George Packer wrote about publishing and books in The New Yorker (Cheap Words, Feb. 17, 2014). (Link to the article).
I read it twice, discussed it with several people, and wrote the following, which I also posted to the article’s FB page.
When George Packer uses the word “writer” in this article, he means “published author”, and what he really means is “an author published by a major NYC publisher“, such as himself.
Packer complains that Amazon is breaking down the cosy Big Publisher/Big Author relationship. But for every Big Author, there are 1,000 published but unknown authors. And for every one of those, there are another 10,000 writers who would love to see their books in print, but don’t have the connections. (BTW, I’ve written nine published books, incl. by published by McGraw-Hill.)
So Packer makes a mistake by erasing the word “published”. That’s minor. His article has a bigger mistake which he doesn’t realize.
Amazon’s CreateSpace service allows people to self-publish. Anyone can upload a text and it will appear as a digital book, which can be read on Kindle, cell phones, laptops, or any digital device. With a few more steps, the text is printed and bound by robot printers, which means anyone can have a printed book. You don’t need to print 1,500 books: you can print just one book. Really.
Here’s what Packer misses: this means Amazon offers a complete service for anyone to be a publisher. You can use Amazon CreateSpace to print the book, store on their shelves, sell the book, and process the payment, and deliver the book. Amazon does every single step beyond writing and editing. Packer is so clueless that he describes OR Books, a small publisher which uses other printing services, as an example of the future of publishing. Really, George? Anyone, yes, you, dear unpublished author, can set up an imprint on Amazon and start publishing books. How much would it cost to do this? Not even one dollar.
Amazon isn’t a Death Star to NYC publishers. It’s not Big Amazon vs. Big Publishers. Amazon is virus. We will soon see tens of thousands of publishers, as people realize they can do this themselves. There are already hundreds of thousands of self-published books. A few writers will began to organize their own publishing.
As for bookstores? They carry best sellers by Big Publishers. If you want interesting books, look at self-published authors on Kindle. I don’t bother anymore with ISBN numbers or distribution to bookstores. As an author, it’s better to bypass them.
After many published books, I released my last book myself via Amazon. I can buy print copies of my book for $2.77 with the same print quality as a book by McGraw-Hill or Wiley. My book is an Amazon Best Seller. I had a publisher for the book, but I withdrew and published it on Amazon. I get 65% royalty.
At 65%, I could set up an imprint, release books by others, and pay authors 40%.
George Packer’s article is interesting, but only partially informed, overall misleading, and biased. Packer shouldn’t be writing articles about Amazon or publishing.
Many friends have asked me how I’ve written so many books and they want to know how they can write books. So I’m currently writing a short ebook on how to self-publish. It will be released (yes, free) at Amazon and my website in late March. To get a copy, go to my website and sign up for the newsletter.