Why The Old Way Of Publishing Is Failing

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Yesterday I ran into a very powerful blue-checkmark literary agent who represents a rather big NYT bestselling author on Twitter.  He was going off on sensitivity readers and while describing exactly how it is censorship, claimed it’s not censorship at all.  It was a bit of a crazy thread, all about shaming authors into not writing anything about other cultures, and oddly it was retweeted by Cat Rambo, the president of a writer’s association.

He went on to worry about the “kinds of people” in publishing. I guess some “kinds of people” should be shut down immediately. So much for diversity and inclusiveness:

Of course he goes further, to call a bunch of names at American patriots. Gee, who could have predicted that:

I guess he doesn’t want half the country to buy any book he represents.

It’s an interesting example of how the publishing industry doesn’t actually represent writers anymore. Many are after their own interests trying to sniff out money or some niche for themselves for fame and what they think is relevancy, which is evident with the two people I listed above. If you’re not out there to advocate for authors and authors rights to create whatever content they deem is good for their story, and for good stories and cultures, how can you say you’re a literary agent? How can you claim to advocate for Science Fiction Writers of America when you hate American writers? It’s really staggering how these people came into positions of power and their impact on the culture which has gone on to shut down anyone with any sort of different take on content.

It’s created a mainstream book market where every book looks the same. I talk to YA book reviewers, avid readers, who every day complain about how they can’t find anything new, about how it’s all a rehash and retread of the same thing, about how they just want a good book. When Sensitivity Readers have dictated all the content, and then it’s further vetted by people like this literary agent, what you end up with is watered-down nonsense instead of art. When a writer can’t write what they want, the industry fails.

With some good timing, a Tor dot com writer, Judith Tarr, wrote about what’s going on in the industry that’s very apt here:


A pretty damning criticism of the industry by an industry veteran who’s on the VERY inside track of the establishment in publishing. She’s right. Authors can’t make a living off of big publishing. Big publishing is clearly out for their own agendas, and doesn’t give support to the very people who create content. I can tell you horror stories about dozens of authors who received contracts after being represented by agents like the one above, who told them to revise their manuscript to “fit market” (distill it and water it down) and had them toil for three years on a single book, take 25% when it finally lands, they get a $5,000 advance, and then the publishing company doesn’t market the book and it never earns out, and they’re left to flail. The publishing industry is a total disaster.


But what Judith doesn’t get at is the solution. Indie and self-publishing is the solution. Yes you have to act as your own marketing platform — but you have to do that anyway! These people aren’t there to help you, they’re just there to make you water down your art and get a quick paycheck off of you. Agents just act as slush readers for publishers, as Judith says in a different tweet. Now where I disagree is publishers aren’t getting top quality content because they’re distilling and destroying it with the Agent edits, with the way their editors edit, and with the sensitivity reader racket — where they hire people specifically for identity politics as a “protection” racket from criticism. It’s absurd.

And readers are rebelling. They’re reading far more indies than ever in genre fiction. It’s because we don’t water it down. We produce the best content better and faster than Big Publishing ever could — and no one tells us what we can and can’t write. It means we write to our passions, what we want, and our books come across more authentic and fun because WE love them more.

Unfortunately, where Judith should be fighting by my side in this cause based on her tweets above, she’s blocked me and keeps trying to impress people like Brooks Sherman. Why? I have no idea. Until these authors get out of these self-defeating cycles, they’re going to be stuck.

Me? I’m busy winning. Like I did with the bully censor Brooks:

The book I linked is MAGA 2020. It’s short stories about a future where Trump’s created a Utopia. Cuz winning. Mine is particularly fun and funny. It also features an intro by Milo Yiannopoulous and releases on November 8th.  You can pre-order it here.

You can also take a look at what Salesforce has to say about future of things, and learn about the advantages AI has in today’s world.

