rusch, an author, seemed to take different look at the situation on her blog.
Her blog post took on a number of different elements of the Galbraith/Rowling saga, but one that stood out came near the end of her lengthy post. It was disappointment in the industry—not Rowling or her agent.
You want to see the contempt traditional publishing holds for the people who it has built its business on? Read the industry comments about the Rowling/Galbraith incident. Not the comments from readers—who are happily lapping up the book—or the comments from the newspaper writers who are simply quoting press releases. Read what the industry bloggers are saying, think about the kind of cynicism it takes to believe that Rowling would do this as a publicity stunt, and realize that these people are the gatekeepers. People who have no idea about their industry’s history, no idea about what readers want, no respect for the writers who provide the content on which these vast publishing empires are built.
Ouch. That’s harsh criticism sent toward industry insiders—those who are the ones putting out books for the masses. But she didn’t end there.
Remember that these gatekeepers just attacked JK Rowling for her choice of publication method, for her “quiet” book, and for her “publicity stunt.” JK Rowling, who has made billions for the industry.
What she is going through now is but one example of what all of us who have been in traditional book publishing for the last ten years have experienced. That contempt, that lack of respect, that blame, when something goes “wrong” by traditional publishing’s definition.
It’s a toxic environment in traditional publishing right now, and it will only get worse as the mergers continue. Welcome to the Blockbuster World. If you can’t provide an instant hit, we don’t want you. Even if you are JK Rowling, but prefer to be called Robert Galbraith. You’re a brand, not a writer. And you’d better be successful, no matter what traditional publishing throws at you, otherwise, it will toss you under that proverbial bus. Like it’s doing with JK Rowling right now.
And remember, this blog is an example of the new world of publishing. Ten years ago, I would have said everything I just mentioned to all of the professional writers at that master class, but I wouldn’t have written about it in public, because I would have been billed a “troublemaker.” Maybe I am a troublemaker, but I can survive on my own now—and this blog is part of that.
This is part of what has made self-publishing another option for writers. Rusch cannot be the only person who feels this way about the traditional book-publishing world. Of course, the same could be said for many areas in the entertainment field such as movie and television shows—if it’s not going to be an instant hit, we don’t want it.
Of course, established authors could move away from the traditional model and do more self-publishing if they’re not happy with the way the industry is being run today. But I just don’t see that happening.
For one, the publishing machine offers paths into book outlets that would be difficult to manage on your own. Secondly, there are still many out there who support the traditional publishing houses. (Example: Stephen King’s “Joyland” not going to e-books—legally).
It seems there is contempt lately for the big publishing houses and the way they do business. These companies are still making money, however, and until the model stops working, they will almost surely continue doing the exact same thing
Nothing will change until the bottom line is in trouble. Until then, Rusch and others who feel the same way will have to deal with the “contempt, that lack of respect, that blame.”