Harrogate Crime: E-Book Fun

I was up at the Harrogate crime festival this weekend. All the events took place in the Old Swan hotel (the place where Christie was found after the old girl did her random disappearing act in the 1920s) and between seminars everyone sat out on the front lawn drinking pints, children ran around in the sunshine, it was a nice atmosphere, and something very English about it – a rich shire town surrounded by farmland, posters for murder mystery weekends, the nostalgia for the English murder and English secrets. The discussions I saw provoked too many thoughts and ideas to set down in one post so I’ll just add my impressions of one specific panel that has been widely reported in the trade press.

This was a discussion chaired by Mark Lawson on the e-book and what this means for publishing. There was a writer on the panel called Stephen Leather. I never heard of him before the weekend, but apparently he has a Hodder contract and has written twenty-eight novels. He is also a massive enthusiast for self publishing and e-books. I think e-books are great, and I’ll even concede there’s a place for self publishing. What got me about this guy wasn’t that he promoted e-publishing as an option, it was that he seemed to think e-publishing was the option and the only available future. You have to have some balls to slag industry professionals to an audience of industry professionals and, from the acrimonious murmurs from the floor, it became clear that I wasn’t the only one watching this man’s performance with a growing sense of irritation and disbelief.

Here’s a report from the We Love This Book site:

Mark Billingham and Laura Lippman – who were sitting in the audience – felt compelled to cut in at some of the controversial things panelists were saying about e-books, arguing that authors like thriller writer Stephen Leather (a panelist) were devaluing books by selling them on Amazon at slashed prices.

Leather also somewhat tastelessly joked that ‘e-book pirates’, who share digital copies of books for free, much like music pirates, ‘are doing my marketing for me’ – which prompted an audience member to shout: ‘Tosser!’

The general feeling in the air at the Old Swan in Harrogate was that authors such as Leather – who was joined on stage by fellow author Steve Mosby, agent Philip Patterson, bookseller Patrick Neale and VP of the Publisher’s Association Ursula Mackenzie – were selling out by publishing e-book-only books ‘worth less than half the price of a cup of tea’, as Billingham phrased it, adding: ‘disgraceful’.

‘I will spend four days writing a 7,000 word short story and sell it online for 70p,’ Leather said. ‘That’s 20p for me. If it was sold in a supermarket I might get 7 per cent of the sale, but e-books are [up to] 70 per cent.’

‘So you’re happy to work for five pence per day?’ Ursula Mackenzie interjected, to titters from the audience and outrage from authors who clearly felt their work was being devalued.

I’ve written so much about this debate, but it is not going away and I feel it’s important to keep banging on, particularly as I meet so many young writers who see self publishing as the first and last resort and seem to perceive a potential in the medium that in my view is simply not there.

Here are some points, some of which came up in the panel, others in my own discussions with writers.

- A common defence of self publishing is that it brings an audience to novelists who are just too damn edgy and iconoclastic to be accepted by corporate publishing. In the last year, self publishing has taken off, but not in the way the outsider hipsterati expected. The novel everyone associates with self publishing is E L James’s Fifty Shades of Grey, widely regarded as pedestrian soft BDSM. Following Smith’s First Law of self publishing success, James signed a seven-figure deal with Vintage after her fiction took off.

- Stephen Leather explained that as a self publishing author he not only had to write the books but also handle design, cover art, admin, finance, marketing and promotion. To his credit he understood that this is not going to appeal to most writers, who get into writing because they love to write. Working people will not have the time or resources to act as a one man publisher.

- Another thing that annoyed me about Stephen Leather was that, despite arguing from a position that the digital world is everything, he seemed to have little feeling for it. He talked about promoting his books on social media – ‘I have to tweet a dozen times a day’ – with the implication that this was a work thing, an obligation. The hypocrisy of this hacked me off. Social networks are supposed to be fun, they are a leisure activity, Twitter for me is a carnival of invention and delight. You can check the timeline on your phone and see something that will make you laugh out loud, or realise something new about the world. It’s not a conference centre where you set up a stall and shout your prices. Leather also said that he uses sockpuppets on fiction forums to promote his books and create a buzz.

