My problem with epublishing

In the wake of the pie in face closure of Quartet Press, I am left shaking my head. Not at the closure — I think it was probably wise to shut down before wasting a lot of time and money if the plan was flawed. That’s not what leaves me gobsmacked.

I was mostly offline working when Angela James announced she was moving to QP from Samhain, but even in my writing cave, I heard the angry murmurs and mutterings. It was not altogether clean or painless, I think, although I am far from an insider on the situation.

And that’s my problem with epublishing. It’s not that I question its validity or that I think digital is an invalid form of publication. It’s none of these issues. It’s the fact that it is, at base, still for the most part a cottage industry, run by people who get too emotionally invested in the process. It’s crazy that anyone would be offended that someone takes a better job.

I mean consider the insurance game. If an agent goes to work for State Farm, do you really think the Geico people are like, “OMG, we HATES Ron Jones now! Traitor!! He crossed over!” It’s just not like that in any other business venue I’ve seen, and it makes no sense at all. It’s that kind of behavior that makes it impossible for larger publishers to take the indie presses seriously. It becomes about ego and one-upsmanship instead of professionalism.

So now that QP is no more and Angela has posted her reaction, I’ve seen some perfectly hateful buttmonkeys muttering that she got what she deserved. Really, people? REALLY? To take the insurance analogy one step further, do you really think Ron Jones’s former coworkers at Geico would be gleefully pissing themselves with bitter schadenfreude over the fact that his State Farm office closed? Nuh uh. Number one, they just don’t care that much because it’s a job, not their lives or their religion.

This behavior keeps people on the outside viewing a select chunk of you as hormonal, hysterical women, who couldn’t get publishing contracts in NY and so opened your own companies to peddle your own work. Rightfully or wrongly, that is the perception, and by acting like a gaggle of angry Tasmanian she-devils, you’re only confirming the stereotype.

If the independent digital publisher has any hope of surviving and thriving, it has to be staffed by people for whom it is a job, first and foremost, not a red wagon to wheel around their bloated egos. Get over yourselves, people, and realize you’re being assholes before it’s too late.

Posted in ebooks, opinion, rant

38 Responses to My problem with epublishing

  1. The back and forthing is unbelievable. And if you comment on it, no matter what you say, it’s wrong! You’re either too outraged, or taking it too lightly.

    Get back to work, people.

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  4. People are saying that? Good Lord. Personally, I think one of the print pubs would be wise to hire her. HQ is close enough to getting it right that it seems like a great place for her to end up. That’s my hope anyway.

    Well, it’s an area that still early in its development so it’s no surprise that there are evangelists (trying not to say “extremist” but maybe that’s what I mean) for any given point of view. It’s important to hear those views, understand the importance of the passion behind it, and then move on as adults and take what works while digital formats go mainstream.

    Hysteria, by the way, tends not to work.

    Digital isn’t going away and eventually, in some way or another, the borg will assimilate the technology. An industry where we have assimilation AND some of the current all-digital publishers (but maybe not exactly the same ones as now) is probably a good thing.

  5. I’m so crushing on you right now.

  6. Ann Aguirre says:

    I totally agree with you, Carolyn, but I’d prefer there were professionals driving the bus.

  7. Kwana says:

    Great post. Things have to me kept professional. I’m very sorry about QP closing before they even got off the ground and so sorry for all involved especially Angela. I wish them all all the best.

  8. Ann Aguirre says:

    I will state forthrightly that I am predisposed to be suspicious of the indie epub start-up. I have been personally burned by one; I was defrauded of thousands of dollars in royalties and not paid for hours worked. I’ve seen so many other companies crash and burn that it’s my expectation that pretty much every single will fail, given time and opportunity. That said, I didn’t run around crying how I was betrayed. I learned from that mistake and I didn’t repeat it.

    The fundamental problem as I see it, it’s far too easy to open a “company” by registering a domain and throwing together a website. Toss up a turnkey cart, list some books with terrible cover art, and you’re in business. Then when your author start getting noisy about being paid, you disappear. Until there’s some regulation in the epub industry, that lack of accountability makes it too easy for unscrupulous people to prey on other people’s dreams.

