“We must strike down the insidious lie that a book is the creation of an individual soul laboring in isolation. We must strike it down because it threatens the overall quality and breadth of American literature…”
John Green’s comments have echoed about the blogosphere, and a torrent of rage has been unleashed at the disdain he displayed for the indie author.
Now, this is a site designed, nay dedicated, to the proposition that there are great indie books out there. So surely I am to add my voice to the chorus of people chanting for Mr. Green’s immolation, right?
Weelllll, kinda. Actually, my response is more along the lines of The Dude:
His statements are, at their core, correct on a number of fronts. Let’s take a look at them, piece by piece.
“They hold me up as an example but I am not an example of publishers or bookstores extracting value because without an editor my first novel, Looking for Alaska, would have been unreadably self-indulgent. And even after she helped me make it better it wouldn’t have found its audience without unflagging support … from booksellers around the country. I wouldn’t have the YouTube subscribers or the Tumblr followers, and even if I did I wouldn’t have any good books to share with them.”
That statement is almost assuredly true. Almost all of the best books I have reviewed on this site have been both copy and content edited. It’s also true that, without the marketing budget that some authors get, it’s very difficult to get traction away from the massive pack of authors that are trying to pitch their own book. I know; I’ve been trying to pitch mine for a year now.
He is right; for a select few, the legacy publishing route is like hitting the jackpot. For him, the machinery works, and the result is that he is a very successful YA author.
“I’m in the book business, the idea-sharing, consciousness-expanding, storytelling business,” said the novelist. “And I am not going to get out of that business. So f*** Ayn Rand and f*** any company that profits from peddling the lie of mere individualism. We built this together and we’re going to keep building it together.”
Ok, the language is harsh. He is, no doubt, being an a**hole. But is he wrong? No. This is the business that all of us are in. And he is absolutely correct that in this business, no man is an island. When a person tries to do absolutely everything by themselves, they rarely succeed.
Now, let’s stop looking at Green’s disdain for what we do for a moment, and see if there’s a lesson to be pulled from this. We all need a support system, and the legacy publishing system is lovely in that (when it decides to), it provides that support system for the author; the author needn’t look for it.
Of course, there are also the horror stories that involve authors having that support suddenly removed. Obviously, Mr. Green is not one of those.
The fact is, when we’re out in the indie world, we have to find that support system for ourselves. We blog hop, we link, we comment, we tweet, we facebook, we do all of these things to gain some form of traction. We find cover artists, editors, beta readers, and reading groups to help us polish our work. We have the same sort of support system, albeit not as well funded. A published book, in the end, is not “the creation of an individual soul laboring in isolation.” It’s the work of all of those people.
Without them, books tend to be pretty darn worthless.
What Green doesn’t see is this community. He is atop his mountain, and he cannot see we peasants laboring beneath him. He thinks that “independent” means “alone,” and in that, he is very wrong. But the it-takes-a-village sentiment of his words? Totally correct, and don’t ever think otherwise.
But he is kind of an a**hole about it.
*Originally Posted by Frog Jones.