Skeptical heart

Disheartened and Disgusted By Traditional Publishing Industry

I recently read two online Writer’s Digest articles about “Why I Choose to Self-Publish” and “The Most Important Question A Writer Can Ask” when seeking to be traditionally published. Herein, I will address the latter to justify the former, because I am decidedly skeptical and disheartened when it comes to the traditional publishing industry.

According to the article, this “most important question a writer can ask” is, “So what?” Apparently because it is often (rudely) uttered by literary agents and publishers when offered novel queries or nonfiction proposals. And because the answer is purportedly what drives whether someone will spend money on your writing.

Let’s face it, that’s all that matters to the publishing industry. Money. For them. Not authors, and certainly not our creative innovation.

Despite that glaring reality, this “So what?” article suggests the solution is to put a little more into your writing, perhaps to help others find entertainment, encouragement, or education. Dig deeper to make your book special, different. Come up with a fresh twist on an old trope.

You know what? The publishing industry claims to want to fresh take, a new idea, but only within bounds of its pre-established genres. And why? So literary agents and publishers can then reject this fresh idea as not what readers want because it’s not pablum formula, hence they can’t sell it or don’t know how to market it?

What if the publishing industry is just flat out lazy and utterly lacking in any semblance of imagination or innovative insight?

Case in point with respect to nonfiction memoirs. Autobiographical works by “nobodies” are rejected because publishers somehow think that only famous people or public figures, whether notorious or respected, have a fascinating or worthy story to tell. As if only sordid or sensationalized lives matter.

What’s most sickening is how publishers will fall all over themselves and their unmitigated greed to publish absolute rot wrought by ghost writers purporting to tell a true story of  someone disgusting and ridiculous. Most recently that’s been South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, whose book contains outright lies that now must be retracted with an actual reprint of the tome. A piece of utter trash that includes celebrated animal cruelty.

Noem’s name may rhyme with poem, but her lurid life has no eloquent poetic words of wisdom, nor does the ridiculous book published by Hachette Book Group. Did no one at this major publishing house read the part about her shooting her puppy because she didn’t like him?

Do publishers like Hachette have a responsibility not to subject members of the reading public to such violent and vile atrocities?

Those in the business lament how the self-publishing industry is flooding the market with substandard work. Perhaps they should take a good look at what traditional publishers are peddling and promoting.

[So] what if what these major publishing houses really want is salacious crap they can make a quick and dirty buck off of? Like the National Enquirer. And yet we actual writers are still expected to strive diligently to produce a written work that they might find worth of promotion?

When I wrote and self-published a memoir decades ago, I shared a true tale of the double standards placed on females when it comes to burgeoning sexuality. I dug deep to produce something that at least some other women might relate to, to address a topic quite pertinent in today’s society, then, and even more so now.

In my current Other Worldly novels—labeled fantasy by the publishing industry simply because they include aliens of the extraterrestrial kind—I have accomplished a fresh take on a tired science fiction trope of aliens as the bad guys. Oh and the heroine is not of child-bearing age.

My protagonist Rowan Layne is over fifty. She is neither wife nor mother. She engages in nontraditional romantic relationships, with emphasis on the plural, not behaving like a stereotypical grandma or retiree. She speaks her mind, taking on that aforementioned misogynist double standard. She cares about others on this planet, including nonhumans, and especially including dogs and cats.

Most importantly, Rowan takes on major sociopolitical issues of our time, often with humor but definitely with snark. At her age, she’s seen and dealt with enough to know that the publishing industry would twist her life story into something it isn’t.

Rowan knows integrity when she sees it. And she doesn’t see it in the traditional publishing industry. She doesn’t have time to waste wondering whether they will deem her worthy of promotion when they have not proven themselves worthy of being trusted with the role of promoter.

Supposedly 75 percent of all books sold in the US are purchased by women. Does Hachette Book Group delude itself into thinking 75 percent of American women respect or admire a female politician who is so pathetically proud of shooting her puppy in the face that she puts it in her memoir? Seriously?

So what happens when many of us who buy and read books, in addition to writing them, find the traditional publishing industry to be disheartening, disgusting, and disingenuous in how it conducts its profligate profession? Here’s a fresh idea, how about a little bit of professional ethics and social consciousness? Read the room.





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