- If you think that the physical book will eventually become obsolete, then consider Fitzgerald’s question: what happens when the machines stop? You may have heard in the grown-up books pages that the online journal I write for, 3:AM Magazine, recently disappeared from the web entirely. It’s a bizarre story involving a Dallas cock-augmentation businessman, tracked through social media to a tattoo parlour somewhere else in Texas, servers in Bucharest – suffice to say we are now back online and should be posting again soon, but it all could have been lost forever. The transitory nature of online writing appeals to me, but established novelists with a backlist to sell may not take these little glitches so lightly.

- We still don’t have a sure method of making a living wage out of this technology. Ursula MacKenzie alluded to the Guardian, which is finding out the hard way that clicks don’t necessarily equal cash (and see Alan A for a brilliant analysis of why the paper’s in the mess it’s in). Writers got to eat, so do publishers, but we’re still on the ‘Phase 2: ?’ stage of the South Park Gnomes business model.

- An agent made the point to me in the bar afterwards that Leather was being kind of irresponsible in promoting the self publishing route so aggressively. Not everyone who uploads their book to Amazon will sell and not everyone has Leather’s Hodder contract to fall back on. And as far as I understand it, once you give away your first rights, that’s it.

- The acceleration in online technology over the last ten years made it inevitable that someone would figure out a way for people to download books straight onto a mobile device. But technology isn’t necessarily going to accelerate forever. Mark Lawson said that at the Edinburgh TV festival ten years ago everyone was saying that by the 2010s consumers would just record what they wanted to watch, and channels and listings would be obsolete. That hasn’t happened. Things change all the time and the old gives way to the new. Often, old and new technologies can coexist. People have been predicting the death of the novel since the advent of wireless. Let’s credit Constant Reader with the ability to cope with more than one thing.

- There is a problem with quality control. If you can write a book and upload it to a mass audience at the click of a mouse, where’s the incentive to edit, rewrite, reread and generally make your fiction the best it can possibly be?

The novelist Laura Lippman illustrated this better than I can.

Lippman, spurred by an audience member who introduced herself as a writer who wrote e-books because she had trodden the publishing circuit with no luck ‘for three months’ before publishing online, earnestly said: ‘Patience on the writer’s side is not ill-advised.’ Lippman, author of the New York Times-bestselling Tess Monaghan books, said she was rejected by more than a hundred publishers before her debut novel was published, and it took eighteen months of trying.

There’s a line from James Hawes about the value of patience. He says it’s the difference between a supermodel and a centrefold.

Update: Stephen Leather has also written up the event. Steve Mosby, another writer on the panel, has responded to Leather. His post is reasonable, well written… and quietly damning.

Because nowhere in Stephen’s blogpost does he mention the moment on the panel that really caused the audience to gasp: his casual and unashamed admission that he uses sock puppet accounts to promote his work – creating fake online personas to engage with him, each other and other readers to build buzz and spread the word about his books. When I asked him if his readers knew these accounts were fake, he said no. He seemed totally oblivious that any of this might prove controversial, but it was what most people were talking about afterwards.

All in all, the panel felt surreal. It was a strange experience, as I certainly didn’t dislike Stephen – he was very amiable, with a lot of time for his fans at the signing – and I agreed with him on certain issues, such as DRM. The comment on piracy that prompted the ‘Tosser!’ shout was badly worded and ill-advised, especially given the atmosphere, but I do understand the point he was attempting to make. Unfortunately, it came at the end of what had basically been a car crash of an event for him.

As a final note, I’ll return briefly to the comments I made earlier about value, and the different perspectives on it. Stephen seemed to concentrate on value in purely financial terms, and with his use of words like ‘punters’ and ‘units’ it was occasionally easy to forget we were talking about books at all. I’m sure he doesn’t really think like this, but it came across at times as though his readership was some kind of bovine factory farm that needed to be milked in the most efficient manner possible. At a festival full of passionate readers, the response to that was always going to be chilly. It is a business, of course – but to many writers, readers and publishers, books do mean considerably more than that. Conspicuous by its absence in the discussion was any passion whatsoever for storytelling and reading, even though it was precisely that passion that had brought the audience there in the first place.

Another update: This has been going on all week. The brilliant and tireless Jeremy Duns has investigated Leather’s dishonesty, bullying and sockpuppetry in detail. If you want to follow the story on, Steve Mosby has posted a comprehensive update.

And, now: another dark turn in the Leather story, storyfied by Luca Veste.

Further update: for obvious and worthwhile reasons, the activities and personality of Stephen Leather have overshadowed this debate. But Ewan Morrison has written a fantastic critical piece on e-books, well worth your time.