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14 thoughts on “Why The Old Way Of Publishing Is Failing

  1. Judith Tarr may be the first real author I ever met, back when I was young. I used to work for her publisher (way before 1995).

    Good for her.

  2. Their big problem is they’re not representing readers either – in general, people buy novels to be entertained, not to be lectured to about political correctness. Diversity is great – books would be pretty boring if all characters were the same – but not this artificial, forced diversity with an ever-narrowing set of ‘acceptable’ characters/plots and rules about who is allowed to write about what.

  3. You guys are inspiring. Keep doing what you’re doing.

    It’s interesting. I live in Arabia and was considering collaborating with a local writer. We were going to give input to each others Arab characters and Westernized characters respectively. It was just a decision we arrived at on our own, without any PC police dictating anything from top down. No sensitivity reads, just shared creativity. My friend was a game developer, and has run the gamut of this kind of cultural policing before and wants nothing more to do with it.

  4. Well, and let’s be real: even if you do get a sensitivity reader to vet your Thing, and you do everything they say, you’re still going to get pilloried (if you’re white) by the Cultural Appropriation Police. There’s no “winning,” here, just flagellation if you take one tiny misstep. Or even if you don’t–even if you write a specifically anti-racist book about a Person Who Learns Better, you can become the victim of an 8000-word vicious screed that precipitates a GoodReads mob screaming about how awful and “dangerous” you are.

    And that’s why I’m at the point I’m at. I am too old and cranky to put up with this crap, and if they come at me with torches and pitchforks because there’s a bloodbath in my latest novel wherein the two guys who (probably) read gay (I never specifically say if they are or aren’t) die (along with a plethora of others), and one of the bad guys is from Afghanistan, well. I have a rough side of my tongue, and I am not afraid to employ it anymore.

    And maybe they’re just not the audience for this book, but they never seem to take that into consideration. Next year is going to be interesting.

  5. As I was a co-target of this vampire, er I mean agent’s spew of hate I wrote a series of blog posts about why these agents and the Big Five are promoting a lie that many new authors are still buying into today.

    Here’s the blog and it is four separate posts: https://scifiscribe.com/blog/

    And if you were wondering, all the agent and his followers have responded with is name calling. They haven’t refuted a single fact Jon or I have shared.

  6. Jon
    What I really don’t understand is why do they hate their customers so much?is it class snobbery ya know the flyover hicks didn’t go tp the right schools so their literary tastes are gauche and plebian?
    In any case the publishers had better be careful because the epic meltdown in Hollywood will effect the former too. Not so much for the sexual misconduct (which there is) but for the unconscionable contracts thst resemble those from the music industry years ago.
    I always thought that when Trump declared He’s drain he’d drain the swamp i took it to mean Washington not Hollywood
    I guess Hollywood ws always the weakest ecosystem within the swamp

  7. I was watching a video recently that reminded me of the work of one of my favorite comic book artists of my youth so I decided to see what he was working on now and probably buy it. The only link I found to him was his facebook page in which every single post was either an anti-Trump screed or virtue signalling, or straight out insulting anyone to the right of the exteme left.

    With a simple pursing of my lips and a metaphorical careful step out of his room I decided to leave him alone. After all he didn’t want my money. Didn’t need my money. Wouldn’t want to spend my filthy money.

    Sure, the only few posts that weren’t explicitly about his hatred for those that disagree with him were about how he could really use some money and hoped people would buy his stuff but that clearly wasn’t true.

    If it were true he’d have put effort into attracting an audience rather than alienating an audience. Unless he truly believes all those who grew up reading superhero comics are just as left wing as he? I mean, there’s bubbles we all live in, but that would be a mighty opaque bubble indeed.

    • I try to keep politics out of my blog, and succeed for the most part, because there’s no sense alienating half my audience. Every once in awhile I’ll post something political, but I try to be careful not to insult anyone and stick to actual facts.

      Of course, “scientific facts are social constructs” anymore, but anyone who actually believes that is not my audience anyway.

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