Mary’s Writing and Publishing Browsery for June 14 2011

Here is an (annotated, of course: I rarely keep my opinions to myself) accumulation of interesting items about writing and publishing that I’ve come across (or been referred to by others) in the past few weeks:

  • For the inside track on the appalling impact of previous sales figures on book-publishing decisions, check out Steven Henighan’s amazing article “The BookNet Dictatorship” in Geist. If you’re a mid-list writer who can’t get an agent or publisher to read your manuscript, maybe this is why. And this happens everywhere – in the UK and US, for example, as well as in Canada;
  • In this YouTube video, Margaret Atwood displays her drawing talents in a presentation to the O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing Conference in New York in February. I love her “Change Isn’t Good For Everyone” slide in particular (it is so Atwoodesque), but I think the half-empty glass she sees may also be viewed as half full it. Many of the problems she raises re: technology and books are caused by publishers, not by technology, and imho the structure that links writers (and editors!) inextricably with publishers and agents is already outdated. The United Artists model she suggests is relevant, and many groups of “indie-minded” writers are now banding together to apply that model to books;
  • Unbound is an independent publishing initiative where interested readers can pledge financial support to bring a writer’s work to press, helping to support the writing process of specific books in exchange for rewards such as lunch with the author and a mention in the acknowledgements (Kickstarter is a similar initiative that encompasses the range of creative projects.);
  • An item in Business Insider, “This 26-Year-Old Is Making Millions Cutting Out Traditional Publishers With Amazon Kindle,” profiles Amanda Hocking, the young author who is fulfilling the wildest dreams of legions of self-published writers by selling hundreds of thousands of her books and keeping 70% of the profits;
  • Another Business Insider article, “Suddenly, Amazon Starts Competing With Its Biggest Suppliers,” introduces Amazon’s latest initiative: its own publishing division. As fellow Writers Union member Art Slade pointed out, perhaps this will encourage other publishers to pay their authors more of (their own) money on electronic books. Otherwise, to me—an author who is looking with interest at the stripped-down model of getting good books to readers in which publishers are superfluous—this move by Amazon makes no sense.  Why not add an editing imprint, rather than a publishing imprint??
  • Finally, to mid-list author Neal Pollack’s article in the New York Times, “The Case for Self-Publishing,” I can only say “amen.”

For those who are not familiar with The Militant Writer blog, I direct your attention to two of my own recent articles: “As Publishers, Agents and Booksellers (unfortunately) (for them) Go The Way of the Dodo, Writers Learn To Fly” and “The Author as Publisher.” More articles in this series will follow as I have time to write them.

In the meantime, I encourage you to let me know if you see items on book publishing and writing that might be of interest for future Browsery columns. You can email me at marywwalters at

Thanks for leads to the articles in this edition of The Browsery from Larry Anderson, Dwight Okita, Gerry Riskin, Marion Stein and a panelist at a Writers Union forum whose name eludes me.