And again: There is now a recording of the Harrogate panel. You can listen to Stephen Leather in all his grandiloquent glory.

Steve Mosby has transcribed the sockpuppetry admission:

Stephen Leather

I’ll go onto several forums, from the well-known forums, and post there, under my own name and under various other names and various other characters. You build this whole network of characters who talk about your books and sometimes have conversations with yourself. And then I’ve got enough fans…

Steve Mosby

So you use sockpuppet accounts basically?

Leather

I think everyone does. Everyone does. Or I have friends who are sockpuppets, who might be real, but they might pick a fight with me.

Mosby

Are your readers aware of this, or…?

Leather

Well, I think that everyone … well, are the readers aware of it? No … But they’re not buying it because of the sockpuppet. What you’re trying to do is create a buzz. And it’s very hard, one person, surrounded by a hundred thousand other writers, to create a buzz. I mean, that’s one of the things that publishers do. They create a buzz. One person on their own, difficult to create a buzz. If you’ve got ten friends, and they’ve got friends, and you can get them all as one creating a buzz, then hopefully you’ll be all right.

Nick Cohen has picked up on this, and discusses Leather in a general piece on literary and journalistic frauds.

Also: Another mainstream piece on Leather and social media chicanery in general, this time from Laura Miller at Salon.

If this debate results in such underhand strategy becoming more widely known, it will have been worth it.

(Image: Wikipedia)

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21 Responses to “Harrogate Crime: E-Book Fun”

  1. Simon Says:

    I don’t really understand why publishing online or in ebooks has to be ephemeral.

    My website’s servers are backed up, the domain is locked, a press of a virtual button and the machines are wiped and restored.

    My house could burn down, and i wouldn’t lose a single ebook.

    And, come to think about it, I can’t remember the last time I watched live TV. Schedules are only relevant to my video recorder, and then only for things that aren’t available on one of the broadcasters internet services.

    I don’t think I’m especially leading edge in this. Isn’t this how everyone with virgin / sky / freeview / freesat / i player watches TV these days?

  2. Max Cairnduff Says:

    I read about this. I do have a slight issue with authors in the audience feeling entitled to judge how another author chooses to distribute and price their work.

    Leather clearly is a commodity author, publishing reliable and predictable books to those who want that. His strategies reflect that. I suspect though that those attending were not his natural readership, hence cultures clashed.

    Simon, I watch stuff on a timeshifted basis too. Why would I watch live, sit through adverts and so on? That would be weird.

    Backups are critical though. Ebooks have that huge strength (and other disadvantages, but few things are entirely win-win). Dematerialisation of content needn’t mean ephemerality, provided backup strategies are considered carefully.

    Oh, returning to the self-publishing bit and impatience. Those people can publish online after suffering three whole months of rejection, their problem isn’t getting their work out there, it’s that nobody will read it.

  3. James Says:

    I was in attendance at the debate, which was very enjoyable. Ursula Mackenzie’s interjection to Stephen Leather (I’m surprised that someone attending Harrogate has never heard of him, by the way – he probably outsells most of the writers who were there) that ‘you’re happy to work for five pence per day?’ was downright silly, and I bet she regrets saying it. It implies that he’d only going to sell one copy of a short story. I know for a fact that he sells thousands.

    This debate won’t go away. Books won’t disappear, but even so E-publishing will flourish. Writers like Stephen Leather have opened up the debate, and more power to his elbow for that. The arguments are going to get even more heated than this.

    I am reminded of a cartoon I once saw of two monks in a scriptorium, and one is saying to the other, ‘Don’t worry, this printing thing will never catch on.’

    Writers nowadays may indeed be using Kindle et al to get a regular publishing contract (pace Gordon Ferris), but there will come a day when they won’t need such contracts. Publishers and agents who embrace e-publishing are the ones that will survive.

    • maxdunbar Says:

      You know I’ve got to ask this, but… are you Stephen Leather

      • pulphack Says:

        That’s a silly thing to say – even if he is, he’s still raised the valid point that Ursula MacKenzie’s actual statement was as daft as some of Stephen Leather’s, though I suppose that can be put down to having to simplify in front of an audience at speed, rather than having the time to be considered.

        The truth is that e-books have replaced vanity presses as much as anything. They are a viable alternative for some ‘good’ (shorthanding it) writers, and in many ways they are a different audience for a different book: Harlequin sell loads of e-books because high-turnover magazine style publishing is what they and their audience thrive on. It’s ‘horses for courses’ and of course cheap pricing works in that marketplace – their hard copy prices are also cheaper.