    I’m NOT saying at all that QP did that. I think they handled a bad situation as well as could be expected. But these are the problems that beset the industry as a whole, and they’re further compounded by the aforementioned emotional involvement. When you add feelings to the fulcrum of mismanagement, you get a hell of a mess.

  9. “by acting like a gaggle of angry Tasmanian she-devils, you’re only confirming the stereotype.”

    Hallelujah, sister professional!

  10. Fabulous post, Ann. I couldn’t agree more.

  11. Ann Aguirre says:

    Also, bragging about how awesome you are, in comparison with the person you’re trashing? Ugly.

  12. katiebabs says:

    People leave jobs and find new jobs everyday. I was at a job for 4 years and took the chance and left. That was 3 years ago. I wish Angela all the best and it is a shame that QP folded even before it really started.
    Lately there is so much drama and ugly reactions in the blogging community I am involved in, I rather post about happy things like a certain demon sheep who tries to read all my books before me. Blogging about sheep maybe silly, but not controversy or drama there!

  13. Rowena says:

    Wow, people are really saying that’s what she deserves? Nobody deserves anything like this happening to them. I wish her nothing but the best and hope things work out for her.

    The stupidity of people still amazes me…I don’t know why.

    Great post, Ann!

  14. Stacia Kane says:

    Absolutely, 100%. The reactions to this one have been downright freaky. It’s sad, yes, but I don’t get the personal investment. It’s been a problem for years; it’s why so many authors have been blindsided in the past, because of that cheerleader mentality.

    And yeah…gloating on your lousy little blog, while bragging about your own superiority, is shitty.

  15. SonomaLass says:

    Amen, Ann, amen!

    I really liked sd’s phrase “bitter schadenfreude” too — summed up a lot of what I was reading in some people’s reactions. I won’t even get started on how certain people jumped on the QP news as a chance to diss the snarky girls.

  16. Lori T says:

    Great post Ann and I completely agree with you.

  17. Fedora says:

    Spot on, Ann–thanks for letting us know (yep, I’m a little slow on the news side), and boy, well said on the petty name-calling!

  18. Jaci Burton says:

    I have mad love for you right now.

    I came from a corporate environment before I became a writer. And in this environment people left and went to work for competitors all the damn time. Even I left companies and went to work for competitors, but still retained ties with people I used to work for. I shared drinks in the bar with my former coworkers. There wasn’t a level of backstabbing and hatred like I see in the epublishing industry when someone leaves a job to go somewhere else.

    It truly astounds me. I just don’t get it.

    It’s business, people. Nothing more.

  19. Leah Braemel says:

    Angela gave me my very first contract, and having worked with her on my second book too, she’s been nothing but professional in her dealings with me.

    As you’ve said, Ann, publishing is a business and business decisions are made. I was horrified for Angela to see that QP closed right after hiring her, but I think she’s a classy lady, and hope she’ll land on her feet with an even better position in the industry. Because she’s acted with such class.

  20. I’m not a big blog hopper anymore or go to many of the ‘big’ blogs, so I haven’t seen the ‘get what she deserves’ bitterness. I’m surprised it’s out there. I’ve only seen the supportive people.

  21. Saritza (Minnie) says:

    Amen! Couldn’t have said it better myself!

  22. In the end, professionalism always trumps

  23. Arwen says:

    I have found that by avoiding the drama sites, I can avoid a lot of the drama. The backbiting etc is not unusual. We (and that’s all of us) perpetuate it even when we try to shake our finger at it. But that’s human nature. We want to defend and rend all at the same time.

    When we (and that’s still all of us) learn that building one another up is more beneficial to all of us, then we will move forward as a human race into something more.

    I’m not sure what that more is, but Gods, I hope we get there soon.

