Traditional Publishing and the Coriolanus Effect

Worth watching for Ralph Fiennes’ performance alone.

“By Jove himself, it makes the consuls base, and my soul aches to know when two authorities are up, neither supreme, how soon confusion may enter twixt the gap of both and take the one by the other. Thus we debase the nature of our seats and make the rabble call our cares fears, which will, in time, break open the locks of the senate, and bring in the crows to peck the eagles!” Caius Martius Coriolanus. Coriolanus, Wm. Shakespeare

Methinks they doth protest too much – these traditionally-published authors.

I’m not picking on Mike D. but it seems to me the implicit logic in posts like the one here or here is that Self-Pub works are inherently inferior. That self-pubbed writers lack patience, or maturity, or the skill to adhere to the ‘normal’ publishing model. It’s the notion that if you were really good, you’d be picked up by an agent and a big house.

No question there’s a deluge of tepid, banal, pathological rubbish in the self-pubbed offerings. Anyone whoever played D& D or fantasized about a sexual encounter can jump on the internet and add their adventures to the pile. But Mediocrity is no respecter of persons; I’d venture an equal proportion sits on bookstore shelves. Indeed, one of the burrs in my saddle is the unfortunate purchase of what turns out to be an awful book. It’s happened to you, I’m sure. And no doubt you thought, “Someone got money for this? I could do better with a crayon, a pad of paper and a fifth of Smirnoff.” Flannery O’Connor was right when she said many a bestseller could have been prevented by a decent writing teacher. We all know an official seal of approval isn’t a guarantee of quality.

Here’s the real question: Is there really a cosmic battle between Self and Traditional Publishing? Is the enmity valid? Will acknowledging Indie writers (artists of any stripe) really bring in the crows to peck at the eagles?

Antagonism is there alright, on both sides. I just don’t believe the arguments hold up under scrutiny.

The Traditional model has established avenues of marketing, distribution, a level of quality control. So long as the world and technology played along, they were the Gate-Keepers. They passed olive branches to the worthy. Nowadays however, the fences are down completely and the issue isn’t that Self-Pubbed is innately sub-standard, but that those same avenues, those checks, haven’t had time to solidify. What you see now are the growing pains of a new paradigm. (I feel so cheap now, sounding all business-chic, like that.)

I think technology and connectivity has prompted a tectonic shift. The plates haven’t settled yet, but when they finally do, it’s assured the landscape will be significantly different. Recognizable but altered.

Perhaps we need to quit arguing, get back to writing, hone our skills, and pursue whatever avenues are available as individual conscience and opportunity allow. Then when the dust has settled and the lava cools, perhaps we can say with Miranda:

O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
That has such people in’t!

The Tempest. Wm. Shakespeare.

4 Comments on “Traditional Publishing and the Coriolanus Effect

  1. I agree, there is a subtle underlying message that traditional it better. And it is an accomplishment to make it through all those hoops, but as others mentioned in the comments one shouldn’t get a big head because of the traditional stamp of approval. It doesn’t always mean the writing is better.

  2. This whole thing reminds me of high school politics. Just before I graduated, grunge became popular and there was this backlash against cheerleader/jock culture. Then cheerleader/jock culture fought back, but it was a losing battle. Grunge misfits became the new “it” culture. But it didn’t mean the grunge misfits the 90s spawned were the real deal–so many fakers, and so few Eddie Vedders!

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