My Thoughts on Donald Maass’ "New Class System" Post

So… Last night, shortly before the clock struck twelve, I’ve started re-evaluating. I stumbled onto this blog post by Donald Maass. It’s gotten me thinking, in fact, I’ve been re-evaluating ever since. Sadly, re-evaluating has in fact infuriated me more, so although I tried hard not to rant, it might come across as such.

See, even though I’ve been somewhat set on getting an agent and trade publishing, I’ve been absorbing bits of info here and there.

Bits like the worrying culture that big houses don’t want to pay for marketing, and then blame writers for not marketing enough to justify wide distribution, (how exactly is a writer supposed to do that, anyway?) and then, they grow unwilling to further publish mid-listers. And the fact that Agents don’t want to take on projects that they deem risky.

Still… that was all hear-say to me. Until I read the truth straight from the horse’s mouth. Now, I’m not going to copy/paste the whole post. I suggest you read it, to see exactly where I’m coming from, but I think you’ll be able to follow my train of thought regardless.

So.

First, 

It may be true that trade publishers are cracking the e-book market. However, given their penchant for not marketing newbies and non-bestsellers, I can’t see where selling more e-books is actually benefiting the author of said books. Especially since most of the money goes to the publishers. If I get less than 25% of royalties (apparently 25% is a non-negotiable industry standard, and then I still have to pay the agent out of that), I have to sell at least four books to make the same amount as one book I self-published (assuming I do everything myself).

Also, isn’t it lovely to see mid-listers be referred to as burdens? Especially since not much is being done to get them out of the mid-list? Oh no, not while it’s easier (and cheaper) to blame the writer.

Second, 

Firstly, I deeply resent that any person representing people who are supposed to represent authors (and oh, he does), see us as cattle to be culled and slaughtered at will. I’m sorry, but after the crap I go through just to get a book done, I think I and any other writer worth his/her salt are worth a bit more respect.

Secondly, if the current publishing approach is to go after proven successes in order to profit from a writer’s own investment, it seems a bit unfair. No… scratch that. It smacks of exploitation.

Also, I read a post by another agent the other day. She answered a question about whether agents will represent books that have been self-published. Her answer: Yes, but only if they sold thousands and thousands of copies. And then, signing with a big publisher means that the author would give up a significant portion of future royalties. (Bear with me. I am getting to a point.)

Third, 

If this is true, why are more and more self-published books gaining traction?

Also, is gaining a wider distribution worth tossing your book into what more likely than not will be a black-hole known as mid-list sales? Really? 

Four, 

Those classes might exist, but if I worked my butt off to create a first-class product, why exactly should I sacrifice 75% of my royalties to a subset in the publishing industry who:

1) Refuse to shoulder some (or any) of the risk,
2) Don’t see the work put into a project as something to be respected,
3) But rather to be exploited
4) isn’t willing to negotiate on royalties to compensate for the work the writer put in just to get the story into shape for submission.

Which brings me to the point. What are we as writers paying for?

Marketing? Probably not.

Covers? Editing? Overheads? Possibly, but small publishers offer better royalties, and we pay them for these too.

So could it be that I’d be helping to pay the pub house for the authors that *gasp* called wrong when they offered representation/a publishing contract?

Or will it be that I’ll be paying for the fabled distribution channels? The same ones that has people turning into nervous wrecks for fear that their first editions will mostly end up as pulp? Because there wasn’t any help with marketing?

What then? Where is the service rendered to me?

I am the writer.

Without writers submitting to agents and publishers, neither would exist. That means, the writers are the clients. They deserve to either get their money’s worth, or the money they deserve.

Before, this irrefutable fact could be ignored because there were few agents and publishers, and many, many authors. With no alternative way to see a book published.

But see, this changed. We don’t have to go through gate-keepers and gates any more. I can go upload my book right now (although I wouldn’t without editing and formatting) and see the book out there for public consumption. All by myself.

And I can do this keeping control of my rights (with or without a lawyer), royalties, and the creative direction in which I want to take the stories I write.

In economic speak: the publishing market is heading to efficiency, and buying into the old inefficient system no longer makes sense.

Plainly said: I’m done. I won’t submit another query to agents until I start seeing some sort of worth-while service.

Metaphorically: I see two classes of people everywhere: sheep and wolves.

I’m a wolf. 
I don’t see why I’d force myself to eat grass. 

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