Author’s Alliance and “Open Access” and Understanding A New Self-Publishing Wrinkle

If any subscribers might have clicked the link in Publishers Marketplace to the new Authors Alliance that’s in its formative stage, it apparently is operated by four Berkeley professors who believe in the Cory Doctorow mandate that anything, once published in any medium, is immediately public domain. These professors all earn nice six-figure incomes, and it’s apparently quite easy for each of them to tell writers at all levels to give away their work.  It’s mentioned that this “thought” applies in large measure to those who don’t write for a living or who are hobbyists.  I don’t know when I’ve read anything quite as pompous and outlandish.  Every writer I know works his or her fingers to the bone to come up with something that in most cases won’t pay the power bills for a year (or even a month), and for a group of elitists, as I see them, to force its members to give away material is in my opinion reprehensible.  It’s hardly my business, but I find it mind-boggling why any sane writer would want to join Authors Alliance.

Talk about lending credibility to self-publishing, Publishers Weekly has started its own self-publishing firm called BookLife, which officially opened for business on May 29.  The company is offering cover design, layout, and a marketing platform.  Oh, and editing.  And this latter service is always where the ball gets sticky, as writers will assume that a publisher’s doing the editing will provide an immediate path to success.  In my opinion, this is no different from an agent’s charging a reading fee or offering in-house editing services (usually by the agent).  The road is littered with broken hearts caused by unrealistic aspirations, and this is why I always advise walking slowly and self-publishing as inexpensively as possible.

There is no magic bullet, regardless of anyone’s hype at any level.  And an author who spends $5,000 to $15,000 with any self-publishing outfit is not going to guarantee success (which to my way of thinking means first and foremost recovering the investment).  I’m not in any way suggesting this will be Publishers Weekly’s tack, but I’m positive the firm will offer a variety of author “packages” that to the uninitiated can seem to be a sure thing.  Again, nothing is, and with the inordinate number of big names entering the self-publishing game, this is further saturating a market that is already diluted and becoming more so each day.  To paraphrase the Big 5 publisher once again, “It’s a great market for gatherers but not so good for hunters.”  Any writer entering the fray must fully understand this.

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