        It’s not about replacing one with the other, it’s about what inidvidual readers and writers want from the work and how its presented. It’s still an infant technology, and this will calm down in a year or two.

        Nothing to see really, now move along…

      • maxdunbar Says:

        Were you there? MacKenzie came off like she knew what he was talking about. Leather came off as an abrasive, arrogant twat.

        I think e books are a great thing in so many ways (the font enlargement function on Kindle is a godsend for older people with bad eyesight) however, they are simply one option among many, the business model hasn’t really been worked out and self publishing techno evangelism has always made me sceptical. Ewan Morrison says this is a tech boom which will be over in around eighteen months. His view is extreme but maybe closer to the truth.

        http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/jul/30/tweet-about-cats-just-write

      • James Gracie Says:

        I was there, in the audience. I am not Stephen Leather, and I doubt if you are Steve Mosby, but I have heard of Leather – he’s actually quite well-known – as have many of my colleagues. I’ve even read a few of his books. They’re okay. Ursula Mackenzie’s statement was no doubt said in the heat of the moment, but it was downright silly. There’s no getting away from that. To me, she never came across as someone who knew what she was talking about, but as someone who appeared scared of the future, and scared of embracing new ideas.

        The calmest person on the stage was Patrick Neale, who, even though his livelihood came from selling books, made some salient points about books as saleable, commercial objects and not just containers for lofty ideas – more that Mckenzie ever did. At one point she got lost in a fog of precious claptrap about maintaining the price of e-books at the same level as printed books, even though they cost a lot less to deliver to the public..

        Steve Mosby is on record as saying he hates e-books, so his stance was to be expected, and I have no quarrel with that.

        It seems to me that this difference of opinion is not about books – it’s about the packaging they come in. A book is not paper, board and ink; neither is it an electronic gadget or a screen. A book is thoughts converted into words – nothing more, nothing less. A Kindle is packaging – it’s what a book comes “wrapped up” in, if you like. So is paper and ink – it too is packaging.

        Leather writes commercial books. I doubt if he has any illusions about their literary merit. If he wants to give away his short stories on Kindle to draw attention to his novels (as a sort of loss-leader) then that is his right.

        In my Theakston’s goody bag was a free short story by Julia Crouch, commissioined by East Coast Trains (she’s their writer-in-residence), and the Crime Festival. On the inside back cover is an advert for her novels. So here too a short story is being given away to publicise her books; yet in this case no one seems to mind.

        And it seems to me as well that we’re getting bogged down in a discussion about how a book should be delivered to its audience (which to me is largely immaterial) when sockpuppetry (a word I had never heard before) is the important issue here, and on that I share your concerns.

      • maxdunbar Says:

        My original post was about e publishing in general really – but Leather’s activities have overshadowed this whole debate.

        It didn’t strike me as silly. As far as I’m aware, Little, Brown does publish electronically. Her position seemed to come from anti piracy and making sure authors got value for money, which was her contention with the prices Leather brought up. You can argue with these positions, but they are serious positions. It’s great that readers can get books very cheaply, I absolutely love that, it’s just producers have to eat too – it’s a standard business dilemma.

        I’m not sure Mosby is completely against e books, either. What gets me about so many e book promoters is this thing of trying to create a conflict where there doesn’t necessarily have to be one, and the assumption that anyone who points out the medium’s limitations is ‘scared of the future, and scared of embracing new ideas’

      • James Gracie Says:

        Mackenzie’s off-the-cuff statement about only earning 5p a day from a short story certainly struck me as silly, considering Leather’s going to sell many, many copies of the story.

        Mr Morrison, when he makes the all-embracing statement that the e-boom will be over in eighteen months, has certainly not considered all branches of publishing. I am a travel writer, and the fight for printed guidebooks, for instance, has already been lost in the travel publishing sector. Guidebook publishers are closing down at an alarming rate and they are cutting back drastically on updates, rewrites and expansions of their lists for the simple reason that printing is too expensive.

        The ones that are surviving are moving over to Kindle versions, and even phone apps. They have invested heavily in the technology, so moving back to the printed page would not be feasible. Non-fiction is, in fact, leading the way in electronic publishing. And where non-fiction (a bigger money-earner than fiction) goes, fiction usually follows.

