Writer Jami Gold has a provocative post on her blog about the fact that big publishers, often seen as the “gatekeepers” of literary quality, are more and more willing to allow books to appear under their auspices without proper quality control. “Who cares about quality writing anymore?” she asks, and uses as an example a current big release from Vintage Books which has been published in terrible need of a skilled editor’s guidance.
As she puts it in a comment below the post, “If publishers aren’t doing promotion or marketing, and now they aren’t doing editing and are ruining their reputation, what do they offer to writers that they can’t accomplish on their own?”
And there’s something to that. Sloppy editing, celebrity books of hideous quality (contracted for ginormous amounts of money that could better be spent on worthy authors), ebooks released with major formatting errors, a tunnel vision mentality that leads them to release tons of the same ol’ same ol’ and not take risks…
Low or no advances. No promotional support. Lackluster editing. Fewer and fewer actual distribution channels and bookstores. And, of course, an institutionalized disdain for the authors, except those few who have become brand names.
If publishers are going to survive the Ebook Apocalypse, they really need to get their heads on straight and start thinking about what they can offer the folks who actually write their books, and how they can stay worthy of the trust that some people still have in them as gatekeepers. Because at the moment, they’re looking kinda bush league, while many capable self-publishers are looking more and more like the real deal.