The Brave New World of…Tradition? Really?

Even though I have no desire to get an agent, and frankly at this point see no benefit in getting one, I still will on occasion visit agents’ blogs to see what’s going on in their world.  And why not?  They’re in the publishing business and have a different perspective than I do on it.  It’s hard to grow if one doesn’t expose one’s self to different perspectives.

I often check out Rachelle Gardener’s blog, but I realized this morning that I hadn’t gone by to see what she’s been up to in a while.  So I came across this post, which she describes as a rant.

She came off as very defensive, with a lot of “Hey don’t blame the publishers and don’t blame me” sort of declarations.  Which I can understand, though I was a bit put off by them.  Still, I found myself agreeing with her on a number of points. 

Yes, writers, this is the 21st century.  We do, in fact, communicate on the internet.  And people do, in fact, when they learn about someone or something new, Google it to see what it’s all about.  So if you’re a writer looking to sell stories and someone hears your name, if there’s nothing on the web that says who you are, what you write about, and why you might be interesting, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.  So yes, dear writer, it is not unreasonable for a publisher to expect you to do at least a little bit to set up an online platform.  That just makes sense.

But after that, I part ways with her.  She goes on to say that publishers are still valid in the Brave New World, because, among other things, they are the keepers of tradition.  Of the legacy of publishing.  If I may quote:

Part of the value publishers bring is a sense of history, a sense of tradition and permanence. Many authors still want to be a part of that. It’s about great stories and important thoughts. It’s about legacy. It’s about a dream. People in publishing still see this dream as worth it. They’re willing to swim against the tide because publishing isn’t just a business, it’s a life, it’s a calling, it’s a passion.

Erm…no.  Publishing is a business.  Just because it happens to deal with things we refer to as “the arts” doesn’t make publishing different, or special.  It’s a business.  It’s just that simple.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I love and respect tradition.  In my day job, I’m a Naval Officer.  There are lots of traditions in the Navy.  They make living the Navy life more full, more fun, and in some ways more meaningful.  But they don’t define the Navy’s mission or what the Navy brings to the table on the Nation’s behalf.  And frankly, there are some Navy traditions that we have intentionally done away with because they didn’t work in todays culture and/or they actually hampered the Navy’s ability to do its job.

I don’t see why publishing should be any different.  Fine, there are great legacies from the past and traditions that have been handed down.  Frankly, I’m not sure what those traditions are in the business of publishing.  Maybe it’s because I’m new, so someone please enlighten me.  But if a business claims its chief value is that it maintains a tradition, in all honesty maybe that business isn’t doing what it should be doing.

I know, I know, she didn’t say the publishers’ chief value is tradition.  I get that.

But there is no need to put on airs here.  Publishing is a business.  Publishers are businesses that are run by businessmen and businesswomen.  That’s it.  They add tangible value to the process or they cease to be businesses.  Just like any other business, because there is no difference. 

So please, stop trying to add extra meaning to things.  I don’t know why artsy types feel the need to do this.  To everything.  All the time.  Seriously folks, sometimes a pear is just a pear, and a business is just a business.  It’s called reality.  Deal with it.

Oh, and would all you writers out there PLEASE stop talking like her 7th commenter:

I write because I have to; it’s how I speak. I don’t have a choice.

Rubbish.  What are you, a freaking automaton?  Of course you have a choice.  You choose to write in the same way that you choose what to wear, or where you went to school, or what you have for dinner, or what job you applied for, or who you date, or…  Shall I go on? 

You could just as easily choose a different line of work.  Maybe you wouldn’t like it as much.  Maybe you’d get less satisfaction from your job.  And that’s valid.  But to say you have no choice???

Seriously, people, get over yourselves.  We’re not curing cancer here.

0 thoughts on “The Brave New World of…Tradition? Really?”

  1. Couldn’t agree with your more. It’s not easy though, making sense of the publishing world with all these technological changes going on. I certainly think stories will always have a place for mankind but I do hope people will read more fiction and not just follow social media.

  2. Any industry that does not put customer satisfaction as its #1 priority is doomed to fail on an epic proportion. Readers don’t buy a book for “the preservation of tradition”, they buy books because they want to read them and read them cheaply (real complicated economics, I know). That’s why eBooks are real kickass from a consumer perspective.

    I think most self-publishers realize this, but I’m surprised that these artsy types as you mention are completely ignorant of these basic market forces. The death rattle of the big publishing houses will be when they start filing a bunch of lawsuits and begging the government for handouts (just like the dying newspaper industry did in 2009).

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