        For that reason alone e-publishing will not go away. It will probably change over the years, however. My own opinion is that we haven’t seen the half of it yet. The technology is at a very early stage. Too early to see exactly where it will take us. But take us it will.

        I love printed books (my house is full of ‘em to the extent that i pay a premium on my house insurance, and I’m stil buying ‘em), but I have also embraced the new technology. Many of my crime-writing chums are publishing first in paperback then, some weeks later, publishing in Kindle at a ridiculously low price. One of them has even told me she earns more from a low-priced Kindle version that from a tradititonally priced paperback. That’e because she can shift several thousand Kindle versions. For this reason, publishers are now attempting to introduce clauses in publishing agreements that forbid the writer to republish electronically within a set period, or that claim a proportion of the earnings from a later electronic edition.

        And there is another reason why writers themselves are publishing on Kindle et al. It’s to do with publishers dropping them because they are considered to be “too old” or not “commercial enough”, when in fact they are fine writers who refuse to dumb down. I have two novelist friends (not crime writers) who are now publishing all their new works on Kindle, and making a reasonable living from the sales, as they have a fan base that makes it worthwhile. One has even been aproached by her old publisher to see if she’s interested in coming on board again. She said no.

        I write to be read. It matters not a jot to me whether my words are read on a page or on a screen. As long as they are read. Writing is about communicating ideas. It’s not about leather-bound tomes with fine tooling, or colourful, well designed dust jackets. Nor is it about the latest technology, must must-have gadgets or E-Ink screens. It’s about writers engaging with an audience in the most efficient way possible, while still earning a living.

      • maxdunbar Says:

        You are a bit of an evangelist about this, aren’t you.

        A point Steve Mosby made about the 5 pence remark was that – some audiences prefer paying a price for quality. Especially the kind of audience that will pay to get to Harrogate.

        There is a cool phrase in advertising: ‘reassuringly expensive’

        I certainly don’t think e-books will go away, (and wouldn’t want them to!) however

        I do think their potential has been somewhat overhyped, and that we are seeing a tech bubble here.

        There are a lot of writers, who are nowhere near talented or dedicated enough to get a print deal, who are in this gold rush. E book self publishing suits them because there are no gatekeepers and no quality control.

        This is all still so new, and I think that things will settle down, and the two technologies will manage to coexist. As I say, readers can cope with more than one thing

      • pulphack Says:

        No, I wasn’t there, but like most people I suspect I’ve read about this and in that context both sides come off quite badly in oversimplifying to score points. I might be wrong about how it was on the day, but to be frank like most I’ll have to go by what’s written.

        That is an excellent guardian piece. From your reply I think we’re basically saying the same thing here, that e-books are another option and have good and bad points, mostly depending on the type of writer you are and the type of reader your work would appeal to. Have you noticed in all these pieces that the evangilistic types are those who are selling their success in e-book and programmes – there’s some kind of self-perpetuating cycle there…

        I think he may be right that the ‘boom’ will pass in a while, as most people won’t make the money expected. It will still satisfy the market for publishing filled by those vanity presses, and it will also be a boon for the high-turnover magazine-style publishers as it can support smaller sales on less unit cost.

        People will still want and like the physical article. To draw the tiresome analogy with music (well, everyone else does) people who download still tend to like vinyl as it makes a comeback.

        By the way, I have no e-books available, only print. And ‘business model’? The whole problem panicking publishers have is that there is no business model a present!

  4. the left room» Blog Archive » Leathered Says:

    [...] been a lot of coverage. To my mind, the three most thoughtful and reasonable pieces have come from Max Dunbar, James Oswald and Stuart Neville. Stuart’s is particularly good, as it concentrates on his [...]

  5. Ramsey Campbell Says:

    “I was in attendance at the debate, which was very enjoyable. Ursula Mackenzie’s interjection to Stephen Leather (I’m surprised that someone attending Harrogate has never heard of him, by the way – he probably outsells most of the writers who were there) that ‘you’re happy to work for five pence per day?’ was downright silly…”

    So – just to clarify – you were in attendance and managed to misremember who made this remark, just as Mr Leather misremembered it?

    • Anonymous Says:

      I’m not sure I understand your comment about misremembering. who made the remark. Ursula Mackenzie made it. I heard her. And some of us were discussing her remark the following morning.

