The Curious Case of the Publisher Who Hated Writers

We all sometimes hate our jobs, but recently in the UK Guardian, a publisher went overboard, giving vent to his rage and contempt for authors - in principle his lifeline. How could a publisher hate writers when he would have nothing to publish without them? If you're curious to read the piece click here.

And thanks to Passive Voice for drawing my attention to this. His post got over 100 comments (presumably) from irate authors, see here, while the Guardian got less than half the number (only 49).

The arguments put forward are bizarre in themselves. Briefly put:

1. This is a publisher who professes to prefer readers to writers

2. He finds writers are insufferable egotists: while readers are people who want to learn about the world, writers have "made up their mind and seek to deliver the resulting verdict to what they imagine is a waiting world". How idiotic and self-centered can authors be? 

3. He believes most writers don't know how to write: "the ability to write well is an attribute not widely shared". Poor writers...Family and friends "irrigate" with ill-founded compliments their belief in a talent they simply do not possess.

4. He has come to the conclusion that writers are publishing worthless stuff, causing a "deluge of writing" that is contributing to "declining readership". In short, "the sheer volume of what is now available acts as a disincentive to settle down with a single text." The phenomenon is "the literary equivalent to channel surfing", only made worse by the tsunami of self-published authors jumping in the publishing pool.

5. Publishing as a business is turned on its head: increasing numbers of writers are paying to be published (through Lulu and all manners of self-publishing means). Writers are "ubiquitous", readers an "endangered species". We're not yet at the point where readers are paid to read, but "it surely isn't far off".

His solution? Writers should take a sabbatical and stop writing for a year! A "moratorium" during which writers could take up hobbies, play golf, hike or even (yikes!) read.

Who's this guy? Colin Robinson is a co-founder of the New York-based independent publisher OR Books. On its site, OR Books claims that it "embraces progressive change in politics, culture and the way to do business". Really? The sweet irony of this claim...

Perhaps Mr. Robinson should take a sabbatical from publishing.

What's your take? My view is that he forgot one important point: writers do NOT necessarily write to promote their own personal views of the world. They write to ENTERTAIN. I know I do. I enjoy the sheer act of writing, of discovering what the characters I have created will do next. Because they do have an unexpected life of their own. They entertain me and in my experience, if that's the case, then they will entertain readers too.

Dammit, publishing is an entertainment industry!

I can't wait to hear your opinion!

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