Oh Noes, Snooki is Killing Publishing!!!
There’s a reliable pattern whenever one of the big publishers signs a deal for a celebrity book. When Simon & Schuster gave Snooki a contract, for example, numerous authors stood up to proclaim that when Snooki can get a huge advance while real authors struggle to get by, this is PROOF that publishing is broken! It’s OUTRAGEOUS!
Therefore traditional publishing is a misguided/helmed by dinosaurs/deserves to die/etc. Long live the self-published indie revolutionaries!
Yeah, about that … the thing is, publishing is a business, and the publisher’s job is to sell books. I might have zero interest in reading Snooki’s stuff, but you know what? She sells better than I do. Her books have better rankings, and a heck of a lot more reviews than mine. And I’m pretty sure anyone with a full Bookscan account will confirm that her book is moving off the shelf far better than any of mine.
Are my books better than hers? Maybe … like I said, I haven’t read her stuff, so I couldn’t say. Is it unfair that a celebrity will get bigger advances and often sell more books, purely by virtue of being a celebrity? Maybe … but life isn’t always fair, and the fact is, a lot of people do rush out to buy celebrity-written stuff.
So I don’t get the point of attacking or blaming the publisher for the fact that the market is celebrity-hungry. Likewise, trying to use this as proof that indie/self publishing is superior to commercial publishing? I’m having a hard time following the logic there.
Let’s break it down. Commercial publisher releases Snooki’s book, which sells better than my commercially published book. I sigh, because like 99.9% of all authors, I’d love to be selling better.
So say I buy into the idea that self-publishing is the way to go and release my own books from now on. Go me, right?
But you know what? If Snooki self-publishes her book, she’s still going to outsell my self-published title. Heck, I’m willing to bet it will still sell better than almost all of the self-published books by non-celebrities. Because it’s not about the publisher; it’s about the market and readers’ hunger for all things celebrititiuos.
So can we please call a moratorium on using celebrity book deals to “prove” the superiority of indie publishing over traditional?
This has been your cranky midweek blog post. Thanks for reading, and enjoy the rest of the week!
November 9, 2011 @ 1:53 pm
Isn’t it true that the money publishers make off of a book like Snooki’s allows them to publish other books that they won’t make as much money on? I thought I read that somewhere, but don’t remember where.
November 9, 2011 @ 4:18 pm
Yes, lots of my complaints about “how things work” are really complaints about the preferences of the consumers in various marketplaces. Doesn’t make me any happier to know this — but it’s useful to remember that I shouldn’t be blaming the publishers for those bits, say. Any attempt to actually do anything about it needs to be based on real understanding of what’s going on.
November 9, 2011 @ 4:55 pm
Amazing how many “proofs” that the system is “broken” break down when you just examine the scarce resources involved. (Maybe we should get rid of money and time! They’re breaking publishing!)
November 9, 2011 @ 7:45 pm
This made me giggle and thanks for writing it. I personally dislike almost all reality TV shows but that doesn’t mean television production is broken. Now it MIGHT mean that our society and culture is broken but that’s an entirely different discussion. Snookie’s book advance and sales might mean that as well but all it tells us about publishing is that, as you said, it’s a business wherein people are trying to make money. I’d honestly like to see the self-publishing discussion stop being about how traditional publishing is no longer working or no longer pertinent and move on to how traditional publishing has it’s place and how self-publishing can contribute to it rather than attempt to replace it. I’m absolutely in love with how some of the writers that I enjoy, who have lovely traditional publishing deals, can self publish electronic versions of short stories and novellas with little cost to themselves, no detrimental impact to their publisher and their fans get some additional content to enjoy while being able to send some direct financial support to the writers they like. This is a big win for everyone in my opinion. I know not every writer is interested in doing all that work themselves but it’s great to have a WAY to do it for the people who do want to do it.
November 10, 2011 @ 2:31 am
I can’t say I’m thrilled that there’s such a huge market for mass-produced celebrity drivel.
But getting mad at publishers for – gasp! – making money off what sells well? That’s just stupid.
November 15, 2011 @ 9:42 am
Jim, for what it’s worth, I’ve read all of your novels and enjoyed them. I have no interest at all in Snooki. Your paperbacks sit on my shelf as “keepers.” Snooki will never have that honor. Look at it this way, some books get big sales because they appeal to humanity’s lowest common denominator. But is that the kind of stuff you’d be happy writing? Not me.