The current state of publishing

Joe Konrath's blog has a nice summing up of the world of publishing these days. It's mostly nothing that hasn't been said before, but it's a good, concise overview.

I especially agree with his annoyance at expensive "conventions that supposedly teach [authors] how to write killer query letters." The problem really is that the changes in publishing are happening very, very quickly, and so you still have people holding onto the old ways, because not long ago, that's what worked. Think of it: The people organizing the convention want to have a respectable one, so their expert guests are traditional publishing houses and agents, because up until a couple of years ago, self-publishing was a scam. The expert guests have a strong vested interest in maintaining the status quo in publishing for as long as possible, so they tell authors to go the traditional route. Of course, by the time the author gets that query letter together, another agency/publishing house/bookseller has gone under, and the chances that anyone will be in a financial position to traditionally publish a new author have become even more minuscule.

The really annoying aspect of it is that the defenders of the status quo have a ready-made explanation for why they aren't publishing: Your work just isn't good enough. Hear that? It's your fault. And sadly, authors are typically quite willing to accept this--often they're a little on the artsy-fartsy side, and they don't want to learn about long-term business trends or sully their minds with thoughts of filthy lucre or figure out how to read a financial statement. Good writers are all about the quality of their work--they're perfectionists--so when some authority figure says, We only publish the REALLY good stuff, the writer says, I guess mine didn't make the cut. They just swallow the notion of their own inferiority, instead of saying, Wait a minute--you're publishing sex tips from Kim Kardashian and the self-absorbed musings of some old lion who stopped trying 50 years ago, what do you mean you publish quality?

And the editor or agent or whoever might have a response to that, but they just got laid off because their company is in bankruptcy....