Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Salon’s Laura Miller isn’t so fond of self-publishers


Gosh, the whole thing with Amazon v. Hachette is getting tiresome, isn’t it? Now Salon’s Laura Miller has weighed in with an anti-Amazon philippic, which is to be expected, I suppose, since her bread & butter is the traditional publishing system. She has also had a business relationship with Hachette, publishing a book with Little Brown (a Hachette company) in 2008. I don’t care to link to it, though it might be fun to link to its Amazon page, now that I think of it. Oh, okay.

Miller’s central point is that Amazon is behaving, PR-wise, like a big smelly Sasquatch, reeling around madly and wrecking everything in its reach. That doesn’t bother me so much, since it’s kind of true. Believe me, I’m not happy with Amazon’s business tactics, but then I’ve never been fond of Starbucks’ either — the way they used to put a store near mom n’ pop coffee places and drive them out of business. I’m not happy with Wal-Mart, BP, just about any medical insurance outfit, Monsanto, Disney, tobacco companies, car-makers, and, yes, big publishers. All of them are screwing someone to make more money; it’s the nature of the beast.

But what aggravates me more about Miller’s piece are her disparaging remarks about self-publishers. Here’s one example:

This [the self-publisher] is Amazon’s core constituency, one whose loyalty is fueled by gratitude for the technological innovation that has permitted them to publish their e-books and also by loathing for the publishing “oligopoly” that has denied them publication the old-fashioned way. The Readers United letter, with its misquoted Orwell, its bitter asides (“Well … history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme”) and its vaguely conspiratorial/messianic tone (“the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move”) may sound like “full-out crazy town” to Eldritch, but it is the native tongue of the indie author community.

In effect, she’s saying that the only people who support Amazon in this conflict are the wild-eyed, half-illiterates who want to keep pumping out their brain farts as e-books and crappy CreateSpace paperbacks.

Hey, you’re talking about me, toots!

Even more disturbing, most of the comments to the article are aggressively anti-Amazon and anti-indie. The trolls are out in force.

What I’d like to see is an acknowledgment from the Laura Millers of the world that the dynamics of publishing have changed and that Amazon is on the cutting edge. Anything the traditional system does that’s aimed at indies aims to rip them off. They’d just as soon keep things as they’ve been for seventy years, which is like wishing we could all sprout wings and fly. It does no good to throw temper tantrums demanding those wings.

The reality? Momentum favors the new. Finding strategies to use it and profit from it leads to success, and so far it looks like Amazon is good at that and the big publishers are not. Resistance to strong trends doesn’t usually work out very well.

Oh, and, Ms. Miller? Insulting self-publishers isn’t going to make us go away.

12 comments on “Salon’s Laura Miller isn’t so fond of self-publishers

  1. sknicholls
    August 21, 2014


    This is why I am not Amazon Select. I like Amazon, but I don’t necessarily love them. I like keeping my options open. Being able to be at Amazon and also be elsewhere should be everyone’s goal.

    • Kevin Brennan
      August 21, 2014

      It’s definitely a transitional period, that’s for sure.

  2. John W. Howell
    August 21, 2014

    Well said Kevin.

  3. islandeditions
    August 21, 2014

    Very good, Kevin. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said, “They’d just as soon keep things as they’ve been for seventy years” – with publishers making all the decisions and the bulk of the money, controlling what is sold by bookstores and read by readers.

    • Kevin Brennan
      August 21, 2014

      Exactly. There’s definitely some irony in all of this…

  4. ericjbaker
    August 21, 2014

    Ah, Salon. Interesting site. Their slogan should be, “Whatever you did, are doing, or ever will do is wrong. Same goes with whatever you say and think.”

    If I want to be told that I can’t win no matter what I do, I’d start going to church again.

    • Kevin Brennan
      August 21, 2014

      Spot on! I feel so inadequate when I read Salon. And don’t get me started on church!

      • ericjbaker
        August 22, 2014

        Weird thing is, I haven’t been in church (as a worshiper) in 15 years, but I still visit Salon every day.

        There was piece there the other day criticizing celebrities who raise lots of money for charity because, well, it’s Salon, and they know better.

      • Kevin Brennan
        August 22, 2014

        They seem to have landed on the formula of taking something popular and then shitting on it. I guess it’s working for ’em…

  5. kingmidget
    August 21, 2014

    You know, there’s a lot of self-published crap out there. There’s also a lot of traditionally published crap out there. Why is it that all self-publishers get tarred with the crap label and there is no discernment between the good and the bad in self-publishing, but the same doesn’t happen to traditionally published authors?

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This entry was posted on August 21, 2014 by in Publishing and tagged , , , , , .
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