Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue


Publishing is Finally a Democracy; and Guess Who Has the Power?

It’s no secret that technology has leveled the publishing playing-field AND empowered writers/authors. I, for one, have followed and written on the publishing revolution since 2008.

But, I just love the following article by Keith Ogorek, the Senior VP of Marketing for Author Solutions. His visualization of publishing as an old dictatorial aristocracy, where an elite few held the power, being democratized and the power spread more fairly is simply excellent:

The democratization of publishing

Since its inception the publishing industry has operated like an aristocracy. An elite few held the power to essentially determine if an author’s work would be allowed in the public square. It was publication without self-determination for authors. For no matter how passionate or motivated an author was about his or her work, the fate of the book rested entirely with a few publishing houses. Those days, however, are over. Everything has changed.

Publishing becomes a democracy thanks to technology

In the mid-1990s, the convergence of three emerging technologies laid the groundwork for a revolution in publishing. First, desktop publishing replaced traditional typesetting, which meant an individual could design a book more quickly and cost effectively. Second, the debut of print-on-demand (POD) technology meant copies of a book could be printed individually at costs comparable to traditional, large offset runs. Third, the internet became a retail distribution channel. This leveled the playing field for authors who wanted to distribute their books broadly and cost effectively. These technologies, all developing at the same time, meant the elite no longer held the power. Authors now had it.

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  1. I enjoy playing devil's advocate.Why is a democratic publishing model a good thing?I we're hearing this because there are a lot of frustrated writers out there who see stuff published that is worse than the manuscripts they just had rejected.Now, anyone can publish anything. The expected result to this is that the quality goes down even though some unexpected gems will finally see the light of day.We're less likely to applaud democracies in most other fields. We don't applaud doctors, electricians, lawyers, insurance salesmen and others who simply put out a shingle and start doing there thing without any training.Now we have a glut of books and no standards, and that's pretty much the same thing that happened when desktop publishing software gave amateurs the ability to turn out something that sort of looked like a magazine or newsletter while breaking rules of layout and design that separated the great from the marginal. After a while, "marginal" became the new normal and nobody expected any better.That's where our book publishing democracy is likely to take us.Malcolm

    Comment by Sun Singer — 09/03/2010 @ 7:18 pm | Reply

  2. Thanks, John!!!

    Comment by Frances Jeanne — 09/03/2010 @ 7:29 pm | Reply

  3. Sun Singer,I also like to play the devil's advocate at times, and do so in my writings and posts quite often…A while back (right after you joined my blog) when I was reading about you and your books (Sun Sunger and the Worst of Jock Stewart) I found we had other things in common in our backgrounds: We both graduated from colleges in Florida (except I'm a Gator and you are a Seminole…enough said about that). We both have lived in Colorado. We are both veterans. We both like writing and publishing "stuff"Now to play with your devilishness:A better question is why is a democratic publishing model not a good thing? The points you bring in your comment are somewhat valid…but only from a rather narrow, preformed "I-have-been-raised- doing-it-this-way-and-the-system will-fall-apart-if-we-do-it-any- other-way" point of view.Believe me, the general readership will take the place of the few editorial screeners that sat in the big-house publisher's offices…AND the publisher's employees were wrong about what was good or not 50% of the time anyway…How can only one person know what the rest of the country realy would like…There's simply too many tastes and points of view out there.So, we can do without the so-called "quality police"…They (and their judgements) were a fallacy in the first place…They were good only in the sense that they could eliminate a work from the niche their employer was interested in…But, the quality of the work still might be just fine…AND many other readers would be interested in the turned-down author's subject niche Why should our work be "passed" or "failed" (judged) only by one person (or a small group with a fixed agenda) when it is now possible to get it judged by the whole universe of readers out there? They are not as stupid as you think…And this mass exposure and critique, quite frankly, is what I feel is the real democracy of publishing today. Quite simply, if your work is bad it won't sell…But, if it has ANY redeeming qualities, it might make you some money and please a few…It's all about getting your work read and appreciated by as many as possible. As far as formal education (training) in the mechanics of good writing, etc., most serious writers do learn the basics…because they love their work and want it to be the best they can make it…BUT, no education can instill creative talent, you either have that or you don't…Formal education teaches you to write a grammatically correct sentence, but it can't give you an imagination or the ability to sring those correct sentences together into an interesting story.In this sense, it's a little different than the example you gave using medical doctors, lawyers, etc..(although there are better doctors than others; some are just more talented than others)How many of the old-time, great writers never attended new journalism or writing schools? None. They learned their trade by doing, and getting better as they went…We don't applaud the "democratization" of the publishing field simply because it allows all to write and publish, we applaud it because it allows all who have talent and desire to get published and have a better chance to become successful…It's almost like having a certain censorship removed.

    Comment by John Austin — 09/05/2010 @ 1:25 pm | Reply

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