During last week's outrage over Harlequin Horizons, one comment really caught my attention and remained with me for days. It appeared in the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blog site but came in part from an earlier blog post. I reproduce it now with permission from its author, the brilliant Stacia Kane.
When self-publishing becomes the only option, only the rich will be able to publish. When publishers can make more money taking cash from aspiring writers than by selling books to the public, writers and readers both suffer. Writers who can’t afford to publish will be lost, or we’ll have to go back to the 18th century model and whore ourselves out to rich “patrons” who might agree to pay for our publishing—not pay us, but pay to produce the books themselves.
Imagine a world where the only books on the shelves are those written by people with enough money to pay to have them published. Very little quality control, no attention paid to whether or not the book is actually worthwhile. How much fun will reading be then?
From my blog:
We’d have books written exclusively by those who could afford it. Much like in the 18th century, when so many books were diaries of some peeress’s trip through Europe with titles like, “My Gleanings.” FUN. I know I can’t wait to read books written exclusively by the wealthy, with no viewpoints other than their own. I’m sick of hearing what baby boomers think already; I can assure you I don’t want to read more of their “Gee, the sixties were sooo great!” back-patting. I know I can’t wait for a world where books written by those from other cultures have no chance to be translated into English and released here, when we become even more ignorant of the lives of those in the world outside because there’s no way to get their books in front of English-speaking audiences. Oh, and of course, given that self-published books tend to be much more expensive, thanks to POD technology, I can’t wait for a world when reading and books are even less available to the poor. When they don’t have the same opportunities thanks to their inability to get hold of books.
Oh, what’s that you say? Oh, right. The internet will provide all of that. Of course. Because I know when I want something to read I’d much rather spend hours and hours slogging around online looking for something decent than just go to a bookstore. I know people who can’t afford books totally have the money for laptops and ereaders and the internet. So in seeking to democratize literature, what you are actually doing is STEALING IT from those less fortunate than you.
We’d also have a lot more unreadable books. I’m sorry, but it’s true. For every excellent work of self-published fiction–and they are out there, make no mistake–and for every one that’s not bad, just not terribly polished or professional or interesting, there are dozens of horrible ones. Really.
Let’s not forget that the way most people learn proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling isn’t through school. I mean, we do learn those things at school, but we develop those skills by reading. So you tell me, how literate will we be as a society when there are no professionally written books? When there are no people to judge if a work is even readable or not before it gets published? When anything goes? Would you like to go back to the middle ages, when words were just spelled however they sounded? Because I wouldn’t.
If you'd like to thank Stacia for this piece, buy her books.