Whenever I blog about the execrable self-publishing scene, of course self-publishers get upset. They see themselves as revolutionaries and brilliant capitalists instead of what they are. And they always avoid the point that this sad and ridiculous scene is harmful, because they're either making some money at it, or think that they soon will be making some money. I've made this comparison before, but it holds true: they're like Amway salesmen. YOU, TOO CAN MAKE MONEY AND BE A SUCCESS!
Since it all began a few years ago I've been worried about what this consolidation of publishing into the hands of one (or two) outfits is doing to the ability of writers to make a living from their work. I was trying to figure if I'd seen anything like this in the past. And I kept coming to the conclusion that this was just a brand-new situation brought upon us by the blazing speed of digital progress and the machinations of a couple of corporations (Apple and Amazon).
But I've been around the publishing industry a fairly long time and I couldn't stop going over what I'd witnessed in the past and what I'm witnessing now.
And I finally came up with a parallel.
Back in the 1980s the comic book industry went through something similar to what is going on with the ebook/POD self-publishing gimmick. It was the explosion of self-published black and white comics. The industry was almost overnight inundated with thousands of titles--almost every bit of it hideous crap (just like 99.999999% of self-published novels). Anyone who could put a pen to paper and scribble a figure was "writing" and "illustrating" their own comic books. And they were shipping off the crap to one of a number of low-cost printers and soliciting sales through the catalogs of the dozen or so direct-sale distributors who were then competing for market shares.
And the single thing that had started this flood of shit was the direct-sale market. This was the point of attack on comic book publishing and retailing by these rabid packs of losers and wannabe comic book creators. Each of them was trying to duplicate the success of TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES; or they were slapping tits on covers and doing their best to ape the more successful "bad girl" comics. Dealers were trying to figure out how to order this crap, and customers were sampling it all, and it was a mess.
I knew some of these idiots and shysters during this period. I'd meet them at shows, at conventions, visiting my shops. One of them found himself running a company that was generating several million dollars in sales each year. I would talk to guys who had no talent whatsoever at creating comics but who were paying cash for new cars or Harley Davidson motorcycles. All based on the huge amounts of money they were making publishing poorly rendered comic books. Comic books that all--by and large--sucked dirty, unwashed chimp ass. Just like almost every self-published novel today.
Unfortunately (for them) all of these characters are one and all broke now. The guy whose company was making millions? Bankrupt. The guy who paid cash for his car? Working in an office as a clerk. The kid who bought that new Harley with cash money? He's unemployed--worked for a brief time at Marvel, last I heard, but not any more.
The thing is, the market shook itself out. The shit sank out of sight. Those guys who were making six figures are gone away, thankfully. People still self-publish their shitty little black and white comics, but mainly no one pays any attention. Every once in a while one breaks out. But the days of self-published crap filling the catalogs is over. And there's only one distributor now, anyway.
I reckon there might be a new crop of idiots epublishing shitty comics as they did in the old days. But what I think (and hope) is that the day of the self-published shyster/moron will eventually end. It took a few years, but that caliber of scum bled out of the comic book industry. I'm hoping the same holds true with these other schmucks self-publishing their "novels". I hope to see these jerks who quit their jobs because they were making "thousands" back in the offices and loading docks and stock rooms that spat them out. Because, damn it, their work sucks ass. I don't begrudge a man a living, but as a reader I can't stomach another year of seeing ads for the latest self-published pile of shit.