By Porter Anderson | @Porter_Anderson
From December 20, 2012
Part of my series of columns on publishing, appearing at the invitation of Jane Friedman at JaneFriedman.com
Publishing’s New Gospel
Not even the Angel of the Lord said “I bring you tidings that are the best ever.”
There he was, doing breaking news about the whole program going down in Bethlehem, with the glory of the Lord shining ’round about him, backed up by the Multitude of the Heavenly Host. And yet, he got the job done with the dignified “good tidings of great joy.”
I’m guessing that within hours, that show was coming out in somebody’s list: Top 10 Pasture Pageants of Year Zero.
Did you know that TIME has 55 of them? Fifty-five lists. In Top 10 Everything of 2012, And boy, are they helpful. They cover such things as “fleeting celebrities,” “worst dressed,” and “campaign gaffes.”
I’m guessing that the top three entries in every one of those 55 lists are the Fifty Shades of Grey books.
And when it comes to getting through this annual Valley of the Shadow of Top 10 lists, my advice: Take along somebody smart like Michael Cader at Publishers Lunch.
The good Cader is a Twitter refusenik, by the way, that’s why I never link his name for you, I’m not being mean. And he’s handy with the lists.
For example, in Amazon’s Many 2012 Bestseller Lists this week, he writes, “Leaving aside E.L. James” (there’s a relief):
By our count the top 100 Kindle list [of books published in 2012] includes 16 titles that were originally self-published. But only five of those books are still self-published.
Got that? For unto us a new route to publication is made straight in the desert.
However glibly self-publishing authors might trash-talk “the damned publishers” and crow about how “all my money comes to me, no middlemen,” lo, the same gatekeepers those authors just tried to run down in the parking lot sure look like wise men when they turn up bearing contracts.
“All is forgiven,” pa-rum-pa-pum pum.
So perhaps in the coming year, the self-publishing community can make tempering the anti-industry rhetoric one of its Top 10 Things To Work On.
What won’t be a surprise is the disappointment factor: As we saw with Amanda Hocking (remember her?), not all that many angels can dance on the head of this pin.
And you can bet your Prime membership that all the scribes and pharisees this week think they’re Hugh Howey.
I hate when people say, "You can do anything if you want it bad enough." That's crap. "Want" isn't a course of action. Dreams take hard work
— Amanda Hocking 🌈 (@amanda_hocking) December 18, 2012
One thing is certain: after the big, noisy exit so many self-publishers made from the Egypt of Oppressive Publishers, the last thing some observers expected to see was a camel path leading directly around to the back door. But self-publishing is beginning to look like more than the “digital slush pile” you hear about — it’s an audition for prime time.
That cloud of dust you see is Bob Mayer headed over here to tell me that there aren’t enough contracts in the world to woo him back to a publisher and that he and Cool Gus are in the self-publishing biz for good. Which is fine, there are some folks, yes, just that dedicated to the DIY way or the highway, and I’ll see you in the comments, Bob.
It's snowing! We're gonna have a white apocalypse!
— Hugh Howey (@hughhowey) December 19, 2012
Meanwhile, Cader lists these as those five still self-published titles from the Kindle Top 100:
- The Secret of Ella and Micha by Jessica Sorensen
- Down to You by M. Leighton
- The Wild Ones by M. Leighton
- Blood Stained by CJ Lyons
- The Unwanted Wife by Natasha Anders
And what nourishing literature it all is, huh?
Cader goes on:
And of those five, Leighton’s two books are also moving to Penguin Group’s Berkley–and Berkley/NAL now publishes seven more of those originally self-published books on the Kindle bestseller list
Just How Far We’ve Come From “Vanity Publishing,” in fact, was heralded this week by Jeremy Greenfield at Digital Book World, his story including this phrase about two self-to-traddies: “more traditionally self-published.”
Don’t rush by that. Savor it: A couple of books, he wrote, were more traditionally self-published than others.
So now we have such a thing as self-publishing in a traditional way.
And self-publishing in a less traditional way.
Greenfield is drawing a distinction between the fanny-fiction of E.L. James’ original necktier-upper on one hand, and other self-published work that does not begin life as a derivative of someone else’s work.
But I can foresee raging, entertaining battles among the self-publishers ahead, can’t you? All about who’s the most “pure” of the self-publishing camp.
Agent Clare Alexander said in London at FutureBook 2012 that, one of these days, we’ll have to invent publishing so we can tell good work from bad work.
So as you head back to your fields, praising all the things you’ve heard and seen in 2012, consider the approach described in one of the tenderest lines of the scriptures: Keep all these things close, and ponder them in your heart.
Not in a Top 10 list.
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