      This should be a civilised discussion about differences of opinion honestly held. Let’s keep it that way. If I’ve offended anyone by saying that you should have heard of Stephen Leather, then I apologise. It was not intended as a sleight.

      And I trust that Ramsey Campbell’s remark about “just to clarify – you were in attendance and managed to misremember who made the remark” does not try to imply that I was not in attendance.

      I read mostly detective fiction (I also read ‘literary’ novels, but that’s another story) and I don’t read thrillers, but even I had heard of Stephen Leather. Leaving aside the fact that he writes thrillers, he’s one of the UK’s biggest selling authors in any genre.

      I don’t read horror, but I’ve heard of Ramsey Campbell, HP Lovecraft, MJ James (though these are ghost stories rather than horror) and August Derleth. I don’t read SF, but I’ve heard of Alistair Reynolds, as well as Algis Budrys, Brian Aldiss, Philip K. Dick, Robert Heinlein and a host of other SF writers both alive and dead.

      I’m not defending Stephen Leather here. He said some unsavoury things about sockpuppetry, All I’m saying is that e-books are here to stay. I don’t care how books are packaged – and that’s all a printed book or a Kindle is – packaging, As long as it’s a good read.

      • Anonymous Says:

        No – it was Ursula Mackenzie. I’m sure of that. And I wish to correct something I wrote earlier. I referred to MJ James when it should be MR (Montague Rhodes) James.

  6. Max Cairnduff Says:

    It’s not surprising not to have heard of Stephen Leather. If you don’t read horror would you know Ramsey Campbell (an exceptional writer, if that’s him above). If you don’t read SF would you know Alistair Reynolds (an exceptional writer in his field)? If you don’t read experimental fiction would you know Ann Quin (same comment applies)?

    If you don’t read commercial thrillers, would you know Stephen Leather? Not necessarily. I’d never heard of him before this, despite caring enough about books to have my own literary blog. I’ve nothing against his genre, but it’s not one that speaks to me. So it goes.

  7. Ramsey Campbell Says:

    Well, now I’m wholly confused. Mr Leather himself has said (see “Correction” here) that Mark Lawson, not Ursula Mackenzie, made the remark. He has listened to the recording of the panel, he says.

    http://www.publishingebooks.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/appearing-at-harrogate-plot-thickens.html

  8. Max Cairnduff Says:

    Does it really matter who said it? Memory is so fickle it’s entirely possible that there is now legitimate confusion on the point.

    Regarding the ebooks debate, it’s I think pretty evident now that ebooks will replace the mass market paperback. Print will remain though for prestige items, gifts and collectibles. I can see the hardback in some senses doing better than the paperback, and publishers like say Pushkin Press who produce physically beautiful books from lesser known (often translated) authors continuing in print while say Gollancz moves almost entirely to ebook.

    Pushkin also sells in ebook form by the way. The print versions will remain for those who want them, but the analogy with vinyl is a good one and it’ll be a similarly niche product.

    Incidentally, if I added to a feeling of being attacked from all sides James then sorry for that. Not my intent.

    • Anonymous Says:

      I have emailed my chums who were also in the audience to ascertain their recollections. But you’re right – it doesn’t really matter.

      I will concede that one thing I don’t like about e-books is the ease with which people without an ounce of talent can publish their work. Vanity publishing used to cater to this lot, albeit at a price.

      I think Mark Billingham must take a lot of the blame here. He threw Leather into a discussion where he knew that the three other panel members livelihoods depended on traditional publishing, and he knew Leather’s opinions on e-publishing. Then he told Leather to more or less stir it up a bit. There was a lady representing traditional book publishing on the panel, yet there was no one from, say, Amazon, to redress the balance.

      • Max Cairnduff Says:

        There’s definitely an issue with a glut of self-published crap (and probably some good self-published stuff, but how would one ever find it?). I’m not sure I really see a difference though with the vanity publishers of old. It’s easier to get your unpolished manuscript out to the world, but it’s no easier to get the world to pay attention and it’s still no substitute for actually polishing your craft.

        I read a Robert Silverberg foreword once where he spoke about having spent ten years writing for p0rn magazines to keep himself afloat while working on his novels. He eventually got published and became a major guy, but not until after a very long apprenticeship. The problem many self-published e-authors have is impatience – a lack of desire to put the time in to polish their craft.

  9. maxdunbar Says:

    Stephen Leather bullied and harassed a harmless e book self publisher, Steve Roach. He’s not exactly a champion of the form

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