    I am reminding of Thumper’s lesson… “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

  24. Lesley says:

    I 100% agree with the fact that no one should ever be mad about a person for making the decision that is right for themselves and their family. The only thing that I disagree with is your example of someone leaving gieco for state farm. I promise you someone over at gieco will in fact be saying awful things about them and their “betrayal” of the “family.” There will ALWAYS be a percentage of people who feel as if any decision is a personal shot against them if someone makes a decision to leave in any line of business. The only difference is they will be saying these things around the water cooler at work in hushed voices instead of on blogs,forums, and twitter.

  25. I’ve been bewailing the lack of professionalism in the independent ebook publishing world for much of a decade, so I can’t say I’m surprised Angela’s situation has stirred up the high-school mentality that never seems to go away in some quarters.

    I’ll offer one explanation, which you may take or not as you like.

    Certain (thankfully small) segments of the independent ebook industry has, since its inception, harbored the mistaken idea that they are somehow not only in competition with mainstream publishing but that mainstream publishing is so terrified they will succeed as to be gunning for them.

    To this paranoid crew, any association with “the enemy” is viewed as betrayal and treachery of the blackest hue. That someone who was an icon of ebook publishing should “abandon her roots” to take up with “people from New York” would be viewed as a personal insult. And, given the aforementioned high-school mentality, is it surprising this contingent now chortles with glee that the venture failed?

    Ignore them. Not only do they not represent the majority of those committed to electronic publishing but they are rarely those likely to succeed anywhere but in the small corner of publishing they now occupy.

  26. Saoirse Redgrave says:

    Tremendous post, Ann.

    I think there’s a great deal of potential with select indie and e-publishing groups. I like the concept of a highly technologically based format of publishing that circumvents paper pulping, dye-making and toxic glue and potentially enables more people to afford books because production costs are slashed. That said, I will SO bury my snout in 13 to Life when it first comes out.

    I must say, the one time someone was less than kind to me at RWA was when an e-pubbed gal I was chatting with (about all she had accomplished, btw) finally asked who I’d been picked up by. I mentioned SMP. She promptly turned away and would not talk to me again.

    It blew my mind.

    The way I see it, we all need to stick together and not be so quick to stab each other in the back. Publishing’s a cutthroat business, sure. But we can all learn amazing things from each other if we give everybody a chance–some of the most clever promoters I’ve seen are indies and e’s. And some of us are allowed to float mss by our publishing houses beyond an agent’s reach (or suggest to our agent) if we think an author has merit.

    Frankly, I only do so based on writing AND the author’s attitude.

    That anyone would revel in someone else’s distress might be the type of drama we write, but it shouldn’t be what we live.

  27. JenB says:

    Okay…I’m an insurance agent and I gotta admit your analogy had me cracking up. :mrgreen:

    But yeah…indie-type businesses do seem to attract a more emotional crowd. I have often wondered how the rest of the world perceives it. Great thought-provoking post.

  28. Minx Malone says:

    OK – you are now my hero :grin:

    You have cleverly summarized all the things about e-publishing that I don’t like. I am proud to be e-published and often find myself cringing at the lack of professionalism displayed by others in the industry. As you stated, if this type of behavior wasn’t happening people would have more respect for digital press in general.

  29. *applause*

    I agree with what Lesley said about the insurance analogy, but I’d also add that in “regular” business, those who get snarky tend to have a personal connection. They have a heavier workload, maybe, because the person left. Or they’re jealous because they don’t have the guts to make such a move.

    In this case, the vitriol seems to be coming more from people who don’t personally know Angela. Most of the people I’ve talked to who worked with her wished her well (as they lamented their loss. :) ) Of course, I’m not privy to every conversation, so my perception could be wrong.

  30. Lauren Dane says:

    I got my lighter out for this one.

  31. Venus Vaughn says:

    Having worked for State Farm, and had… shall we say, “contentious” … relationships with a few employees there, I can tell you with absolute certainty that if they defected to another company and that company went bust, my schadenfreude would be throwing a parade. Extra confetti.

    I am, indeed, just that petty.

    But I’d never be stupid enough to post that pettiness in public, or name names. That’s strictly a Trusted Confidant conversation.

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